• Forbes: High Priced Imports Don’t Help In Baseball

    Posted by on February 27th, 2008 · Comments (6)

    Some interesting thoughts from Tom Van Riper of Forbes

    Recent history shows that in each winter since 1998, the highest-salaried major league player to switch teams has never had a notable effect on the win total of the club that got him. In fact, six of 10 teams won fewer games than in the previous year, while none enjoyed a longer advance through the post season.

    The $20 million that Santana will earn in 2008 makes him this year’s highest-paid acquisition, just ahead of Torii Hunter, his ex-teammate from the Twins who jumped to the Los Angeles Angels for a five-year, $90 million deal.

    Last winter’s highest paid acquisition, pitcher Jason Schmidt, got $15.7 million to move down the West Coast from the San Francisco Giants to the Los Angeles Dodgers. But a shoulder injury, always a risk with pitchers, limited him to just 26 innings and a 1-4 record. The Dodgers won six fewer games than they did in their playoff season of 2006, finishing fourth.

    The Giants tried to replace Schmidt by lavishing $126 million over seven years on lefty Barry Zito (he got $10 million in the first year), who struggled to an 11-13 record while his team finished last. And the man who was technically last year’s highest-paid newbie, the Yankees’ Roger Clemens (his signing came in mid-season, leaving Schmidt standing as the top winter acquisition), had no real effect on his club despite an $18 million contract. With Clemens going 6-6, the Yankees won three fewer games than they did in 2006, bowing out in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight time.

    The trend is no better for offensive saviors over the past decade. Since 1998, the highest-salaried players to jump teams have included Sammy Sosa in 2005 (Chicago Cubs to Baltimore Orioles) and Mo Vaughn in 2002 (Angels to Mets), both of whom saw their new clubs fall back in the standings the year they got there.

    Consider the Atlanta Braves’ 2003 acquisition of Mike Hampton, a $13 million-a-year pitcher, to beef up their already strong starting rotation. Hampton was a solid but unspectacular 14-8 that year, while the Braves duplicated their 2002 season of 101 wins and a first-round playoff exit.

    Slugger Alex Rodriguez, who jumped from the Seattle Mariners to the Texas Rangers in 2001 for over $22 million a year and then took that contract to the Yankees three years later, failed to push either team to greater heights. The 2001 Rangers, with the league’s worst pitching staff, finished fourth for the second year in a row. And the 2004 Yankees went from 101 wins and a World Series loss the year before to 101 wins and a League Championship Series loss to the Red Sox. Even a human stat machine like A-Rod won’t improve a team if his salary makes it difficult for a club to invest in other needs.

    I wonder if this has anything to do with the player being an import, or, if it’s just “The 15 Percent Rule” coming into play?

    Comments on Forbes: High Priced Imports Don’t Help In Baseball

    1. Raf
      February 27th, 2008 | 5:55 pm

      Looks like the 15% rule has been disproven 🙂

      It could be a number of things. In the case of Rodriguez, the Yanks weren’t handcuffed by his salary.

      It appears to me that the article is making the case that correlation = causation, which is not the case.

    2. brockdc
      February 27th, 2008 | 6:27 pm

      Not that I’m a huge advocate for overspending on aging, albeit talented, free agents, but this is pretty specious reasoning – to put it charitably. If you want to say that purchasing one big name free agent doesn’t guarantee a World Series ring, then fine – no news flash there.

      But to say that A-Rod didn’t “push his teams to greater heights” is the height of idiocy. By almost any metric, he’s still among the best players in the game; and, without him, the Yanks wouldn’t have even sniffed the playoffs last year. What A-Rod has been guilty of is his inability to also be a #1 top-of-the rotation shutdown ace. God, I hate lazy journalism.

    3. brockdc
      February 27th, 2008 | 6:29 pm

      Oh, and another pet peeve of mine: Using wins as a main barometer for pitching success. Again, lazy journalism.

    4. Rich
      February 27th, 2008 | 9:10 pm

      To add to what’s been said, it has been argued here that the Yankees didn’t have sufficient quality starting pitching to win the WS in recent seasons, including 2004. Yet A-Rod’s offense helped carry the team to the ALCS that year, and but for a rare meltdown by the best reliever in MLB, and an assortment of bad bounces, they would have advanced to, and probably have won, the WS.

    5. Andrew
      February 27th, 2008 | 9:27 pm

      Sorry, but the Soriano-for-ARod swap is going to go down as one of the greatest trades in Yankee history. Rodriguez has been worth every penny, and will continue to be worth every penny for years to come.

    6. Ference
      February 28th, 2008 | 1:19 pm

      The other problem with this premise is to only take the highest paid player to switch teams. It totally eliminates all the other acquisitions or subtractions made by that team and blames the fate of the team solely on that high salaried player. The article also values each highest paid player to to switch teams as equal when it is fairly obvious that A-rod and Mike Hampton are completey different in terms of value to a baseball team. We also see the article qualifying success as “further advance in the postseason” which is in my opinion a poor judgment of success for just one high salaried player. Either way this is a logically flawed premise from start to finish.

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