Contract Comments

Last we saw Shaka Smart, he had led the VCU Rams to the Final Four and was one of the “hot coaches” who was sure to get a new job at a bigger school or a new contract with bigger numbers at VCU. Well, he stayed at VCU and got a new deal with a base salary a little north of $1M per year. In addition, there are incentive clauses; some of them are pretty obvious:

    Win the conference regular season title; collect a bonus.

    Beat an ACC team; collect a bonus.

    Beat cross-town rival, Richmond; collect a bonus.

However, two bonus clauses seem unusual for a guy coming off a Final Four appearance:

    Smart gets a bonus based on the graduation rate of his players.

    Smart gets a bonus for making it to the NIT – - and extra bonuses for winning NIT games.

Since the NIT is like the “Miss Congeniality Award” for college basketball, I wonder why the school wants to pay bonus money for going there…

Sometimes the most obvious things go unnoticed. Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Purloined Letter, revolves around a blackmail letter being hidden in plain sight and not in a secret compartment or behind a layer of wallpaper. Well, perhaps there is a “hidden” cause for the Dodgers’ bankruptcy that is plain and obvious but has been obfuscated by things like divorce proceedings and extravagant lifestyle expenditures by the McCourts. Perhaps there is something simpler to explain this horrible turn of events.

Suppose that in Tommy LaSorda’s final contract with the Dodgers there was a seemingly innocuous clause in there guaranteeing that the Dodgers would pay LaSorda’s expenses for pizza and pasta for the rest of his life. If the Dodgers had not thought to buy insurance for that clause, they would be in their 15th year of picking up that tab – - and that tab might bankrupt the Saudi Royal Family.

This sounds like an investigative reporter’s dream. Put Lois Lane on the story…

So far in 2011, Dan Uggla has to be one of the most disappointing free agent signings of the year. Last winter, the Braves signed him for $62M over 5 years. At the time, that seemed to be in line with what the market would bear; Uggla is 31 years old and in five seasons with the Florida Marlins, he was a .263 hitter and a solid second baseman. However, his stats for 2011 are horrible.

In 81 games, Uggla is hitting .177 and even with 12 HRs he is only slugging .341. Clearly, he and the Braves’ management and front office are trying to figure out who kidnapped Dan Uggla and substituted this body double. In addition, there have to be some other folks in the Braves’ family who are shaking their heads and wondering what is going on.

    Imagine that you are a second baseman playing for one of the Braves’ minor league teams and that you are having a good year. You check the paper every morning and see that the second baseman on the “big club” – - a guy who plays every day no less – - is hitting .177. At what point in the baseball season do you start to wonder what level of Divine intervention it might take for you to get to move up in the Braves’ organization?

If Dan Uggla is not the most disappointing free agent from last winter, then Adam Dunn might be. The White Sox gave Dunn a 4-year deal worth $56M after eight consecutive seasons where Dunn hit 38 HRs or more while hitting .260 overall. IN the last five years, Dunn has also driven in more than 100 runs. Let us be clear, that contract last winter was for Dunn’s bat; his fielding prowess is – - to be polite – - limited.

So far in 2011, Adam Dunn is hitting .173 in 67 games with only 7 HRs and 29 RBIs. He has 40 hits this year; stretch that out to a 162-game season and you get 97 hits for the season. That is hardly what the White Sox brass thought might come from a guy who will pull down $14M per year for the life of his deal. Even more frightening is the fact that in 67 games, Adam Dunn has struck out 100 times. Extrapolate those numbers to a 162-game season and you are looking at 242 strikeouts.

You need to keep an eye on the stats for both of these guys over the rest of the season to see if either of them breaks out of their miasma. Will either of them hit over .230 for the year?

Here is something in which Messrs. Uggla and Dunn can take some solace. There is no way they can achieve the level of futility at the plate that Bob Buhl experienced in 1962. Granted, Buhl was a starting pitcher and was not being paid to hit the baseball; however in 35 games that season, he amassed 70 at bats and he got exactly zero hits. Even more amazing is the fact that Bob Buhl – - without the benefit of a base hit for an entire season – - managed to drive in 2 runs that year.

Buhl had one sacrifice fly in 1962; that accounts for one of the RBIs. He also walked 6 times (those opposing pitchers probably have still not forgiven themselves for that) and he was hit by a pitch once. I imagine that the bases were loaded on one of those occasions and that is how the second RBI happened.

I read a report that boxer, James Toney, at age 42 has signed on with UFC. Recall that 48-year old Herschel Walker also signed with UFC and has a record of 2-0 in MMA bouts. Too bad André the Giant is no longer with us. UFC could build an entire division around aging athletes from other sports…

Finally, here is a comment from Mike Bianchi in the Orlando Sentinel:

“Now that Plaxico Burress is out of jail, there are rumblings he may sign with the Eagles and pair up with Michael Vick. Future headline: ‘Burress shoots Vick’s dog in the leg.’ “

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

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  • Ed  On June 30, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Well, I LIKE having a bonus for player graduations… maybe stop all the one-and-runs…. don’t waste scholarships on players who don’t want to go to school, just play basketball. Though if i give a coach 7 figures, NIT wins are a bare minimum I expect.

    Toney already fought in the UFC once. Got submitted, didn’t even get credit for landing a punch. Fought an ex-champ around his own age (Couture).

    Buhl’s second RBI was likely something like a groundout with a man on third. Randy Tate in 1975 (his only year) may have been worse – 41 AB with no hits, no RBI, and only one walk – and got caught stealing… and 22 Ks.

    (Dis)honorable mention: Sandy Koufax. His rookie year, he only hit 12 times… 12 Ks. Couldn’t hit a ball fair all year.

  • rainier beacher  On June 30, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    Chone Figgins in your terminology, is having a ‘less than stellar’ as well.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On July 6, 2011 at 11:00 am


    I have no problem with a coach emphasizing the value of the classroom to his athletes. However, giving him a monetary bonus for getting his kids to class seems to admit rather starkly that the university administrators have no such expectation of those athletes or of the coach. Not good…

    Koufax was such a great pitcher, I will give him a full pass on any hitting stats he may ever have had.

    rainier beacher:

    Agree; Chone Figgins has to be a big disappointment to the Mariners’ fans this year – - and last year to some extent too.

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