Two days ago, I said that perhaps MLB GMs were leery of handing out huge long-term contracts to free agents because some of the contracts of that nature in the past had not turned out so well for the clubs. I gave three examples off the top of my head – – Albert Pujols, A-Rod and Jayson Werth. Yesterday, I got an email from the reader in Houston whose encyclopedic memory for sports history is amazing. He suggested 18 other examples of large long-term baseball contracts that did not work out well. I am not going to go through all of them but consider these five examples:
- Homer Bailey: Reds signed him to a 6-year deal worth $105M in 2014. He has been anything but an “ace” since then; he was traded to the Dodgers this winter.
- Robinson Cano: Signed to a 10-year deal worth $240M. He will make $24M per year from now through the end of the 2023 season. Mariners traded him to the Mets this winter.
- Chris Davis: Orioles signed him to a 7-year deal worth $161M in 2016; they have him through 2022. Last year, he hit .168 and struck out 192 times.
- Jacoby Ellsbury: Yankees signed him to a 7-year contract worth $153M in 2014; they still owe him $42M. He is a .265 hitter with limited power.
- Pablo Sandoval: Red Sox signed him to a 5-year contract worth $90M in 2015. He was released by the Sox in 2017. He went back to the Giants on a mandatory minimum salary in 2018.
There are about a dozen other names from the list I got via email; these are the cautionary tales that MLB GMs may have in mind as they avoid offering free agents like Bryce Harper or many Machado 10 years and a total of $350M…
While on the subject of burdensome contracts, let me switch sports for just a moment here and give you the salary profile for John Wall of the Washington Wizards. The team gave him an extension to his contract last year and here is how it goes:
- 2018/19: $19M
- 2019/20: $38M
- 2020/21: $41M
- 2021/22: $44M
- 2022/23: $47M
John Wall is out for the rest of this season with surgery on his foot. However, when you tune into an NBA game and happen to see the Wizards next year, recall that salary profile and ask yourself if you consider his performance as a good value. He will make about $463K per game next year…
Speaking of the NBA, the ratings on Turner Network TV are down about 20% this year as compared to last year and ESPN’s ratings are down about 5%. I read one analysis that blamed some of the decline on LeBron James’ move from Cleveland to LA. The reasoning goes like this:
- When LeBron was in Cleveland, it made lots of Clevelanders watch NBA basketball because the Cavs were relevant.
- People in LA watch the Lakers when they are good and when they are mediocre in similar numbers.
- Therefore, “losing” a significant portion of the Cleveland audience hurts ratings.
- Moreover, fewer people get to see LeBron play and he is a draw. Because he is in LA now, he plays a large fraction of his games when folks in the Eastern Time Zone are asleep. Ergo audiences in markets like NYC, Philly and Boston are down too.
If they gave out awards for looking at the world through rose colored glasses, I think this would be a strong contender for first prize in that category. I think the ratings drop has more to do with an endemic problem for meaningless NBA regular season games:
- The games are not fun to watch. Many of them look like the 3-point shooting contest during the All-Star break.
- When the games are not merely jump shooting contests, they devolve into a series of one-on-one games. This makes for some great highlights on SportsCenter; it does not come close to holding my interest over the 2-hours it takes to watch a full game.
The Golden State Warriors – to pick a 3-point shooting team as an example – have attempted 1660 of those shots so far this year in 50 games – – about 33 per game or about one every 90 seconds of playing time. The Warriors rank 10th in the NBA in 3-point shots attempted per game. The leading team in that category is the Houston Rockets averaging 44.5 3-point attempts per game – almost one per minute of play. More than half of the field goal tries by the Rockets come from behind the 3-point line. Sigh…
Finally, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times boiled down the MLB free agency embolism this winter to its essence with this comment:
“Pitcher Adam Ottavino will become the first player in Yankee history to wear jersey number 0.
“Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, not to be outdone, are holding out for the symbol $.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………