Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Teixeira and the economy
While we wait for the puff of smoke that will signify, finally, Mark Teixeira's employer for the next eight or nine years, we can chew on Ted Robinson's take on Tex, his big bad agent, and the big worse economy
In SoCal, there is panic about life without Teixeira and Manny Ramirez. There is hype and then there are facts. Like these: the Angels were 66-40 (.622) BEFORE Teixeira, 34-22 (.607) WITH Teixeira. Atlanta was 49-56 with Teixeira and for the record he has played in exactly one All-Star Game.
The Angels acquired Teixeira for October and in four playoff games, he had zero extra-base hits and one RBI. The Los Angeles Times characterized that performance this morning as "shining," a passage obviously ghost-written by [Scott] Boras.
No one in the real world can get money right now but the best players in baseball are immune to reality. And make no mistake, baseball is healthy -- for now. But I have talked to savvy sports businessmen in the last week and they see NBA games in many cities played before scads of empty seats, they hear whispers that at least one NHL team may have trouble meeting a payroll, they see Tiger Woods (TIGER!) lose a sponsor, they see General Motors drop out of sports and they wonder how long before baseball feels the pinch.
This year is safe for MLB but will sponsors, suite-holders and ticket buyers who are locked in for 2009 quickly renew for 2010 and beyond? Boras cares not about these questions for his mission is to squeeze every last dollar for his clients. And squeeze he must for he turned down that seven-year offer from Texas for Teixeira. And he convinced the Dodgers to obliterate two option years on Ramirez's deal.
A lot to wrestle with here
First, Tex: The Angels had already just about locked up the AL West when they got Teixeira. After they got him, they scored more runs and he was a big part of that. Now, one might attribute the Angels' lower post-Tex winning percentage to their new first baseman's defense, except (1) there's only so much defensive damage a first baseman can do, and (2) Teixeira is by most accounts an excellent defensive first baseman. So those before-and-after records are twin red herrings.
So is the stuff about Teixeira's "shining" postseason performance. Look, it was only four games. But in those four games, he reached base 11 times: seven hits (granted, all singles) and four walks. Say what you want, but a .557 OBP looks pretty good to me.
Now, the All-Star thing is a fair point. After six seasons, you'd expect more than one All-Star Game for a guy who's about to sign one of the two or three richest contracts in the game. Does it mean anything, though? Over the past two seasons, Teixeira has the fifth-best OPS+ (151) in the majors, right between David Ortiz and Carlos Pena. And Tex is a better defender than Ortiz and younger than Pena.
I don't know if the second-best first baseman in the majors is "worth" whatever he's going to get. But I don't think there's much point in trying to tear down his record. Because his record, from where I sit, is close to impeccable.
Next, Boras: Look, we get it. Agents are somewhat disreputable and occasionally dishonest. But their "mission" is not to "squeeze every last dollar" for their clients. Sure, that can be a part of it. A big part. But their mission, their job, is to get their clients what their clients want. Whether that's money or security or an endless supply of bathtub toys, the ultimate goal is peace of mind. If an agent doesn't accomplish that mission, he won't have his clients for long.
Finally, Baseball and the Economy: Everybody wants to know what this recession is going to mean for the game, but mostly we're reduced to guessing. We can guess that franchises are going to tighten their belts in the front office, which means some good people will lose their jobs. We can guess that players' salaries won't rise their usual (or rather, their average) 10 percent over the next couple of years. But we can also guess that for us, as fans, baseball will plow along like it always does: lots of sunny baseball in March, followed by the 162-game marathons and the usual October drama. All the while, baseball will rank among one of the very cheapest entertainments, particularly if you're happy to enjoy all those games from the comfort of your own rumpus room.
Mark Teixeira's new contract won't kill baseball, nor will whatever the tattered economy throws at us. I'm not sure if anything can.