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Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Blame Game

Two more miserable days and then we'll know - is Stephen Strasburg a Nat or is he not a Nat? The "spin game" has already started, as anyone who watched last night's broadcast knows.

Rob Dibble, Bob Carpenter and Ray Knight all had their say on the matter. Ray's take was probably the best. The Nationals have offered Strasburg around twice what Ray made in his entire career (and it was a good one - he's a former World Series MVP). He's done pretty well with that money. Double figure millions is a shocking amount of cash and it is unthinkable that it could be turned down.

Other than Rob repeatedly saying the word "blogger" like it was the most profane word ever, I actually agree with most of what they had to say - repeatedly - in the booth during the game. It's a ton of money. How can you turn that down? And so forth. What I didn't like was the assertion that they knew, they just knew, that the "bloggers (holding nose)" and media would be all over the Nats if they fail to sign Strasburg.

Really? I'm not so sure. I'm willing to bet some will go off the deep end and rip the Nats a new one but I hate to see all us "bloggers (throwing up)" and media lumped into that boat. There's plenty of blame to go around. I'm not so sure it is automatic it falls on the Nats.

I blamed them not at all last year when they failed to sign Aaron Crow, who appears to be on the verge of not signing again. Smart career move to basically sit out two seasons. What they offered him was fair and, if he said no, it's on him. Cost him a lot of money now and over the long haul.

I have no idea what the actual offer to Strasburg is now, other than it beats what Mark Prior got. So it is double figure millions. Let's just say 12 for the sake of argument. Any more doesn't really matter. The point is the same.

THAT IS A SHEETPILE OF CASH. How can an adult who allegedly makes a career out of financial advising advise a youngster to turn that down? As a guy who has worked hard for his entire career and not made 15 percent of that in 30 years (and still helped provide for a family), I shake my head in wonder. What world do these people live in? If someone offered my son a dozen million and someone else advised him to turn it down, there would be a hammer on someone's head.

That said, I do have a nagging thought in my head and, yeah, it may make me one of those "bloggers (gagging)" or other media lumped into that "rip the Nationals" category: Does it have nothing to do with money? Is the Nationals' reputation so bad that no one wants to play for them?

Crow is a tool and a fool for listening to bad advice. The Hendricks Brothers overvalued him and the Nats offered him too much anyway. He said no and he paid, falling in this year's draft.

I don't think Strasburg is a tool. I do fear he's out there thinking, "What the heck - I can make it another year and play somewhere else." I hope not. The Rays last year gave hope to every franchise that appears to be a lifelong loser. Things can change. With JimBow gone, I hope the Nationals are taken more seriously among baseball insiders.

But the very thought that someone could actually say no to a dozen (or more) million makes me wonder.


Brian said...

The issue I have with the whole situation is that the Nationals were well-aware that 'record-setting' was going to be the bare minimum and it was likely to be significantly more than that.

The time for being principled was before they made the selection.

Two years in a row misreading a draft pick is not a good indicator of the ability of this organization to get an accurate read on a situation.

Sam said...

I have two complaints, not directed at what Mike wrote but just at the overall story being put out.

First, "beating Prior" can mean a lot of things, but topping him by $1.5M is not reasonable in my opinion. Prior was years ago. Look at what has happened to money in the game, and player salaries at all levels, including (I bet, tho I confess I don't know) average draft bonus amts. $18M or something like that is truly beating Prior and, for me, gets into "it is just not reasonable/fair for the player to turn that down" country. Sure, $12M is huge dollars that a kid should be incredibly grateful for; so is $8M, so is $4M. It's a business -- Strasburg may never cash another check in his life and I really have a hard time feeling like he or his team are doing something unreasonable pressing hard.

Second, the narrative Boz has constucted of Boras pressing Strasburg to turn down any reasonable offer and his conclusion that Strasburg and his family need to get together and do the right thing bugs me a lot. I know Boz has spoken to these people, but did Boras really say that? Or anything like it? I doubt it. Boz certainly doesn't source him for anything like that. How does he know that Boras isn't laying out all the information, risks, etc. for Stras and his family and saying 'I think your best move is X -- so what do you want to do" as a good agent should? It gets said over and over that Boras pushes his clients into unreasonable, greedy decisions, but the only example that seems to get cited is the A-Rod deal. That's kind of weird situation to be the proof that he is as unethical as folks repeatedly claim.

MikeHarris said...

Sam - it's OK to complain about what I write. I'm just another goof ball spewing my generally worthless opinions.

Brian, that is going to be their spin. We may not have the best pitching prospect in our lifetime but we have our principles! So there.

I still can't imagine turning down 12 million.

Hendo said...

I've gone back and forth on Crow. Like you, Mike, I let the Nats off the hook after he fell through last August, though I was more inclined to blame Jim Bowden after that executive's fall from grace. Now that Crow is playing hard to get with the Royals, I'm back to where I was.

If I blame anybody for Crow's situation, it's the Hendrickses for getting tied up with him. He's pretty clearly a spoiled brat, and is still young enough to "get his" and learn from it, but they are old enough to know better. Allowing themselves to be dragged along by him has sullied their reputation as savvy, straight-up agents and wasted a lot of their own time -- and, arguably, that of the teams with which they've negotiated, not that I'm inclined to shed a lot of tears; after all, it's a business, and Brian's point about misreading a draft pick can't be overlooked.

As for the Nats, they've been in the hole since the day they lost their 101st game in September 2008. Recall that there were those at the time (yes, bloggers -- NFL and myself not among 'em) who wanted the Nats to tank so as to assure themselves of the chance to get Strasburg.

There was no way they weren't going to draft Strasburg -- imagine the howls in the blogosphere if they hadn't! -- and, once they did so, there was no way the negotiations weren't going to come down to the wire. Misreading had little to do with it; Boras' history is virtually impossible to misread, and the signs that he was going to pistol-whip the Nats and MLB were out there from the beginning.

The Nats have been banking that the backlash from the fan base will be less if Strasburg doesn't sign than if they hadn't drafted him at all. Getting to this point has been fraught with risk, but it's hard for me to fault the Nats for choosing the course they did.

Sam said...

Oh, I'm perfectly happy to dump on you, but as my screed focused on things you didn't say, I didn't want there to be any confusion.

Re $12M, I'm not saying that, if the Nats hold to a number like that, it's obvious Strasburg would or should reject it. It is objectively a ton of dough, and he takes a lot of risk not signing. But that'd be a balls out game for the Nationals -- if they stuck at a number like that and the deal cratered I would feel they were the ones who didn't do enough.

Would you?

MikeHarris said...

I'm real curious about this offer. Is it a record by a dollar? Or does it shatter the record?
I said in an earlier post - crazy as it sounds I'm OK with them going to 20 million.
IF they do offer that much and he doesn't take it, F him, F Boras and F everybody else.

Except us, of course.

JD said...

The Nats have to stick with where they're at. Pitchers drafted that high are a total crapshoot. The best pitcher ever taken among the top 18 picks is Kevin Brown?

Mark Prior's career record is 42-29, and while Dusty Baker should be shot for the abuse he put on Prior's arm, the facts are what they are.

The Padres don't have nearly the kind of cash Strasburg is going to want, and dude is asking for a lot of money for being someone who couldn't beat an above average ACC lineup in a game that mattered this year.

If he doesn't want to play for the Nationals then he just needs to come out and say so. If it's strictly a dollars and cents thing, then he better sign soon, because there's no way he's going to get as much as is being offered right now.

An Briosca Mor said...

If Strasburg doesn't sign, the number to watch in assessing blame is not the absolute values of the contracts offered and/or demanded, but rather the difference between them. With Crow the outcry was not because the Lerners were cheap with their offer (they weren't - they offered way over slot) but rather because there was only $500K difference between the two sides at the end. If the difference between Strasburg and the Nats is that small and they still can't get it done, then it's right to lay all the blame on them. But if the difference between them is much, much bigger - say $5M or so - then it's all on Boras. The Nats have offered Strasburg record money. If he holds out for a massive smash of the record contract, that's nothing but greed and he deserves all the scorn he's gonna get.

My prediction: The two sides meet either in the middle, or perhaps even on the lower end of the middle range.