It's a funny thing, the Orioles' signing of Miguel Tejada. I have two strong reactions, and they conflict with each other.
On the one hand, paying Tejada an average of $12 million per season seems like one hell of a good deal for the Orioles. Leaving Alex Rodriguez out of the discussion because he's off in his own self- and Boras-created place, let's look at what baseball's top three shortstops will make in 2005. I'm going to fudge a little, prorating Tejada's and Derek Jeter's salaries, and guessing how much Nomar Garciaparra will make on his next deal.
Jeter $19 million 70
Garciaparra $14 million 81
Tejada $12 million 82
What's that last column? It's the Win Shares earned by these guys over the last three seasons. More is better. I cheated a little, going back to 2000 for Garciaparra and skipping his lost 2001, but I think this fairly represents his ability. This probably isn't real fair to Jeter, whose 2003 numbers suffered because of his shoulder injury. In terms of his overall contribution, he's comparable to Garciaparra and Tejada.
Yes, I know that Jeter does things that don't show up in the box score, and I know he becomes a different player when Tim McCarver's calling the action. The point here isn't that Jeter is not a great player. The point is that he is not worth roughly 40 percent more than Tejada, nor is Garciaparra worth 15 percent more than Tejada (a year ago, the Red Sox supposedly offered Garciaparra a four-year, $60 million contract).
By the standards of his peers, Tejada is underpaid.
But here's where we reach the other hand ... Tejada signed a six-year contract, and it's certainly possible that in three or four years, he will look overpaid. I think most of us thought the salaries would just go up and up and up and up some more, but obviously it hasn't worked out that way. Who knows? In four years, the going rate for a power-hitting shortstop might be $7 million rather than $11 million, and the Orioles will wish they had that extra $4 million to spend on a power-hitting outfielder.
I doubt it, though. While salaries might stay flat or even drop a bit, it's hard to imagine a scenario whereby a player like Tejada wouldn't be a good value for the Orioles at the price they're paying.
Unless, that is, he's not 27. Perhaps this has been resolved to everybody's satisfaction, but a year ago there were a lot of people who had real questions about Tejada's birthday. If he's actually 30 rather than 27, then suddenly a six-year contract doesn't look all that brilliant.
You get the picture
One of my favorite movies that you probably haven't seen is called "Modern Romance," starring the sublimely funny Albert Brooks (who also directed and co-wrote the film).
Brooks plays a film editor, and at one point he spends an inordinate amount of time trying to find the right sound clip for a man running down a corridor in an ultra low-budget space opera starring George Kennedy. When Brooks finally comes up with something he can use -- after deciding that "Hulk running" isn't quite right -- he asks the sound mixer for an opinion.
The sound guy's reply? "I think you saved the picture."
Senior writer Rob Neyer writes three columns per week during baseball's offseason. Next spring, Fireside will publish Rob's next book, "The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers" (co-authored with Bill James); for more information, visit Rob's Web site. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.