Torii Hunter's Statement

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Torii Hunter has released a statement on his website. I won’t reproduce the whole thing here — it’s long and you should read it in its entirety in its context — but this is the part that I consider to be most significant:

We all come from different places and backgrounds. Coming from Pine
Bluff, Ark., my hometown, is no different than being a kid from San
Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic. We all share the common
bond of a love of baseball, and it pulls us together on the field and
in the clubhouse.

What troubles me most was the word “impostors” appearing in
reference to Latin American players not being black players. It was the
wrong word choice, and it definitely doesn’t accurately reflect how I
feel and who I am.

What I meant was they’re not black players; they’re Latin American
players. There is a difference culturally. But on the field, we’re all
brothers, no matter where we come from, and that’s something I’ve
always taken pride in: treating everybody the same, whether he’s a
superstar or a young kid breaking into the game. Where he was born and
raised makes no difference.

Despite the conversations about racial identity that have sprung up in the comments, the original reason I posted this morning was not to open that can of worms. Rather, it was because I thought Hunter’s use of the term “impostors” and “imitator” was completely out of line. I don’t think anyone in baseball is trying to pass themselves as anything other than a ballplayer, and suggesting as much is an insult to Latin American players who didn’t get where they are by pretending to be anything other than what they are. Well, and sometimes pretending to be younger versions of themselves, but that’s another conversation.

Anyway, unless the USA Today reporter seriously misquoted Hunter, I view the above statement as more of a retreat than a clarification — and the passive voice regarding the word impostor “appearing” in his statement is a bit telling — but that’s fine. We all say dumb things sometimes, and we should all be allowed to get a mulligan. Hunter’s a good guy and he deserves a mulligan too.

Still, I have to note that something is absent from Hunter’s statement, and that’s anything relating to the other part of his comments in USA Today with which I had a problem: his theory — he actually said “we have a theory,” apparently referring to U.S.-born blacks — that Major League Baseball has an active agenda to overlook U.S. born blacks in favor of foreign born players. Unless Hunter (or anyone else) has some evidence for such an agenda on the part of Major League Baseball, I think it’s a pretty irresponsible charge. Frankly, I’m rather surprised Hunter didn’t address it here.

At any rate, that appears to be that. Unless someone decides it isn’t that, at which point I’ll write something else that will rile everyone up again.

Eric Hosmer’s eight-year, $144 million contract isn’t that bad

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Late Saturday night, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the Padres and first baseman Eric Hosmer agreed to an eight-year, $144 million contract, the new largest contract in club history. According to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports, the contract includes an opt-out after the fifth year. Further, Hosmer will average $21 million per year for those first five years and $13 million for the final three years, so it’s severely front-loaded.

Hosmer, 28, had a career year last season, playing in all 162 games while batting .318/.385/.498 with 25 home runs, 94 RBI, and 98 runs scored in 671 plate appearances. Per Baseball Reference, Hosmer accrued 4.0 Wins Above Replacement, only one of six first basemen to do so. At No. 6, he was 0.4 WAR behind Anthony Rizzo and 0.4 WAR ahead of Logan Morrison.

Wil Myers had previously told the Padres he would accept a position change if the club were to sign Hosmer. He will be moving to the outfield as a result. The Padres now have a logjam in the outfield, so Jose Pirela could move moved to the infield. How the Padres plan to handle that situation remains to be seen.

The general consensus about the Hosmer signing once news broke was that it is laughably bad. Back in November, Dave Cameron — ironically now in the Padres’ front office — called Hosmer a “free agent landmine.” That thought hasn’t really changed among many writers. For example, using restraint, Dennis Lin of The Athletic calls the deal “a big gamble.” MLB Network’s Brian Kenny said Hosmer has at least three “red flags.”

FanGraphs projects the Padres to finish 71-91, so adding Hosmer isn’t likely to transform the club into a contender on his own. That being said, the Padres’ payroll was only at $70 million prior to the Hosmer signing, so the contract won’t hamstring them going forward. If the young nucleus of players — including Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe — perform as expected, the Padres could be a threat in the NL West relatively soon with plenty of cheap, cost-controlled players and having some experienced veterans like Hosmer and Myers could be useful for their intangibles — pennant race/playoff experience, clubhouse presence, leadership, etc.

Hosmer has had three seasons of 3.5 WAR or more, according to Baseball Reference. He’s had four between -0.5 and 1.0. Now entering his age-28 season, it’s hardly a guarantee he’ll be an All-Star-caliber player in 2018, let alone in 2022 when he is 32 years old. From a strict dollars-to-WAR standpoint in a complete vacuum, one could’ve done better than Hosmer at eight years, $144 million.

The Padres, however, aren’t a small market team; they just operate like one. Forbes valued the club at $1.125 billion last April. The Padres don’t have the financial muscle of the Dodgers or Yankees, but paying Eric Hosmer $18 million on average for the first five years of his contract won’t come close to hurting the organization in any way, shape, or form. More importantly, signing Hosmer shows the rest of the team and the fans a commitment to being legitimate, bumping the payroll up towards $90 million. That now dwarfs teams like the large-market Phillies, who opened up spring training with just over $60 million in player obligations.

In the grand scheme of things, the Hosmer signing is also a good sign given the standstill in the free agent market. Many veteran players — even reliever Fernando Abad, who posted a 3.30 ERA last season — had to settle for minor league contracts instead of guaranteed major league deals. Many others, including the likes of Jake Arrieta and J.D. Martinez, remain unsigned. The rumor that Hosmer wanted more than seven years and close to $150 million was laughed at last month. Agent Scott Boras was still able to get his client the deal he wanted, which could bode well for those still teamless. Martinez’s patience may yet be rewarded like Hosmer’s was; money may once again start flowing in the free agent economy.

In summation, the Eric Hosmer contract is good if: you are Eric Hosmer, related to or a friend of Eric Hosmer, a teammate of Hosmer’s, Scott Boras, a current or soon-to-be free agent, a Padres fan, and a baseball fan in general. The Hosmer contract is bad if: you are a penny-pinching owner of a Major League Baseball team, or someone who cares more about $/WAR than an actual good product being put on the field.