Dear SDI Readers,
Happy New Year! All of us here wish the best year of your lives in 2012. Normally we would post an article on the Rangers or MLB, as you well know. But we would like to take the time to show our appreciation to you, and credit the people who have gotten us to this point and share with you how this idea came about.
Mike McGehee, Danny Fowler and Patrick DeSpain started www.shutdowninning.com in October of this past year during the MLB playoffs. We were and still are guys who read everything we can about the team, from the major news outlets and great blogs like The Newberg Report, etc. However, we all thought that getting our own stories out there, would be fun and entertaining. So here’s how it started:
Mike, Danny and Patrick were apart of a Twitter community known as #the2300. Whatever your view of #the2300, it brought together a great bunch of guys with a common goal, and that is to bring you the best Rangers commentary and opinions that we can write.
The idea for SDI came from Mike, Patrick and Danny when they approached Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com to host a 30 minute question and answer session on #the2300. Mike co-hosted that with Richard and it was known as “ShutDownInning with Richard Durrett.” At the end of August, Danny came up with the idea to start fresh with our own website and do something besides a group on Twitter, and branch out. After a lot of careful thought, late night tweets and text messages, www.shutdowninning.com was born.
Since that day, October 4, 2011, we have added Chris Kautz, Dan Allsup, Peter Ellwood, Lincoln Floyd and Lindsey Day. Danny has sadly, retired from SDI, and we all here wish him the very best. He is, and always will be a member of the SDI family. All of us continue to strive for greatness in every single one of our articles, and we hope you enjoy them.
We thank you! We are a group of people that would just write for ourselves without all of you. You, the readers, are ShutDownInning. You have supported us from our first day and continue that support, and we are grateful. This would be just some blog of a couple of guys writing their thoughts, if not for all of you that stop by and read our articles.
So on this New Years Day, we think it appropriate to thank the people that have contributed to our success:
You, the readers
All Texas Rangers fans
All current and former players, managers, broadcasters and writers that made us all love this game
The SDI Staff
@1310ticketless and everyone at #the2300 (there are too many of you to list, but you know who you are)
Scott Fitzgerald and everyone at 1340AM “The Fan” in Lubbock
Jeff “Skin” Wade
KTCK 1310AM “The Ticket”
The friends and family of Mike McGehee
The friends and family of Lincoln Floyd
The friends and family of Dan Allsup
The friends and family of Chris Kautz
The friends and family of Lindsey Day
The friends and family of Peter Ellwood
The friends and family of Patrick DeSpain
And of course the Texas Rangers and the years of entertainment you have provided
Again. Thank you very, very much for the support!
Mike, Chris, Dan, Peter, Dan, Lincoln, Lindsey and Patrick
by Dan Allsup
I opened my last article with the statement of, "you can make a compelling case that (Michael Young) is the least valuable player on the team, if you look at a contract/production ratio."
So before someone could beat me to the punch- I crunched the numbers. I simply divided WAR (Wins Above Replacement) by salary. I was wrong, Young wasn't the least valuable Ranger, he was 25th of 39.
(salary is in millions)
Clarification: I'm not saying Matt Harrison is the most valuable Ranger, and David Murphy the least valuable. I am saying that when you take into account salaries- Harrison and Holland are incredibly more valuable than Murphy and Moreland.
Obviously you can't win with 25 guys making the minimum. You have to extend someone, sign someone or trade for someone that is beyond the MLB minimum. However, each player you add above the minimum has to be a great producer, otherwise you're just hamstringing yourself in the future.
Furthermore, when you extend someone- you have to take into account examples such as, paying Michael Young 52 times what you're paying Elvis Andrus per win above replacement. That is insane.
So who picked Matt Harrison in the "Rangers 2011 MVP pool"? It was probably Lincoln Floyd (@SDILincoln).
As always, send your hate tweets to @SDIdan.
By Patrick Despain
Baseball is the greatest game ever invented.
I enjoy all of the other major sports, but nothing is like baseball to me. The traditions, the stats and the rich history always keep me interested in “the great game.” It’s the National Pastime. It has been for many, many years. It will continue to be for years to come. Football is gaining popularity in America, and it should. It too is a fantastic sport, along with basketball and all the other sports out there that we play, watch or follow religiously.
Baseball has the ceremonial first pitch, which is thrown out by dignitaries, heroes, or interesting people in our society. Baseball has the 7th inning stretch, which was inspired by President William Howard Taft. Baseball has “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”, which most Americans know by heart. Baseball has the Little League World Series, which incorporates teams from not only the United States, but teams from around the world.
Baseball has the legacy of Babe Ruth. The “Sultan of Swat” re-wrote the record book in the 1920’s, with his tremendous power, and captured America with his flamboyant nature. Yankee stadium was known as “The House That Ruth Built.” When Ruth died, he laid in state in Yankee Stadium.
Baseball has Jackie Robinson, the man who broke baseball’s color barrier. The man who endured so much over the first few years of his career, and never fought back. Baseball has the heart, courage and determination of #42. The man who changed baseball forever…..for the better. Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
Baseball has Joltin’ Joe, Teddy Ballgame, The Say Hey Kid, The Wizard of Oz, Red Barber, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, The Curse of the Bambino and the movie “The Sandlot.” Baseball has the “perfect game”, the “no-hitter”, Nolan Ryan, Walter Johnson, Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey and Stan “The Man” Musial.
Baseball has the steroid era, two World Wars, the 1919 Chicago “Black” Sox, Disco Demolition, and the 1994 labor strife. But baseball perseveres.
In baseball you cannot take a knee and run out the clock, go into Dean Smith’s “Four Corners”, or continually “ice” the puck. The pitcher still has to face the batters on the other team. In baseball, every man gets an opportunity.
Baseball has Lou Gehrig. “The Iron Horse” stated that he felt like he was the luckiest man on the face of the Earth, while staring down a disease so terrible, so unknown at the time, he didn’t know what his future held.
Baseball has “Nice guys finish last” from Leo Durocher, “Who’s on First?” by Abbott and Costello and Ken Burns’Baseball, an epic documentary of 18 and a half hours.
And lastly….baseball has us. The fans.
by Lindsey Day
I get all warm and fuzzy inside when I think about my favorite team-the Texas Rangers. For as long as I can remember, they have been an integral part of my life. Nary a day goes by when I don't go peruse the internet or newspaper looking for a new story, even during the doldrums of January. My enjoyment of this franchise comes not from things that are not necessarily quantifiable on paper, but rather intrinsic values that I hold near and dear to my heart.
I grew up watching the Rangers as a youth in a different era. Back then, there wasn't a facility that was specifically designed to feature Major League Baseball, nor was there any kind of winning tradition. We had Arlington Stadium, originally named Turnpike Stadium due to it's proximity to Interstate-30, and Arlington was best known as home to Six Flags Over Texas. Arlington Stadium was never considered the Sistine Chapel of ballparks, but it was home to my first exposure to the great game. That little stadium still holds a place in my heart, even as imperfect as it was.
The team that I was first introduced to was lead by the venerable Bobby Valentine, who during the late 80's and early 90's fielded a promising young group of players that included Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, Ruben Sierra, Dean Palmer, Juan Gonzalez, and Rafael Palmeiro among others. This group of guys could really mash, and I have many fond memories of many of those guys on the first teams I watched. The first true "star" that I became fascinated with was Ruben Sierra. Everything about him just seemed bigger than life. His towering home runs, diving catches in the outfield, and blazing fast speed excited me even at the ripe old age of 8. To me, he was the best player in the world. He was my benchmark. It could have been Willie Mays, but I would say to myself "yeah, but he's no Ruben Sierra."
Quickly, I found my fascination of baseball grow into a bit of an obsession, especially with the Rangers. I knew all the players and all the stats, even if I didn't quite understand how a pitchers E.R.A. was computed. My favorite statistic however, was the home run. Home runs were everything. Statistically, they left finger prints that allowed young minds to figure out how the score came to be such. I was always fascinated too by the afterglow that they left. If a guy hit a home run, his strut was a little more confident, and pitchers were a little more wary. Subsequent at-bats always made it look like the batter was some kind of hitman- some ruthless, cunning, assassin of a man who fed off of the pitcher's tears. To see in a guy's stat line on TV come up something like "2-2, 2B, 3-run HR" always made me rub my hands together in anticipation. Home runs were cool. They were like pizza. Everyone likes pizza.
As my point of view broadened, I learned that it took a lot more than home runs to win baseball games. I began to appreciate the value of leadoff hitters, stolen bases, and 2 out R.B.I's. The Rangers of my childhood would bludgeon a team 12-1 one night, and lose 3-2 the next. I couldn't understand it. This is when I learned about the Achilles heel of the Rangers-pitching. Gone were the days of Fergie Jenkins and Gaylord Perry. This team needed pitching like a Jeep Grand Cherokee needed a tune up. We used to think a Ranger pitcher had a good season when he could keep his E.R.A. under 5. Remember folks that Ryan Drese isn't that far removed from this franchise. To this day, metroplex baseball fans grumble about the Rangers' pitching, even though that is hardly true today. That’s how bad it was for early generations of Ranger fans.
It was then that I developed the most important part of my Ranger fandom-the simplicity of warm summer nights, the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel, watching the game at a beautiful new stadium, and the picnic like atmosphere that has surrounded the Rangers since their inception. No, this is not a hard-core baseball town. This town belongs to the Dallas Cowboys. It always has, and it always will. But, I'm ok with that. I derive my enjoyment of the Texas Rangers from so many other things besides the national spotlight, unattainable expectations, and a sense of entitlement. Ranger fans of old have never been able to dance around with their index finger high in the air while looking down their nose at the fans of other teams. Nope, we have our guys, a beautiful ballpark, and an appreciation of things more cerebral than gaudy Super Bowl rings. Of course, I would love nothing more than to see Ian Kinsler ride his Bad Boy MTB ATV around the Ballpark carrying the Commissioner's Trophy. Even then, I will still enjoy the soul-warming atmosphere of the Ballpark while watching games that have little to do with October.
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, fondly known as "The Temple" or just "The Ballpark", has become a magical place to watch a baseball game. Our burgeoning fan base has taken kindly to well-played baseball, and the fans have learned how to embolden the atmosphere at a much higher level. Organically, this team has created a number of identifiers such as the Claw, the Antlers, the Byrd, and chants of Na-po-li and Cruuuuuuuuuuuz amongst many others that are specifically unique to the Ranger fan. These were not cheesy corporate slogans, but rather an identification and perpetuation of the moment, and they will forever incite memories of seasons past. The atmosphere at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is unlike any place I have ever visited. It looks brand new, but has the feeling of a stadium many decades old. We can take great solace in having such a wonderful place to watch baseball, even if at times it seems hot enough to fry an egg in the left-field bleachers in the late afternoon sun.
The well-seasoned Ranger fan has seen a lot in their day. There have been dramatic comebacks, moon-shot homers, and scoring the winning run from second on a bunt. Torrential rainstorms, 106 degree heat, and even fans donning jackets once or twice. Best of all though, there has been meaningful fall baseball. A tear always comes to my eye when I see the replays of Nate Robertson's hanging slider find too much of the plate in Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS as Nelson Cruz hits a thunderous 2-run home run in the bottom of the 5th inning to give the Rangers a 5-1 lead, or when I hear Eric Nadel's call of "Breaking ball...strike 3 called! The Rangers are going to the World Series!" as Neftali Feliz strikes out Alex Rodriguez to send the Rangers to their first World Series.
The best moment for me came when I was standing along the back wall behind section 6 during the 11th inning of Game 2 of the 2011 ALCS. Nelson Cruz came to bat with the bases loaded. The crowd was salivating for the Boomstick to activate. I'll never forget watching intently as I saw the ball come off of Cruz's bat. It looked as though it went straight up, and hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity. As the ball floated down to it's resting place in section 8, the purest definition of euphoria overwhelmed my Ballpark brethren. Suddenly, left field was transformed in the front row of a rock concert, with fans celebrating the glory of baseball history. Grown men jump-hugged, and random strangers became best friends for a day. More than 20 minutes later, fans were still chanting, trading high-fives and cooing with giddiness.
Of course, there has been heartbreak, but I am not going to take that sour bite on this day. What I have come to realize is that it is the heartbreak and perseverance that has solidified my own love for my favorite team.
Day by day, spring draws nearer with pitchers and catchers reporting to Surprise, Arizona in just over a month. Soon, we will reunite in red and blue. I'll leave you with the quote that best sums up this time of year for me-
"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."-Rogers Hornsby
by Peter Ellwood
Billy Beane is up to something. This offseason, he has traded Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and at some point will likely ship off Andrew Bailey as well. These three were supposed to be the core of the Oakland Athletics for years to come, and were among the top 5 most talented players on the 2011 Oakland roster. In return for each of these players the A’s are stockpiling prospects. And to be fair, they have netted significant prospect returns for each of them.
The A’s have officially slapped the bumper sticker on their club that says “Rebuilding: work in progress”. Ever since he has been running the show in Oakland, Beane does this every few years – trades the team’s best players while they are still inexpensive and under team control, because that is when they are at their peak value. This helps the A’s keep payroll low because they can’t afford more, and gives them the best shot at being competitive by replenishing the farm system with more pre-arbitration, talented players.
During the 1990’s, a new trend in Major League Baseball developed among teams. In order to boost revenues, it became critical to have a new stadium with which to attract fans and increase ticket sales. In the 90s, new stadiums popped up in Texas, Atlanta, Colorado, Arizona, Seattle, Baltimore, Cleveland, and Chicago (White Sox). Oakland missed that boat, but they’re betting they’ll have a second chance soon. There are still some hurdles to leap over to finalize the deal, but soon the Oakland Athletics will likely become the San Jose Athletics (Or, if they want to be like their counterparts to the south, the San Jose Athletics of Oakland).
There is a process to rebuilding a team. One of those first steps is to begin stockpiling the farm system and unload any albatross contracts. We saw the Rangers do this in 2007 by trading Mark Teixeira, Eric Gagne, and Kenny Lofton. Those moves have been critical to putting the Rangers in the position they’re in today. After that step, however, a team needs to begin committing to winning, and not just stockpiling prospects. The Rangers made that jump when they traded for Cliff Lee, signed Adrian Beltre, and traded for Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. The issue for Oakland, currently, is because of cash restrictions they can never move past rebuilding, and are forced to continue repeating those first steps.
The A’s aren’t a threat to the Rangers, or the Angels for 2012. Probably not in 2013 either. There is actually very little reason to believe they’ll surpass their 2011 win total of 74. But, if Oakland is able to move the club to a new stadium in San Jose, sign a TV deal like what the Angels and Rangers have, they’ll be in a position with their farm depth that they could be dangerous. For myself, I would embrace that. The AL West could become the new AL East, filled with great competition, well-run organizations, and regular season dogfights for the division crown.
Good luck, Billy.
I’ll close with two humorous tweets I’ve seen on Oakland recently –
“Day 1 of Spring Training is going to be a meet and greet party with all of us in name tags it seems.” - @BMcCarthy32 (Brandon McCarthy – Oakland A’s Starting Pitcher, after the Gio Gonzalez trade)
“A’s forfeit 2012 season.” (@MLBFakeRumors on 12/20)
“A’s forfeit 2013 season as well.” (@MLBFakeRumors on 12/22 after the Gio Gonzalez trade)
Dan Allsup and Peter Ellwood join host Patrick Despain to debate MY/Kinsler, contract extensions and what the Rangers look like in 5 years.
by Dan Allsup
Michael Young is not worth his contract. In fact you can even make a compelling case that he is the least valuable player on the team, if you look at a contract/production ratio. I understand many of you are under the ‘brain-washing’ of some old-school baseball writers that Young is worth every penny because of his ‘leadership’. True, ‘leadership’ is not a quantifiable stat, but what is quantifiable is, ‘trade-demands’, which Young has two of. Young is the team ‘leader’ in this category (see what I did there).
Michael Young’s contract is a burden. This is a fact proven, through another fact that the Rangers were one fractured-tibia (Eric Young Jr.) away, from trading him and eating a large sum of his contract for him to go away. Riddle me this, how does a guy go from nearly being traded for a utility infielder to getting a first place MVP vote?
Basically, the Michael Young contract is an ugly ordeal, which seems to get uglier every year. The Rangers would never re-do that contract if they had the opportunity. Or would they?
Michael Young signed his extension on March 2, 2007. He was coming off a career high in games played (162), doubles (52), and he crossed the century mark, for the first time in the ever-important RBI category (103). This culminated in the highest WAR Young has ever recorded (4.6).
Young was coming into his prime, having received MVP votes for three consecutive seasons, and finishing his forth consecutive 200+ hit seasons. Essentially, he was the “Face of the Franchise”, so the Rangers paid him accordingly- five years, $80 million.
Worth noting, was that the timing of Young’s extension was peculiar. He was age 29 and was under contract for the upcoming season (2007) and had a team option for the 2008 season.
To further hammer this point down, here’s Keith Law’sinitial reaction to Michael Young’s extension:
( … the Rangers had no reason to commit to Young this early. He already was under contract for 2007, with a team option for 2008. If the Rangers believe this winter's sudden escalation in player salaries is a harbinger of a bull market to come, that risk is more than outweighed by the risk that Young will start to decline in the next two years, information that could have pushed his salary demands down or given the Rangers enough pause that they'd choose not to sign him. If waiting until next winter to sign Young meant he'd cost them a bit more because he was more inclined to test the market, that slight premium was just the cost of the insurance that he didn't go backward as a player during the season.)
I bring up all this Michael Young info, because it’s incredibly telling in a current contract situation with the Rangers.
Ian Michael Kinsler.
Everyone knows Michael and Ian are besties, and Ian follows Michael around like a puppy, but it seems even their careers have similar progressions.
Ian is coming off a career high in games played (155), walks (89) and home-runs (32). This culminated in the highest WAR Kinsler has ever recorded (5.4).
Kinsler is coming into his prime, having received MVP votes in three of the last four seasons, and finishing his second 30-30 season. Essentially, Ian Kinsler is becoming the “Face of the Franchise”, so the Rangers should pay him accordingly. Does another five years, $80 million still sound good?
Just because Michael has fallen off doesn’t mean Ian Michael has to fall off as well. I understand that, it’s the same as saying Yu Darvish will flame out, because Daisuke Matsusaka flamed out. People are different, understood.
One last look at the Young extension, though, the Rangers might have felt pressure to extend Young because, four months later they were going to deal franchise cornerstone, Mark Teixeira, and Hank Blalock was already beginning his decline, demise and overall lack of want. The Rangers needed to give the fans a reason to come to the park, and extending Young gave fans the illusion they were “In It, To Win It” (That wasn’t the Rangers slogan at the time, I completely made that up).
That hypothesis may not be true, but the Rangers are not in a similar state as they were in 2007. They are a winning ball-club and will likely set a franchise record in attendance, thanks to the addition of Yu Darvish. In 2007 the Rangers didn’t have to decide which players to extend, it was just Michael, unfortunately.
Fast-forward to 2012, and the Rangers have about six to seven players with contracts that are nearing their expiration. Every extension must be made with due diligence, because it could extend the Rangers’ championship window or close it altogether.
As explained in the Keith Law excerpt, it would be a risk for the Rangers to extend Kinsler, like Michael, two years before necessary, when it’s possible Kinsler could decline within those years, age 30 and 31, also like Michael.
Kinsler however has much more power, speed and defensive ability than Michael ever had. This is a catch-22, Kinsler theoretically has more power and speed to lose as he ages, but the fact that his value is tied to his power and speed, further elicits the risk in extending him.
Oh yeah, did I mention Kinsler has a possible replacement in waiting- Jurickson Profar, a consensus top 10 prospect in baseball, at age 18. No prospect is a guarantee, but having a prospect at Profar’s level, should warrant some reservation in extending someone who he could likely replace.
Profar should be ready before Elvis Andrus’ contract expires, so he will likely play 2B, which could move Kinlser to a corner outfield position. This is another factor that should be considered.
Second base is probably the second most physically demanding position on the field, behind catcher. Therefore, it’s reasonable to assume the shelf-life is lower than other positions. Second base chews up players, due to the constant movement to hold runners, and getting spiked on double plays, and slid into on stolen bases.
Also worth noting, Kinsler isn’t very durable. Even after his career high of 155 games played, his yearly average is just 129 games. When it comes to choosing who not to extend, immediately everyone says,"Nelson Cruz, because he’s fragile". However, Cruz has averaged 120 games a year, over the last three seasons. If we can take our blinders off, I think we would see that Kinsler isn’t the perfect picture of health either.
Here are Baseball References’ comparable players to Kinsler: Marcus Giles, Brandon Phillips, Jeff Kent, Alfonso Soriano, and Chase Utley.
Giles- didn’t play after age 29. Barring a catastrophic event, Kinsler will play in his age 30 season, next year.
Phillips- just completed his age 30 season, and is now in a contract year. He had a wonderful 2010 (career high 4.1 WAR), with the expectation he would get an extension. Much to his chagrin, the Reds are unwilling.
Kent- wasn’t known for speed or defense, mainly just power. He hit 351 of his 377 home runs as a 2B, and played second base regularly until age 40 when he retired.
Soriano- didn’t play 2B after age 29. He went 30-30 four times, never after age 30 though. He has fallen off a cliff, not posting a WAR above 2 since age 32. His agent suckered the poor Cubs into one of the worst contracts in baseball.
Utley- Mainly known for his bat, Utley’s OPS has fallen from .976 at age 28 to .769, last year at age 32. His contract of 7 years $85 million, is something Kinsler’s agent will likely gauge from. Although, Utley’s contract ran from ages 28-34, eating up some arbitration years.
So in summary, comparable players to Kinsler: had an overall great career, or never played again, can’t get an extension, moved positions and lost value, and have just have been far less productive.
The worst scenario, is if they extend Kinsler at a top five 2B rate (around $15 million AAV), then completely devalue him by moving him to LF, for Profar. Kinsler’s value is tied to his position, having a 30-30 guy play up the middle is extremely valuable. But, I doubt he’ll be able to register another 30-30 season after 2014, when that move could happen.
He won’t be as good in two years, and then you exasperate the situation, by moving him to LF, where his bat would play up as average. The worst case-scenario is paying $15 million for average play at a position. Hmm, that sounds like Michael Young.
It seems that Jon Daniels made the worst decision of three options he had in March, 2007 with Michael Young. He could’ve let him play out his deal and collect some picks and some fan backlash. He could’ve traded him, collected some prospects and some fan backlash, or extend him and make the fans happy.
JD has three options with Kinlser this off-season; he could let him play out his deal, collect some picks and some fan backlash. He could trade Kinlser, collect some prospects and some fan backlash, or he could just extend him and keep the fans happy.
Send your angry tweets to @SDIdan.
by Mike McGehee
As we dive into the peak of the holiday season, sometimes the stresses and pressures of the added responsibility can drive a person to near insanity.
This same goal can be achieved by being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys.
But we are not here to talk about that, instead I want to talk about a sport - and a team - that has given this city a lot to be thankful for recently.
I’m thankful for the Texas Rangers, a team that has come agonizingly close to a world title twice in as many years, but just fallen short. Yet, I am still thankful; they showed this city that its baseball team was dedicated to playing their butts off together, and to winning. They proved that they would leave everything they had out on the field and let the result be a reflection of the effort.
I’m thankful for Nolan Ryan, an owner who has literally, not figuratively, changed the culture of baseball in the town. I’m thankful he decided to push pitchers, not coddle them. I’m thankful he stuck by Ron Washington when many would not have. I’m thankful that he has four seats close enough to the field to yell instruction if he wanted to, yet lets his manager manage.
I’m thankful for Jon Daniels, a GM who has shown that he is not afraid to play the chess game with the big boys. He has shown that he is one of the youngest, most brilliant minds in the game, and knows how to plug the pieces together. I’m thankful he is smart enough to always keep his game to himself, no matter how crazy it might drive the rest of us.
I’m thankful for Ron Washington, a skipper who understands that the best way to lead a team is to unify them in the clubhouse first, before running them out to the diamond. I’m thankful he is an emotional leader, and can always be counted on to run the bases with his guys, sunflower seeds eternally planted in his mouth. Most of all, I’m thankful for his passion, may it always infect this wonderful, beautiful game.
I’m thankful for every single one of the players who put on the uniform. This column could turn into a novel if I wrote every single thing I wanted to about each player, for all of them have a unique trait they bring to this ballclub. Each one of them contributes in their own way, and it is very hard to see any one of them leave, for we spend our entire summers with these guys.
I’m thankful for Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The stadium is the perfect blend of the old school style and the new school technology. I’m thankful for the tailgating on opening day with thousands of friends. I’m thankful for those escalator rides up to the cheap seats 25 times a year. I’m thankful for the overpriced beer and the cheap hot dogs (If Nolan indeed cooked all of those dollar hot dogs himself, I suggest he let someone else take over.) I’m thankful for the fly-over, the anthem, and the salute to our troops. I’m thankful for, “Play Ball,” on a warm spring afternoon.
I’m thankful for sabermetrics and how crazy they drive me. I’m thankful for BAA, OPS, UZR, fWAR, bWAR, BABIP, and FIP, even if I still have to reference Fangraphs occasionally to fully understand what they mean. I’m thankful for the debates the numbers of baseball can spark, the long conversations, and the eventual agreeing to disagree. I’m thankful that simple numbers and math can inspire so much passion in the fans and, in turn, make them the most educated in sports.
Most of all, I’m thankful for the game of baseball. It’s a game that has been with me since I was three years old, and it will remain near and dear to me until the day I die. I’m thankful for the bond it creates between fathers and sons, and will forever cherish the days of going to half empty stadiums in the hopes of just catching a fly ball. I’m thankful that even though the result wasn’t what I had hoped for, MY baseball team gave me one of the greatest seasons of all time.
Today means different things for different people. No matter what or how you celebrate, may it be blessed and fulfilling, and may it bring you as much joy as baseball brings me.
by Peter Ellwood
'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the team,
Not a creature was stirring, or so it would seem.
The budget's been planned, by JD with care,
With hopes that a championship soon would be there.
The devout fans still dressed in warm Ranger threads,
With YouTube videos of Darvish playing in their heads.
Nolan in his boots, and Wash in his Cadillac,
Were gearing up for another full season attack.
From 1000 Ballpark Way there never comes any clatter,
Lips are sealed tight, eliminating rumors & chatter.
Away to the Twitter we all fly like a flash,
Pop open a browser, only to laugh at the Dutchstache.
The sun reflecting off JD's Ray Bands,
Gives the luster of one man in total command.
And truly, to our wondering eyes it appears,
A roster, a farm system, built to win for many years.
With a codgy old skipper who trusts his gut,
A true baseball man who walks with a strut.
Frantic and wild, he waves his club around the bases in a game,
And whistles, and shouts, and calls them by name!
Now, Elvis! Now, Michael! Now, Ian and Nelly!
On, Colby! On, Derek! On, 'Lexi and Nefti!
To the end of October! From Spring until fall!
Do what the game ask you to do, do it with your all!
He sprang to the top dugout step, gave his team a sharp whistle,
Willing them to victory with all his grit & gristle,
But I heard him exclaim, filled with uncanny delight,Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
by Peter Ellwood
I studied Finance in college. One of the first things my Finance courses taught me was that a dollar today was more valuable than a dollar tomorrow. Due to the opportunity to invest today’s dollar, and because of inflation, tomorrow’s dollar is already less valuable than today’s. Sometimes, I think major league baseball teams take that a little too seriously.
Oftentimes when we hear a contract was signed for 5 years, $80 million, we think that means that it’s a smooth $16 million per year payment structure. That is rarely the case - most of the time, these contracts end up being heavily backloaded. The result is that because of increasing contract payments each year, and decreasing (usually) player performance each year, the team ends up paying more for the least productive years of that player’s contract.
Backloading has been rampant this offseason, particularly by the Marlins and the Angels. For my example, I am going to use C.J. Wilson’s contract with the Angels. He received a 5 year/$75 million dollar contract with a signing bonus of $2.5 million. Assuming an average annual rate of return of 6%, the Net Present Value of that contract is $64.4M. See the chart below:
Actual Contract Total Signing Bonus 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
C.J. Wilson 77.5 2.5 10.0 11.0 16.0 18.0 20.0
NPV 64.4 2.5 9.4 9.8 13.4 14.3 14.9
The Angels will be paying Wilson $20 million in 2016, when he is going to be 36 years old. How many 36-year old pitchers would you be excited about writing a $20 million check to? There aren’t many.
Now, look what happens if we completely flip the payment structure of this contract:
Revised Strucutre Total Signing Bonus 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
C.J. Wilson 77.5 0.0 20.0 18.0 16.0 12.5 11.0
NPV 66.4 0.0 18.9 16.0 13.4 9.9 8.2
This structure would cost the Angels $2 million more in NPV, or today’s dollars, which is significant. But, in the back end of the contract, they would not be over-committed to a 35 or 36-year old starting pitcher, giving them additional roster flexibility to supplement the team with younger, and at that point, better players. And if you told Wilson that you were going to pay him $20 million in year 1 of the contract, the extra $2.5 million signing bonus may not even be necessary.
As it is, the Angels have $82 million committed to four players in 2014 (Wilson - $16M, Weaver - $16M, Wells - $24M, Pujols - $26M), and $66 million committed to three players (Wilson/Weaver - $20M each, Pujols - $26M) in 2016. That’s a pretty heavy anchor to carry for players who will be well past their primes.
There are reasons to backload a contract besides NPV. One may be that a team is presently cash-strapped, and expect their financial standing to improve in future years. Another is that heavily backloaded contracts are said to be used like a no-trade clause, in that it is more difficult to move an older player with a huge contract to another team.
The danger of backloading a contract is that you can end up in the awkward scenario where one of your franchise’s great players may no longer be as heralded, or welcome on the club because his production has diminished but his contract now appears to be an albatross that limits the club.
Just one time, I’d like to see a cash-rich team bite the bullet and frontload a contract, if only to see what happens.