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Long-term contracts: “It actually becomes harder”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Jun 26, 2014 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

One nice thing about working for Gannett is working alongside the guys from USA Today. This week, Bob Nightengale wrote about the danger of long-term contracts, not for the teams that give them but for the players who sign them. And of course the Yankees factor into the discussion. Here’s Bob’s column. Seems to fit well on this off day.

Brian McCannNew York Yankee fans spent Sunday taking their frustrations out on catcher Brian McCann, booing him on his way back to the dugout.

The New York Mets, ridiculed for signing Curtis Granderson for four years, are now considering releasing outfielder Chris Young.

The Texas Rangers, who invested $130 million for Shin-Soo Choo to kick-start their offense, can’t help but wonder where he went, batting just .248 with three stolen bases as their leadoff hitter, and hitting .136 with a .197 slugging percentage in June.

We have played nearly half the season, and after all of the good vibrations and hype from last winter’s free-agent signings, reality has hit clubs like another nebulous catcher’s interference call.

The only free agent to live up to his mega contract has been Masahiro Tanaka, who has been worth every penny of that $175 million it cost the Yankees to import him from Japan.

For every Nelson Cruz, who has 23 homers and 60 RBI while making $8 million for the Baltimore Orioles, there is Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez, 2-8 with a 4.63 ERA, after signing for $50 million over four years.

For every Michael Morse, who has 13 homers and 44 RBI while making $6 million for the first-place San Francisco Giants, there is a Ricky Nolasco, 4-5 with a 5.52 ERA, after signing a four-year, $49 million contract with the Minnesota Twins.

It’s not as if these are stupid signings, more the consequences of self-inflicted pressure in the first year of free-agent contracts.

“I think what we’re finding out is that the shorter-term deals,” St. Louis Cardinals general manager GM John Mozeliak says, “is better for everyone involved. It’s not just easier on the franchise. But you look around, it’s easier on the player, too.

Ellsbury (6)“The players on these long-term deals just seem to put so much pressure on themselves, especially that first year.”

Granderson, who signed a four-year, $60 million deal with the Mets, hardly resembles the same guy that averaged 42 homers and 113 RBI in his last two full seasons with the Yankees. He’s hitting just .234 with nine homers and 32 RBI.

“I think it’s just the change of things,” Granderson tells USA TODAY Sports. “Everything is different, and there’s an adjustment period. But I don’t feel any different, I really don’t.

“Now, ask me in the off-season, and maybe I’ll tell you different.”

Go ahead and ask Chicago White Sox DH Adam Dunn, who signed a four-year, $60 million contract three years ago, and spent the 2011 season hitting .159 with a career-low 11 homers and 42 RBI.

Atlanta Braves center fielder B.J. Upton, who signed a five-year $75.5 million in 2013, hit just .184 with just nine homers and 26 RBI last year, after signing the most lucrative contract in franchise history.

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton also had the worst full season of his career last year, hitting .250 with 21 homers and 79 RBI as he started a five-year, $125 million deal.

They didn’t realize it at the time, but now that the first year is behind them, concede that they were psychologically buried by the burden.

“It sounds silly, because when you sign that free agent contract,” says Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd, “you suddenly have job security. You have financial security. So everything should be easy.

“But it actually becomes harder. I’ve been there, and you spend that whole time trying to justify that contract – especially that first year.”

Byrd, 36, on pace for perhaps his finest offensive season with 12 homers and 43 RBI, says he received the best piece of advice from Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez signed a seven-year, $154 million contract with the Boston Red Sox as a condition to be traded from the San Diego Padres, and responded by hitting a career-high .338 with 27 homers and 117 RBI in 2011.

“Adrian told me as you go into free agency, you’re always going to be overpaid,” Byrd told USA TODAY Sports. “Nobody can justify paying someone $20 million, $30 million, $40 million, $100 million $200 million, $240 million. You’re not going to hit .400 or hit 80 home runs.

“So just play your game, because you’re going to be overpaid, anyways.”

Masahiro TanakaMets manager Terry Collins has seen it over and over. No matter how much the organization tries to ease the transition, making them feel comfortable as possible, you can’t control that anxiety and burning desire of living up to the contract.

“They come in and they want to make a huge impact,” Collins says. “They read all of the stories. They’re the saviors. They want to show everybody they’re worth the deal they got.

“So they think they have to do more than what got them here, they struggle, starting taking the heat from the press, and the fans start getting on them.

“They always say that doesn’t bother them, but I don’t know if that’s ever the truth.”

Maybe, Mets third baseman David Wright had the right idea when he passed up free agency, signing an eight-year, $138 million extension in 2012. Sure, he’d get more money elsewhere. He might even be on a better team.

Yet, after seeing some of the free-agent horror stories, staying home sure has its advantages.

“You leave a place where you’re comfortable, and get thrown into a different environment,” Wright says, “it can be tough. You’re talking about starting all over. And then you want to prove to yyour fan base, your new organization, that you’re the right guy.

“You end up putting too much pressure on yourself. In baseball, it’s all about being comfortable. It means everything in this game.”

We’re certainly finding that out again.

Associated Press photos

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58 Responses to “Long-term contracts: “It actually becomes harder””

  1. Giuseppe Franco June 26th, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    “It sounds silly, because when you sign that free agent contract,” says Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd, “you suddenly have job security. You have financial security. So everything should be easy.

    “But it actually becomes harder. I’ve been there, and you spend that whole time trying to justify that contract – especially that first year.”

    —–

    I think this needs to be emphasized because a lot of players after signing big long term contracts get flack from the fans when they struggle and are often accused of not caring anymore because of their big contract.

    Now there might be a few players like that but not many. These guys have pride and don’t like struggling and underachieving in front of a national audience.

    So much of the game is mental and I think just the opposite happens when guys “get paid.” They think too much and it’s very difficult to think and hit at the same time.

  2. jmills June 26th, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Hopefully baseball never adopts a hard cap like hockey. I like dynasties, les Canadienes, the Islanders, Oilers. Damn it, if there was a soft cap Maple Leaf sports and entertainment could be convincing Prufrock’s Crosby,….and I wouldn’t feel a bad inch ’bout it! :D

  3. Giuseppe Franco June 26th, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    There’s no better example of a guy trying to justify his contract than A-Rod himself.

  4. ScottinSJ June 26th, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    At the end of the day, when you’re getting $85M over five years, having to deal with elevated expectations is part and parcel of the deal. Otherwise, go year-to-year and take your chances.
    I think most athletes will happily accept the guaranteed millions and financial security.

    Now, is it good for the teams who sign these outrageous contracts? I think we all know the answer to that.

  5. jmills June 26th, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Celebrities have to accept both the applause and derision, its part of the deal they make for that over the top acclaim and dough. I’d like to try it, although my anonymity affords sanity ( I think ).

  6. NYY_Girl_Penny June 26th, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    New York Yankee fans spent Sunday taking their frustrations out on catcher Brian McCann, booing him on his way back to the dugout.

    —-

    I don’t boo players on the team I am rooting for, it just doesn’t make sense. Yes, even me Miss Negative doesn’t boo… but I am starting to think that we should boo, since we have Kitten Tissue’s Girardi and a bunch of fluffy butterfly coaches who aren’t doing anything but coddling these guys, well maybe the Boo’ing is and should count for something..

    WIth McCann, he just wasn’t a good fit, he’ll never be anything in NY. He was barely anything in the NL and now we have him after shoulder surgery, no PEDs and older…

  7. Hankflorida June 26th, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    JimK says:
    June 26, 2014 at 6:56 pm
    Hank, you still have the ball?

    To quote from the song, “memories light the corner of our minds of the way we were.” I may not have the ball but those memories make me feel young again.

  8. JimK June 26th, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    “You know you are going to be overpaid” The owners should have had Gonzalez testify during the collusion lawsuit.

  9. JimK June 26th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    Hank, Great Reply, and I am sure “It was a Very Good Year.”

  10. jmills June 26th, 2014 at 7:31 pm

    After a poor start with the Angels, Lymon Bostock offered a good portion of his contract back to Gene Autry. After just being signed by Chicago, Bobby Orr refused to be paid while he tried to sit out a year to give his knees a chance ( and he was no where near financial stability ).

  11. ScottinSJ June 26th, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Yes, even me Miss Negative
    ————————————————

    Penny — please don’t take this the wrong way, but I have thought all along that you were a guy . . . just using a feminine nickname. You learn something new every day.

  12. jmills June 26th, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Orr is a player agent now, not only guiding them financially, but on their long term condition as a person. Alan Eagleson was beyond despicable in his treatment of Bobby. Eagleson hid from Orr that the Bruins were willing to give him a tenth of ownership if he remained a Bruin.

  13. JimK June 26th, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    jmills, the other day you referenced Morrison’s Blue Bus, which I read well after the post, but on the previous thread I responded with “driver where you taking us.”
    Then again I could be mistaken and someone else posted the “blue bus” reference.

  14. chicken_stanley June 26th, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    greetings jmills… I saw Orr on the Michael Kay recently. Seemed like a really genuine, humble person. If you can catch a replay, its worth the watch

  15. chicken_stanley June 26th, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    umm – “Michael Kay Show”

  16. JimK June 26th, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    If all sports followed the NFL model there would be very few guaranteed contracts, but that ship has long since sailed.

  17. jmills June 26th, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Jimbo, it was me on the blue bus :D

    chicken, Orr put his bio out last fall, and refuses to note one unbelieveable thing he did.

  18. JimK June 26th, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    jmills, I believe the Y’s made false promises to Babe Ruth back in the day also. If I am not mistaken they led him to believe he would be the team manager.

  19. jmills June 26th, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    JimK, what a bunch of dumbos for not being true to the Babe. The Red Wings effed Gordie Howe over real good. ” Gordie, don’t tell the other players what you’re making ” ( even though you deserve whatever ) – the guy was making less than average.

  20. JimK June 26th, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    jmills, back in the Reserve Clause days the owners could not care less who you were, it was all about who you are now; if the Y’s had remained successful into the late 60′s, I have no doubt they would have kicked Mantle to the curb in a NY minute.
    The only reason he lasted as long as he did was during the Y’s dark days, he was their only drawing card.

  21. jmills June 26th, 2014 at 8:01 pm

    JimK, how pathetic.

  22. chicken_stanley June 26th, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Lohud has grinded to a screeching halt… either that or I’m starring in an episode of the Twilight zone and have somehow shattered the space-time continuum :)

  23. jmills June 26th, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    chicken William ” physics ” Shatner, is on his way. :D

  24. jmills June 26th, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    One time, I rented this VHF video of William Shatner trying to tell a physicist what certainty was. Absolutely hilarious, and I wish I could find it on youtube.

  25. JimK June 26th, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Chicken, You are travelling through another dimension……

  26. chicken_stanley June 26th, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    JimK – I firmly believe that South Carolina IS another dimension :)

  27. Pat M. June 26th, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    Poor Zack Levine my man, you’re leaving UCLA for the wonders of Minneapolis and the Timberwolves……Should have stayed at Westwood and you would have been the # 1 pick next June. Well maybe you can hang with former UCLA Star Kevin Love before he bolts town

  28. chicken_stanley June 26th, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Just joking… SC has been really nice (although hot as the dickens!). Its nice to have my feet firmly planted – a feeling I haven’t had for quite a while. One of the things I regret about settling down, though, is the opportunity to meet some of the regular lohuders in my travels… Had the opportunity to hook up with jmills and it was a blast!

  29. chicken_stanley June 26th, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Pat M. – to quote you, Kevin Love is tail lights :)

  30. pete22 June 26th, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Hungry players/workers are better workers/players. I think players who sign LTC play 100% when on the field. However, much of a players success is based on the time he spends in the gym in the offseason, and that’s where they slack off.

    Not everyone of course. Guys like Tanaka have something to prove and is still in his prime years. But most free agent deals players know their best years are behind them, and they are getting paid for those years when they made peanuts.

  31. austinmac June 26th, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Clarkin threw six one hit innings with seven Ks. Refs 2-3 with a double and walk.

  32. austinmac June 26th, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    Chicken,

    I’m sorry the authorities have prevented interstate and international travel. :)

  33. pete22 June 26th, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    That said, plenty of guys have signed LTC and done well, mostly in previous years. However, I think recently (pot 2006) PED testing and stricter penalties mean there is too much to risk at the higher salary, and not much to gain, so they stop. Working out is harder to do w/o the PED’s, so they do less of it in the offseason. PED testing has become counterproductive for baseball economics. Look at this lousy baseball we are seeing the past few years (not just in NY). How much longer before fans just give up on the sport. The baby boomers will watch till their dying breath, but the younger fans have so many more entertainment options

  34. chicken_stanley June 26th, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Mac –

    We’re destined for Franklin’s yet (just might be a bit longer than we had planned :) )

  35. Madrugador June 26th, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    The box score has Clarkin down for 4 walks which is unusual for him since he only has 11 in 46 innings this year.
    I’d like to get excited about players like Clarkin and Severino but at their levels, it’s still like playing the lottery. I play when the jackpots get big because it is nice to dream. I am still working.

    What is it with soccer? The US loses and advances to the next round? Since when was a loss a good thing and since when is it not whether you win or lose but how much you score that makes a difference? That is like the Yanks losing 7-6 to Toronto and being happy they scored 6 runs. Baseball >Soccer every day of the week.

  36. chicken_stanley June 26th, 2014 at 9:44 pm

    The baby boomers will watch till their dying breath, but the younger fans have so many more entertainment options

    —————-

    pete –

    I’m a baseball fan forever… but I can’t help but wondering – if I were now 13 years old, would I be a baseball fan? The answer? Probably not one that MLB wants to hear

  37. bigdan22 June 26th, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Refs already has another hit in game 2. What’s that guy on?

    Clarkin is very young, but he just seems too advanced for his level. I wouldn’t promote him because he still needs work on his command. He’s not a stuff guy like Severino, but he throws three pitches for strikes and that’s like two pitches too many for the Sally League. I’d expect him to dominate until he gets to AA and then we can see what we have. Severino could probably pitch out of a major league bullpen right now :)

    I think the guy to watch tonight is Turley. He’s pitching right now in game 2 in Scranton.

  38. MTU June 26th, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Evening.

    Baseball is a different kind of game than basketball or football.

    Ones who were attracted to it still should be with new uber stars like Trout, Harper, and Puig on the stage.

    And pitchers like Kershaw leading the way.

  39. Pat M. June 26th, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    Pete22, a couple of months ago this topic popped up about the effects of the new drug policy and a few of us passed around our thoughts on how it’s changed the game…..I personally think the most telling change is when they banned stimulants, such as white crosses, black beauties, the leaded / unleaded coffee. I remember how this was just part of the game and back then you could just see the equipment mgr if the trainer wasn’t around. Michelle ( who I think is truly under appreciated here ) from Oakland had great input on this and how this had evolved since my experiences in the early 70′s…… She’s a real asset to this blog and it’s a drag when guys get in her grille when she sets the record straight and some just disagree with her……She knows the game and has great insights on the medical end of sports……She brings lots to the table

  40. pete22 June 26th, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    chicken_stanley June 26th, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    JimK – I firmly believe that South Carolina IS another dimension :)
    =======================

    The proximity to the Bermuda Triangle makes it so. The Triangle is a giant wormhole long used by space and time travellers. I will be in the outerbanks next month for a clandestine meeting with a galactic leader to discuss the universal and timeless evil chicken threat. Mack Nugget will be added to the Wanted List after my meet. Perhaps I should not have tipped my hand here but I know chickens can’t swim.

  41. bigdan22 June 26th, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Scranton don’t pitch much but everyone in that lineup hits. Wheeler, Roller, Pirela, Refs, Dugas, Almonte, Murphy. They are like the anti-Yankees.

  42. MTU June 26th, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    In case you’re interested there’s a new post in town ———>

  43. chicken_stanley June 26th, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    good evening Mike.

    That’s just the thing, I’m not a fan of “this week, on Sunday night baseball its Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers vs Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels!”… it should be: “this week on sunday night baseball, it’s the Dodgers vs the Angels!”… I’m not a subscriber to elevating a player above the team… Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

  44. pete22 June 26th, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Pat M, appreciate your insight. I also like what Michelle brings even when we disagree.

    My thoughts on PED testing are still evolving. I think HGH may have a big part of the reason for TJ surgery explosion the last 2 years, and certainly the ban on stimulants has to affect players, especially later in the season.

    I still think steroids and HGH are common, primarily in the offfseason when players have 7 days to report for a test. However, once a player gets a LTC they are aware they can be busted for non-analytic positives if their supplier gets busted as in Biogenesis and Balco, so they may avoid these drugs since the cost of a suspension making 15-25 million a year is prohibitive. The risk is acceptable pre-LTC, not so post-LTC

  45. chicken_stanley June 26th, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    next —> for pete and his minions!

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