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Tommy Pham not a fan of Ozzie Albies’ contract extension

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The contract extension to which Ozzie Albies and the Atlanta Braves agreed has caused a lot of chatter since yesterday. As Bill noted, people in and around the game — including front office people who, one would think, would celebrate such team-friendly deals — are kind of shocked by how cheaply he was locked up.

I’ll add two things to this before letting it go:

First, while this is a low deal, I don’t think people truly appreciate how low it really is. There are a number of ways to portray that reality, but my favorite so far is to note that it’s about what the Indians gave second baseman Carlos Baerga on a yearly basis for his contract extension in 1993. Nineteen. Ninety. Three. Albies was born in 1997. Dear Lord.

Second, while we have slammed ownership like crazy here — and while the manner in which ownership takes advantage of players in various ways is still terrible in our view– the players are certainly not blameless for the current state of affairs. We’ve talked about the poor Collective Bargaining Agreement they negotiated a lot, but it’s also worth noting that, at some point, players have to accept at least a little risk in order to better their lot.

If players in Albies’ situation are unwilling to at least attempt to get closer to arbitration or to push for better deals than Albies and his agents did here, they are going to be stuck with this stuff. Be it in arbitration, free agency or anything else, comps are what matter. While any one of these deals may make great sense for the player in question, if a bunch of guys are risk averse and take low-dollar deals like this one, guys who come to the negotiating table later don’t have much of a leg to stand on when seeking better deals. Players’ power only comes via solidarity and shared risk and they’re all running for safety now, looking out for number one. They’ll get nowhere if they keep doing that. That’s just Labor 101.

In related news, at least one player who is working his way though arbitration — Tommy Pham of the Rays, whose Instagram account is “Tphamlv” — is not a fan of the Albies deal. Check out his opinion of it:

We don’t disagree, Tommy.

 

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.