Craig Calcaterra

Bruce Sutter

Bobby Bonilla’s isn’t the only deferred money deal in the game. And isn’t even the worst.

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As we noted before, Bobby Bonilla’s deferred deal with the Mets isn’t anywhere near as bad and mockworthy as it’s often made out to be. But the fact is, it isn’t even the worst in the game, either as far as the money or the optics go.

Check out some of these gems, most of which was gathered from an article by ESPN’s Doug Mittler back in 2012:

  • Manny Ramirez has a 16-year, $32 million deferred money deal from the Red Sox which, like Bonilla’s, kicked in on July 1, 2011. It costs them $1.968 million a year and goes through 2026 when Ramirez is 54;
  • The Cardinals are paying Matt Holliday to play now, but they’ll still be paying him through 2029 under the $120 million, seven-year contract he signed in 2010;
  • Retired Rockies first baseman Todd Helton deferred $13 million of his 2011 salary (total was $19.1 million) and will be paid through 2024;
  • The Nationals will pay Ryan Zimmerman $10 million over five years after he’s retired, with a nominal organization job;
  • Ryan Braun will receive $18 million in payments in equal installments each July 1 from 2022 to 2031;
  • The Tigers are still paying Gary Sheffield between $1 million and $2.5 million annually through 2019;
  • The Mariners are paying Ichiro Suzuki a chunk of his last big deal through the year 2032;
  • The Reds signed Ken Griffey Jr. to a $116.5 million contract in February 2000, but more than half of that is still being paid by the team and will continue to be so until Griffey is in his 50s.

My favorite one, however, has to be from my Atlanta Braves, who tried to make a big splash by signing Bruce Sutter before the 1985 season. He was a bust of course, but this is how he was paid. From a 1985 Los Angeles Times report:

Bruce Sutter was to receive payments totaling $44 million over the next 36 years from his new club, the Atlanta Braves . . . Sutter will receive a $750,000 salary for each of the next six years and a minimum of $1.12 million a year for the remaining 30 years of the contract. In addition, he will get the $9.1 million in so-called “principal” at the end.

Bruce. Sutter. And you think Bobby Bonilla’s deal was a bad one.

What Yasiel Puig being a pain in the butt means. And what it doesn’t mean.

Paul Sancya -- Associated Press
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As I mentioned last week, Molly Knight has a great new book coming out on July 14 about the Dodgers of the past few years. As I mentioned then, there is a LOT of Yasiel Puig stuff in that book, the vast majority of it which shows him to be a fairly significant pain in the butt for his Dodgers teammates and team management.*

Last night Jeff Passan recounted a few of the Puig anecdotes from that book, and added some new reporting which reveals that even though Puig has cut out the tardiness and, it seems, the occasional lackadaisical play on the field in 2015, he remains an annoyance in the clubhouse. I’ll add that, after I wrote that post about the book last week, I spoke to a current Dodgers player who said much the same thing: Puig gets on everyone’e nerves.

As a pretty prominent Puig defender, I have had a lot of folks asking me if I’m changing my tune about Puig in light of Knight’s book, reporting like Passan’s and the stuff I’m hearing independently. Stuff like this:

That’s fair, of course. I have certainly waved my Puig flag high over the past couple of years. Still, I think it’s worth pointing a couple of things out about the criticism of Puig and the basis of my defense of him.

To the extent my defense of Puig has been a direct defense, it’s rarely if ever been that his behavior was exemplary. Personally I like a good bat flip and some emotion on the field, so I’ll always like that. But when it comes to the other things — him being late for games or making dumb mental errors — I’ve always acknowledged that you can’t be doing that sort of thing. Look around the HBT archives and you’ll see no shortage of coverage of Puig’s perfidies.

When I do defend Puig it’s almost always when someone — primarily Bill Plaschke — comically overstates the gravity of his offenses against God, nature and baseball. The guy has claimed, with a straight face, that Puig will bring armed drug dealers/terrorists to Dodger Stadium, putting fans at risk. Less sensationally, he and some others placed every Dodgers failure at his feet for two years, regardless of whether or not he contributed to it, and proclaimed that he will bring on the team’s downfall. Over and over again. And of course there is a serious double standard at play here.

There is also a lot of weird racial and cultural baggage sitting around that colors coverage of all Latin players, and Puig coverage has been colored by this more than just about anyone’s. Remember, playing the game the right way is a subjective undertaking. So much of the Puig outrage in the public sphere has revolved around the nonsense that comes with thinking that, say, The Cardinal Way is the only right way to play. The Dodgers, for their part, don’t agree that playing the game the Puig way is a bad thing. At least on the field.

So, what to make of Puig’s testy relationship with teammates? Well, it’s not good. It’s never a good thing when players don’t get along in the clubhouse. But the fact that a guy’s teammates don’t get along for him is not the be-all, end-all of our assessment of a guy. The rundown:

  • Whether players get along with one another matters to players because it makes their life and job harder. No one likes to have a jerk co-worker. A player’s jerkiness also matters to the press, as they have to try to get quotes from him.
  • We, as fans, are perfectly capable of enjoying and even loving the play of a guy even if he annoys his teammates and the press. We really can. It should affect our enjoyment of him very, very little, assuming his behavior is not such that it reveals him to be a really bad person in an absolute sense. Short of that, someone tell me why I should care if Bill Plaschke or Justin Turner have a harder day at the office because of Yasiel Puig. They don’t have to work with Gleeman or that jackass in the cubicle next to yours who clips his nails and hums along to Maroon 5 songs and I don’t see them wringing their hands over it.
  • Players like their routines and their harmony and a certain vibe in the clubhouse. But we are too quick, I think, to defer to players’ opinions about such things and to think that it matters for us as fans. Huston Street thinks his career will end if his role changes. Players have almost come to blows over music on a boombox. They also haze each other in dumb ways and look askance at players who are perceived as intellectuals and make a big point about how we, as non-players couldn’t possibly understand what is important to players. I’m fine to take them at their word on that, but I would hope that they as players would admit they don’t understand what it’s like to be just a fan and that I don’t have to care about the things they care about in order to enjoy baseball. Even if the media, oh so often, identifies with the players’ side of such matters, likely because of some weird combination of beng in the clubhouse themselves, relying on them for information and a strain of Stockholm Syndrome
  • It does matter if the player’s jerkiness is so great that it causes his teammates to play worse. At least if you’re a fan of the Dodgers. Maybe, over the long haul, having to deal with an annoying teammate does make them play worse. For now, though, the value of Puig’s bat, legs and glove has outweighed any negative effect is attitude and personality have on the Dodgers. I say that based on the success the Dodgers have had since he’s arrived, his numbers and, admittedly, our inability to precisely measure how the bad chemistry he creates negatively affects the team. But don’t just take my guesses for it. In Passan’s article itself, the unnamed Dodgers player who said trading Puig would be “addition by subtraction” backtracked later and admitted that Puig is a top three or four talent in baseball and that the idea of trading him is a “Catch-22.” I think any honest Dodgers player would admit that, even with his problems, Puig has helped the Dodgers win more games than he has caused them to lose.
  • There have been a lot of jerks in baseball history. One of the biggest is Reggie Jackson. He led his teams to five World Series titles and six pennants.
  • Puig, for his part, has cut down on the tardiness, the dogging it and other weird behavior, even if he continues to be an annoyance in the clubhouse. Which isn’t to say he’s becoming a better teammate. Maybe he’s not. Maybe he’s growing more complacent as a professional in some ways, being a jerk in ways that are less obvious to the outside world. But if we’re going to slam Puig for stuff, it’s probably worth also noting when he does improve rather than running out the same litany of wrongs whenever he comes up. Passan’s article is fine, but let’s remember: most of it is recounting stuff from a book which covered the 2013-14 time frame. I’d be more interested in hearing how he’s bad for the Dodgers today than how he was bad for them during a 2014 road trip.

I hope those distinctions are clear, despite my rah-rahing for Yasiel Puig. I hope that we can agree that we do not have to consider Puig the same way his teammates or the press does, as we are the audience for his baseball entertainment, not people who share close quarters with him. Put differently, I hope we are totally capable of thinking that Puig is amazing and fun in some aspects (i.e. when he takes the field) even if he is less so in others.

*To be fair to Knight, and to clear up any misunderstanding, she is fair in her reporting on Puig. I don’t throw her in with the folks who go over the top on him. She mentions the racial/cultural stuff I mentioned above and gives both sides of the stories involving him. Many take these incidents and color them through their own filters, but I think Knight shoots 100% straight in her reporting.

Time to beat the “Bobby Bonilla is still being paid by the Mets!” thing into the ground

19 Apr 1999:  Bobby Bonilla #25 of the New York Mets looks on during the game against the Montreal Expos at the Shea Stadium in Flushing, New York. The Expos defeated the Mets 4-2.
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Today is July 1. That’s Canada Day, so happy Canada Day! I hope, like me, you’ll be blasting Rush and eating Timbits all day long!

It’s also the day that the Mets have to pay Bobby Bonilla $1.2 million, as they have since 2011 and will have to until 2036. People will laugh at that last one like crazy. It’s become an annual “LOL Mets!” joke. But it’s about the hackiest and easiest “LOL Mets!” joke around. And as many have noted, it’s not even in the top 10 of things to laugh at the Mets over. The quick version:

  • Essentially this is deferred compensation. While it wasn’t super common for teams to do it back when Bonilla agreed to that deal, it is far more common now. Let’s see what Max Scherzer’s payouts look like when he’s still accepting huge checks from the Nats seven years after he retired
  • One thing that makes Bonilla’s deal stick out is the interest he’s getting: 8%. That’s high, but as The Bad Economist pointed out a few years back, the prime rate when he signed the deal was 8.5%. The Mets probably should’ve made his interest a floating figure rather than fixing it at 8% — Bonilla is getting a windfall as a result — but that’s down to the Mets’ owners’ well-documented bad financial instincts and their misguided belief that they’d make 15% on any investments in perpetuity, not the silliness of the structure.
  • The Mets got use of the $5.9 million Bonilla deferred for years. And hey, for a lot of that time they probably DID get 15% on it because they were early investors in a ponzi scheme! But even if they put that in a non-criminal investment, they made money on it. They got something for that money. Even conservatively invested, a good half of the $30 million or so Bonilla is getting after interest will have been paid for.
  • And they got more than just the investment. As Dan Lewis pointed out five years ago, the $5.9 that was freed up for 2000 was used to bite off a huge chunk of the salaries owed to Mike Hampton and Derek Bell, for whom they traded and who helped them reach the World Series. When Hampton walked to take advantage of the good schools in the Denver area, they used the compensation pick to draft a kid named David Wright. None of that happens without deferring Bonilla’s salary given their payroll crunch at the time.

So mock the Mets all you want. Mock them for trading for Bonilla in the first place (though they only gave up Mel Rojas for him, and he was clinically dead by then). Mock them for their choice of interest rate. But don’t mock them for deferring Bonilla’s salary, because it was a good move for them at the time that allowed them to make moves they wouldn’t have otherwise made, including a move that helped them win a pennant.

Besides, there are things far more recent to mock them for anyway. And why not dwell on those?

Report: Jerry Dipoto “definitely out” as Angels GM

Jerry Dipoto
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Yesterday we heard about the discord between Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto. Multiple overnight reports have come in saying that Dipoto is out:

As was reported yesterday, things came to a head between Dipoto and Scioscia after a meeting in which Dipoto took issue with Scioscia for him and his coaches not conveying scouting information to the players. Scioscia is said to have Albert Pujols on his side in this dispute.

A dispute, it seems, that does not and would not happen on many other teams in this day and age given the dominance of front offices over coaching staff when it comes to decision making in most organizations. Scioscia, however, has the longest tenure in baseball, having taken over before that front office-coaching paradigm shifted. Indeed, for years it was said that Scioscia acted as a defacto assistant general manager prior to Dipoto’s arrival, forcing or, at the very least, strongly suggesting moves such as the trading away of Mike Napoli and the acquisition of Vernon Wells. The strife between him and former GM Tony Reagins was widely reported, with owner Arte Moreno reportedly having Scioscia’s back at all turns.

One assumes the same pattern exists now, and that one does not battle with Scioscia and expect to win.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

Mike Montgomery
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Mariners 5, Padres 0: Mike Montgomery has made six big league starts. Two of them — the last two of them — are shutouts. This was a one-hitter, in which Yangervis Solarte’s ground rule double in the seventh was the only thing that Padres could muster off of him. Montgomery is the third M’s pitcher to have back-to-back shutouts, with the other two being Randy Johnson and Mark Langston. Johnson once had three shutouts in a row. Montgomery will get a chance to do it against Oakland on Sunday.

Rangers 8, Orioles 6: Game two in which, in my mind, the O’s and Rangers battle for the Rafael Palmeiro Cup, which goes to the winner of the season series between these guys each year. Sort of the Little Brown Jug of big-bopping, band box-dwelling, PED-fueled teams of the 90s. God, what a glorious time. Anyway, Mitch Moreland hit two homers for the second straight game and the Rangers had four homers against the Orioles for the second straight game, with Shin-Soo Choo and Robinson Chirinos hitting dingers too.

Brewers 4, Phillies 3: This is, I dunno, the Ricky Bottalico Bowl. Same thing as the Rangers-O’s thing, but named after a guy who played for both of these less exciting teams. Here Aramis Ramirez drove in three runs and Ryan Braun had four hits. This one was delayed nearly an hour and a half by rain. Either from clouds or from God crying for having to watch these two squads play.

Cubs 1, Mets 0: Kyle Hendricks and three of his friends combined on the shutout, outdueling Jon Niese. If you’re a Mets pitcher you basically have to be perfect these days, it seems.

Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 3: Break up the Red Sox, who have won three in a row and are now only six back. David Ortiz and Jackie Bradley Jr. hit homers and Eduardo Rodriguez allowed only one run over six innings. Not-so-fun fact for Toronto: Jose Bautista is hitless in 24 straight at bats.

Pirates 5, Tigers 4: The Pirates broke through in the 14th inning in spite of themselves. Tied 4-4 with Gorkys Hernandez on first, Josh Harrison hit a double. Hernandez started breaking back to first base because he thought the ball was caught for some reason. Then turned around and headed to third, missed second and ended up being called out. That sort of thing has to be totally dispiriting to a team playing after midnight on the road, but Neil Walker saved Hernandez’s bacon by doubling in Harrison for the eventual winning run.

Nationals 6, Braves 1: That’s nine straight for the Nats over the Braves, who are now legally foreclosed from referring to Washington as a “rival.” Jordan Zimmermann took a shutout into the eighth inning and the Braves’ only run came on an it-doesn’t-matter Juan Uribe homer in the ninth. Danny Espinosa was 3-for-5. Clint Robinson drove in two.

Twins 8, Reds 5: This one featured a two hour delay for a storm that never came. That’s some absurdist, existential stuff. It’s some Feudian and Jungian overtones away from being a Beckett play. Once it started, Torii Hunter hit his fourth homer in his past four games Eduardo Nunez had three hits and an RBI single and Kurt Suzuki drove in two. Phil Hughes was solid — the Reds closed a big gap late due to some sloppy Twins play after Hughes had left the game — and has allowed only two runs over his last two starts, which totaled 16 innings.

Marlins 5, Giants 3: An inside-the-park homer from Dee Gordon was the highlight here:

 

Is it rude of me to point out that maybe this should be a triple and an error due to the little glove-flippy nonsense going on by the Giants in the outfield? Oh, OK then. I won’t point it out. In Gordon’s defense, though, he booked it like crazy out of the box and never slowed down on the basepaths.

Indians 6, Rays 2: Danny Salazar was on his game and pitched two-hit ball into the eighth. He had some offensive help in the form of three homers backing him. And some defensive help in the form of plays like this gem from Francisco Lindor:

 

Astros 4, Royals 0: This practice run for a possible ALCS is not going too well for the Royals, as the Astros shut them out and win for the second straight day. Dallas Keuchel, of course, who has been nothing short of fantastic all year. Here he Here he shut KC out for eight innings, striking out seven and lowering his ERA to 2.03. George Springer hit a two-run homer and Jose Altuve doubled in a run.

White Sox 2, Cardinals 1: A Tyler Flowers homer in the 11th was the difference here. And while Chris Sale didn’t figure in the decision, he went eight innings, allowing only one run and striking out 12. That extends his double-digit strikeout streak to eight. The only other guy who has done that is Pedro Freakin’ Martinez.

Dodgers 6, Diamondbacks 4: Another extra inning game on a night with several. Yasmani Grandal was the hero for L.A., homering early and hitting a two-run double in the 10th inning, driving in four in all.

Angels 2, Yankees 1: Three runs in the game, all coming on homers. Albert Pujols and Erik Aybar went deep for Anaheim and Mark Teixeira hit one for the Bombers. Besides that one, however, Andrew Heaney was stingy, allowing only two hits and one run over seven while striking out seven. Huston Street got the save and has pitched in four straight games. Careful: relief pitchers don’t do that too often. You don’t want to take him out of his routine. He may retire.

Rockies 2, Athletics 1: Jorge De La Rosa tossed seven shutout innings. Rubby De La Rosa pitched for the Dbacks in their game against Lost Angeles. We need to get these two on the same team. the Rockies scored the run that gave them their margin of victory on a Fernando Rodriguez wild pitch.