Well, Bryce Harper’s time atop the baseball world in terms of total contract value and annual contract return lasted about 2 weeks. Compared to the historical span of MLB, two weeks seems like a minute and a half. Mike Trout just signed a 12-year deal with the LA Angels worth a total of $430M eclipsing the total value of Harper’s contract by a cool $100M. Some folks are trying to portray Bryce Harper as some sort of “loser” as a result of Trout’s new contract. That is a new fad in sports commentary today; every event has to generate winners and losers. Somehow, I find it difficult to paint Bryce Harper as a loser here since he is in possession of a guaranteed $330M contract.
[As a point of reference, there are 8 countries/territories according to United Nations’ stats whose annual GDP is less than $330M. That is not “per capita GDP”; that is TOTAL GDP.]
If someone demanded that I find a loser – or losers – as a result of the Angels/Mike Trout accord, here is my pick:
- Scott Boras
Until this week, the common wisdom was that Scott Boras could squeeze the most money out of MLB owners and that he was the master negotiator. His tactic of holding his clients out until the last moment was regarded as his signature move and it almost always landed an eye-popping deal. As of this morning, Scott Boras himself is in second place on the “big-money list” and the tactic that got Mike Trout his deal is the antithesis of everything that Boras has done in any of his negotiations. Mike Trout had two years left on his current deal; if Scott Boras had been his agent, the chances that Trout would have even begun to negotiate an extension would have been zero.
Until yesterday when I learned that Mike Trout’s agent is Craig Landis, I would not have known Craig Landis nor his occupation any more than I could tell you how Ish Kabibble rose to “fame”. [Google is your friend…]. Landis surely comes out as a golden boy as a result of this deal.
Let me shift gears here and talk about a situation where there is a real “loser”. About a week ago, I wrote here that the LA Lakers are a certified mess. Since then, it has only gotten worse. NBA pundits have tried to boil it down to reveal the essence of the hot mess and some of the potentially guilty parties include:
- LeBron James: He is the best player in the world, but he brings drama and distractions with him wherever he goes, and the young Lakers’ core players are unable to deal with all of that. James is aloof and has demonstrated he does not respect his teammates and their performance continues in decline. This is a part of the problem.
- Luke Walton: He may have had a great run in Golden State when Steve Kerr was out recovering from surgery, but the Warriors were on cruise control so his “coaching cred” was inflated beyond reality. He was not prepared to deal with the sturm und drang surrounding this team in this season. This is a minor part of the problem.
- Team injuries: Of course, playing without LeBron James for almost 20 games did not help the Lakers – – but when James returned to the lineup and the Lakers on the brink of playoff eligibility, the team stunk out the joint and faded into oblivion. This is an excuse not an element of the Lakers’ problems.
I think there has not been nearly enough critical commentary aimed at the Lakers’ front office. Indeed, the front office there took some flak over the abortive trade negotiations involving Anthony Davis where just about every player on the team was reported to be in one or more of the trade offers put on the table by the Lakers. As the story goes, the young Lakers mentioned in those trade rumors were disheartened by those reports; I guess they did not feel loved; pardon me while I wipe away a tear shed in their honor.
However, the problem goes beyond that single incident – – even though it surely appears as if the Pelicans played the Lakers like a fiddle throughout that “negotiation”. I think the problem is rooted in the roster that was put together by Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka last summer in the wake of their acquisition of LeBron James in free agency.
Let me go through a few bullet points regarding what Johnson and Palinka and what the failed to do last summer:
- They did not sign free agent Paul George. He chose to stay in OKC rather than go to LA and play with LeBron. Perhaps that was foretelling…?
- They did not trade for Kawaii Leonard. In fairness, maybe they never had a shot to make a trade there since Greg Popovich was motivated to trade Leonard outside of the Western Conference.
- They ignored “Boogie” Cousins and let him go to Golden State. Reports say that Cousins is playing there on a 1-year deal worth $5.3M.
- They were not involved in the movement of either Jimmy Butler or Kristaps Porzingas or Tobias Harris in mid-season. Instead they signed a bunch of guys to 1-year deals so that the Lakers can be active in free-agency this summer. Compare the players they did not sign or try to trade for with the guys they did sign to include Michael Beasley, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo and Lance Stevenson. Shameful…
Looking back, the Lakers drafted Lonzo Ball ahead of Jason Tatum in the draft. If you re-do that draft, the only person on the planet taking Lonzo Ball ahead of Jason Tatum would be LaVar Ball.
LeBron James, Luke Walton and “the injury bug” can absorb some of the deflected blame for the sorry state of the LA Lakers. Nevertheless, I think Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka are the root causes of the problems there. At least a half-dozen quality NBA players will be free agents this summer; the Lakers’ front office needs to get two of them to choose the Lakers as their new “home”.
Finally, since I began today with Mike Trout’s record setting contract, let me close with a Tweet from Brad Dickson about Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets:
“Brooklyn Nets guard wants to spend $100 million building a fully functional Iron Man suit. And they ask why so many ex-pro athletes go broke.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………