The Crimes of an Ancient Mariner*

Last week Andy MacPhail [president of the Baltimore Orioles] offered his opinion to the Baltimore Sun that Alex Rodriguez’s deal with Texas was the worst FA signing in baseball history.
I tend to agree [and a few paragraphs down I will explain why].
Below are two articles that I would like to direct your attention to.
The first was written by Dave Cameron [of FanGraphs] and it can be found here. The other was written by Rob Neyer and can be found here.
In the first article, Cameron tries to refute the claim that A-Rod’s deal was an albatross for the organization. He uses the WAR** stat to illustrate that it wasn’t Rodriguez’s fault, but rather the pieces around him that made the team lousy.
In Neyer’s article, he looks over what probably motivated the A-Rod deal, which was the prospect of winning more games and the prospect of increased attendance and/or TV revenues. As Neyer points out, none of those things happened until after Rodriguez was traded away 3 seasons later, which MacPhail also alluded to in his comments.
In my estimation, A-Rod’s deal is the worst in baseball history based purely on context.
(Hicks bid against himself and paid $100MM more than anyone else was offering, which is even more reason to call it an utter failure.)
What I mean by context is that, although A-Rod was a great player, he was never going to carry the team to the World Series on his own. He was 1/25th of the club, but was paid 1/4th of the total payroll.
The problem with only looking at the WAR is the fact that it forces you to ignore what actually happened on the field. The fact is, even though A-Rod was great, the team didn’t win anymore games than 73 until after he had been traded.
(In fact, in A-Rod’s last season in Texas [2003], the Rangers won exactly as many games as they did the year before he came to Texas [2000].)
I understand what WAR is supposed to do, but in this case [and probably others] it ignores actual results. It’s just a number and doesn’t guarantee anything.
So, even though A-Rod was supposed to make the team better, he didn’t. His presence didn’t inspire his teammates to play better anymore than it inspired the fans to go to The Ballpark. In that context, how can you see his time in Texas as anything but a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar mistake?
As both MacPhail and Neyer try to point out, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend or who you spend it on. Nobody wants to watch a team that never wins.
Looking at it through more than just the lens of advanced statistics, you can argue that A-Rod’s value to the club was negligible. The team still lost a lot. Attendance and revenue dipped. A-Rod didn’t want to be here and eventually weaseled his way out of town.
(On top of all that, the team was still paying him in 2010.)
Signing Rodriguez wasn’t the right move to make at the time. If the team were on the cusp of winning the AL West, then it would have made sense. In reality, they were at least 20 wins from being contenders and 7 years from actually going to the playoffs.
Although Orioles fans may not want to hear it, MacPhail is right. Baltimore doesn’t need an A-Rod type deal right now. They need to build a team from the ground up and prove that they can win at least half of their games.
Then and only then do they invest in a $25MM/y type of player.  An A-Rod deal needs to be the last piece, not the first.
*I feel especially good about this title. It all sort of came together, what with A-Rod having played for the Mariners and the fact that monster contracts that don’t pan out are often referred to as albatrosses. I really just wanted to point out how kind-of-clever I am and how kind-of-impressed you should be.
**WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. It is an advanced baseball statistic that tries to quantify a player’s value by calculating how many more wins he provides than a replacement player with only an average level of talent.
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About Mike Luna

My name is Mike. I am an avid fan of the Texas Rangers. I like reading and jogging, but I don't do either nearly as often as I should. I like writing about more than just baseball. Your opinion is your own, but please be respectful. Everyone is welcome in The Bleacher Seats.
This entry was posted in contracts and arbitration, dollars and sense, Texas Rangers baseball and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Crimes of an Ancient Mariner*

  1. i am kind-of-impressed by your title. haha

    No wonder Texas went broke, they were still paying A-Ron 7 years they traded him. Bleck.

    • Mike Luna says:

      They also still owed money to Mark McLemore, who left the Rangers in 1999, and Mickey Tettleton, who retired in 1997.

      Tom Hicks should be put in some kind of government database, warning sports teams not to let him anywhere near their finances.

      • Have they paid off their debts yet? Or, did they go away with the bankruptcy?

        • Mike Luna says:

          There’s no way the player’s union would let them walk away from salary owed. I imagine they’re working on paying it off, but considering what Tom Hicks defaulted on and how much it cost to buy the team, I doubt the investors wanted to take care of it all at once.

          I’ll explain MLB deferment to you later.

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