Victory and the Paternity Test Results

July 17, 2017
 

I just saw an episode on my local TV of "The Lineup," a NY-centric panel show of self-important experts opining about NY sports—this panel was on Greatest NY Deals, or something of the sort, and two featured deals concerned the acquisitions of Catfish Hunter by the Yankees in 1975 and Pedro Martinez by the Mets thirty years later. 

Both deals, and both pitchers’ careers, bear a certain superficial resemblance: after multiple Cy Young-level seasons for championship franchises, each was signed to a mega-bux contract by a middling but ambitious NY franchise as a major number-1 ace-type, each had a good first season that wasn’t quite up to his previous peak, a second year that was considerably less stellar and the rest of his career that was a major disappointment. Both signings were described (on the panel show, and by fans of each team generally) as "successful" signings because of the teams’ success and the psychological impact each pitcher brought to his team: his leadership, his charisma, his professionalism, and his example to younger teammates of how a gamer plays.

While not dismissing that such qualities are real, my cold take on all this is to ask if people who spout this stuff have lost their minds. Consider if, instead, each of them had signed as a first-round rookie-draft pick (or as a Japanese League pitcher, or something) and then had the career he had in New York. It seems beyond question that they would have both been vying for the title of "Biggest Flash-in-the-Pan Disappointment" in NY pitching history, rather than Biggest Signing. They signed for such tremendous money that on a dollar-per-win basis, both of them would have trouble breaking even if they had multiple 20-win seasons for their new teams, much less a series of records like 9-8 and 5-6 and 9-9. Hunter went 63-53 over five seasons with the Yankees, and Martinez went 32-23 in four seasons with the Mets, 12-10 and 8-6 roughly: not what you normally shell out super-star salaries to get.

So since the teams and fans and analysts make these "successful" signings, we need to ask: what is charisma and leadership and professionalism truly worth?

Hunter’s and Martinez’s advocates cite their Falstaffian value in attracting other, better, free agents to sign with their new teams. (Falstaff said that he was "not only witty in myself, but the cause that wit is in other men.") Did Carlos Beltran sign with the Mets because he saw how serious they were about winning after signing Pedro, as Reggie Jackson was alleged to have done after Hunter’s signing three decades earlier? We’ll never know how much psychology, as opposed to cold cash considerations, entered into Carlos’ or Reggie’s head, but I will remind you that free-agent signings are inherently risky business: some of the free agents lured by a Martinez or a Hunter turn out to be other, worser free agents. Beltran and Reggie worked out nicely, it’s true, but that’s ignoring the other, ruinous or idiotic free-agent signings that might also have been engendered by Pedro’s or Catfish’s presence on the roster. It’s not quite fair to look at someone whose primary value consists of inducing further free-agents signings as an unalloyed virtue. If you could find a stellar free-agent who didn’t sign with a team (thereby saving the team money to re-sign their own players, or to acquire other stars), does he then get the credit for those signings?

Moving from pitching to hitting, there’s a current example of a successful mega-bux signing that on a purely baseball level would appear to be a disastrous mistake, that of Jason Heyward by the Cubs. You can’t argue with success, but I guess that’s what I’m prepared to do.  Heyward had an awful 2016 by any standard, except one: the Cubs won the World Series, so all is forgiven, and they might win yet in 2017, despite Heyward’s disappointing performance so far. Let’s assume for a moment that Heyward never improves, and remains a 20-million-dollar mediocrity in right field for the remainder of his contract, a good-field no-hit RFer who is actually worth about a tenth of his salary. As of today, his OPS is up to the low 700s, his OPS+ in the high 80s, obviously not what you expect from your 28-million-dollar corner outfielder in Wrigley.

So, going on the assumption that he’s never going to get much better, can his signing ever be justified on grounds other than the quality of his play?  That is, can the Cubs find such virtues in his leadership, his effort, his intangible qualities that outweigh Heyward’s mediocre performance on the field? Can Heyward’s presence in the lineup, poor as it may be, still make other players think "The Cubs are a quality organization, paying Heyward and others very well,  and even their weaker positions such as RF are manned by fundamentally decent players, so it’s a team worth signing with"?

I’m not talking about spin here. Obviously, few clubs are going to fess up to signing a current player at top dollar who’s playing way below his potential. Clubs are always going to mouth the "intangibles" line, point to his stellar qualities that don’t show up in the stats-line, and fans are always going to buy into that PR BS whether it's true or not. As David Puddy says, "Gotta support the team!"

But to what extent do other players, particularly other free agents, buy into this? Is a free agent going to factor into his decision to sign or not-sign with the Cubs, Jason Heyward’s presence in the lineup? Is it a factor, a non-factor, or a negative factor in the decision? Just from the perspective of signing other outfielder free agents, I imagine they view one outfield spot on the Cubs as fully occupied for the next few years whatever Heyward’s productivity will be: I doubt if they will pay Heyward’s salary so he can sit on the bench, no matter how poorly he bats.

Obviously, Heyward has virtues as a player (his defense, his intelligence, his clubhouse speechifying)—I’m not looking to run him down, or to jump on the bandwagon while he’s playing poorly, or is injured, or is dealing with the world’s worst extended slump, or anything of the sort. What I’m asking is whether it’s a serious factor in the minds of free agents which other free-agent signings the club has made of players whose virtue is largely inspirational.  Is it worth it to pursue veteran free-agents to sign huge, long-term contracts if their health or their age concerns you?

181 million (Heyward’s contract) could have been spent very usefully elsewhere, as could Pedro’s or Catfish’s contract, and I wonder how much of the praise these players get for their intangibles is simply the clubs’ and the fans’ attempts to save face. Any signing could of course blow up in your face: players have careers ending suddenly with no warning signs all the time  ("cough—Jason Bay Robbie Alomar—cough"), and this result is always a chance you take, that a long-term contract will turn out poorly.  

Or even a short-term one: before free-agency, teams sometimes signed veteran stars to one-year contracts, at salaries that are now laughably below a fraction of minimum-pay but then were ruinously high, and sometimes that worked out very well for the team, even when the veteran star put up disappointing numbers. One example that sticks in my mind (and my craw) is the Cardinals’ signing of Roger Maris for the 1967 and 1968 seasons: the party line on Maris’s signing is that it was brilliant. The Cards, after all, won the pennant in both of Maris’s seasons with the team, and won the World Series in 1967. A better outcome could hardly be imagined.

The only thing you could criticize in the signing of Maris was that his numbers weren’t very good, even for 1968, and that his salary was the highest (or the second-highest) on the team.  (Tim McCarver and Lou Brock, whose salaries combined to equal Maris’s team-leading salary in 1967, compiled over three times Maris’s WAR. By the next year, Gibson had been raised to $10,000 more than Maris, but his WAR was nearly five times what Maris’s was.) Other than that, it was a blindingly brilliant move. But I would make the case, a very hard one to make because of the end result, that the Cardinals won the pennant both years despite the presence of Maris in their lineup, not because of it.  This might be easier to see if they had had Maris on the roster from the beginning of his professional career in 1953 to the very end in 1968. In that case, we might judge their nurturing of Maris’s career to have been brilliant, especially given his stellar play in the early 1960s, but acquiring Maris at the age of 32? Maybe not so good.  

The fact that the Cards did win, after not winning in 1965 and 1966, and Maris played regularly for them when they won, forces the conclusion that it was a brilliant, and cost-effective, signing, except I don’t really see it that way. Sometimes teams make colossal costly errors and win anyway. Certainly we can point to disasters NOT of a team’s deliberate making that teams have overcome: most championship teams suffer some sort of ruinous injury to a key player, for example, that they manage to overcome. We’d never say the 1986 Mets did well to lose Mookie Wilson for much of the 1986 season, for example, or the Braves brilliantly plotted to have Billy Bruton and Joe Adcock injured for most of 1957, or that the Dodgers wisely replaced Tommy Davis with Lou Johnson in 1965. Teams overcome ruinous injuries to win championships routinely, yet we’d never say that they planned them or wanted them—they simply dealt with them. So it is with stars playing beneath their potential, disappointing problems that some teams manage to overcome, only the teams and their fans and apologists will offer excuses as to why that player actually contributed to the team’s success far more than the numbers show. I don’t buy it.

Why do we resist as fiercely as we do the elegant conclusion that a team’s choice works out very poorly, yet the team still wins the championship, as Maris’s Cards and Heyward’s Cubs and Hunter’s Yanks and (almost) Pedro’s Mets, have done? Instead of concluding, "Yeah, the numbers don’t look so hot, but the team won, so the signing was a huge success despite the numbers," why don’t we conclude, "Yeah, that was a messed-up move, but the other 24 players compensated for that dropped card" (or cub or yank or met)?  Victory has a hundred fathers, and defeat is an orphan.

 
 
 

COMMENTS (37 Comments, most recent shown first)

Marc Schneider
I have to admit that I always thought Maris had been an overrated part of the Cardinals' success. But the deeper stats seem to show he was much better than I had thought. Still, I thought the question the article raises, it seems to me, is how much weight to put on the intangibles that a veteran (Hunter, Martinez, Maris) bring and, how much to attribute their teams' success to those intangibles. In the cases of Hunter and Martinez, it seems their primary contribution was the intangibles because they didn't pitch very well (although Hunter, at least, had one real good year with the Yanks and a couple of decent ones.) Martinez was worse-one good year and not much else. In Maris' case, it seems like he was better than average player in 1967 and a slightly better than average player in 1968. So you can't really say it was all intangibles; he did contribute on the field, although obviously he had lost his power. (And that doesn't factor in his defense.) The salary was meaningless in those days so you can't really say he was preventing the team from making other moves, as you might with Heyward. Obviously, Maris was making more money than the others because of his big years in the early 60s but it was hardly going to bankrupt the Cardinals, although it was unfair to Gibson and Flood. But baseball was essentially unfair to players in those days. So, all in all, I can't really agree with the proposition that Maris was a bad move that was covered up by the Cards' winning-unless you assume they could have had a significantly better player in right field in 1967-68 and that doesn't seem likely.
3:34 PM Jul 26th
 
MarisFan61
(Sorry, I should have used your exact word: motivations. Please just imagine "motivations" in there instead of motives....)
4:24 PM Jul 21st
 
MarisFan61
Not motives at all; patterns. Sorry if that seems like playing with words, but there's a big difference. I would agree that it's out of bounds to try to get into motives.

I gather that you see the patterns differently than I do. I call them as I see them, and you do too, which is fine. I do see them exactly as I said, and if they are that way, I think it's of interest.
4:21 PM Jul 21st
 
sansho1
I find maris's critiques of this piece valid on the merits but unpleasantly arrogant and increasingly disturbing in how they characterize the writer's internal motivations.
9:05 AM Jul 21st
 
Fireball Wenz
The acquisition of Roger Maris by the Cardinals is hard to knock. They gave up Charley Smith, who was the kind of guy who played when you had no one else to play. He had hit. 266 in 1966, so they sold high. He played one more year as a regular, and pretty poorly, another as a bench guy behind a pretty mediocre 3B in Bobby Cox, and got exactly two at bats in 1969 before it was all over.

Salaries in 1967-68 weren't much of a factor when deciding whether to acquire or dump a player. As we know now, they were grossly artificially lowered by the reserve clause. You can't treat the trade for Maris as you would a big free agent signing today.

Bobby Tolan and Alex Johnson would both go on to have a couple of outstanding years down the road, but Tolan didn't play all that well in either 1967 or 1968, and he was a semi-regular in both seasons. Johnson had a horrid 1967 offensively, and was a notoriously poor fielder.

WAR has him as the seventh-best player on the team in both years. I don't take that as gospel, but it's worth noting that the only two Cardinals who rated better than him in BOTH years were Lou Brock and Curt Flood.

I don't think there's really any way you can characterize this move as working out "very poorly," even if you leave the pennants out of it.


10:55 PM Jul 20th
 
MarisFan61
Steven, that was in follow-up of other comments.

If you think you can characterize that the way you did, well, I think that's the same error I mentioned.
2:39 PM Jul 20th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Jesus Christ! How about your sixteenth comment, which I'll repost below. You don't think that one focuses on your boy?

As to fielding:
I know that "range factor per 9 innings" doesn't prove anything, but since it's the main thing I can find that's inherently based on "per playing time," that's what I looked at.

In '67, he was 3rd in RF/9 among N.L. RF's who had at least 600 innings. (He had 933. If I used 900 as the cutoff, he'd be 2nd, just barely behind the #1 guy.)
BTW, regarding his limited playing time, there were only 5 RF's in the league who had more innings at the position.

In '68, again he was 3rd in RF/9. He had 667 innings; 6 guys had more.

====================

As to how I judge the Cardinals' having gotten him: I don't know.
I think the article's take is wrong and that Maris was not merely OK but in fact an important part of the team's success, as lore has it.

That said, I have to say, I was surprised when I first heard this lore. I didn't know it at the time. I wasn't following baseball very closely. All I really knew about Maris in those years was his basic stats, which of course were mediocre. Of course I was glad to read, years later, about what people on the team and connected with the team said about Maris's role and how they felt about him. I tend to think it's true, and not just because I'm a fan of Maris.
2:22 PM Jul 20th
 
MarisFan61
Steven, it looks to me like the mistakes you're making about my comments are the same as the mistakes you make in developing some of your views. Sometimes (kind of often, I think) you get focused on a thought that ignores other relevant things, you build an edifice on it, and then you get so locked into it that you can't incorporate it when errors or oversights are pointed out.

I didn't "focus on" the Maris thing. Look back at my first comment, if you'd like: It made no reference to it. And my second comment, where I mentioned that I hadn't even been aware of there being anything about him, because the problematic stuff near the top kept me from getting anywhere near where you talked about it.
1:26 PM Jul 20th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Interesting that the Panda got released two days after I posted this column. If the Sox woulda kept him, and then won the 2017, they could have gotten away with signing him.
10:55 AM Jul 20th
 
Steven Goldleaf
I've got no problem with eliminating Maris (or any other of my picks), though I do find it interesting that a lifelong Cardinals fan (and a lifelong Maris fan) is focusing on that selection as unfair, inappropriate, wrong-headed, etc., thus reinforcing my belief that being being a fan of a player or a team tends to make that fan, in David Puddy's words quoted above, "support the team," in all its decisions, good and bad. And I will own up to Maris being in some ways an inappropriate choice in that he was not as MF61 points out, traded for and not signed as a free agent. (Privately, in correspondence with Theo Epstein's dad, his objection to this piece is, of course, that I singled out Heyward as a bonehead move--Maris is fine with him.) The important thing to me is this principle that teams make dumb moves that get plastered over by winning, but that doesn't mean they're not dumb moves. Or just complacent, unhelpful moves, if "dumb" offends you. I'd even go so far as to suggest that such dumb, unhelpful moves are even necessary sometimes--if you have a hole in RF or in your rotation or wherever, and the only half-decent option you've got is to sign a risky or outright lousy player who's better than your other current options, and the price tag is way out of line with his actual value, but you're positive that this move will fill your gaping hole--I can see doing it, and I can understand why you would want to justify it to others. But calling it a "success"? There, I draw the line. Minus the championship, it's clearly and simply a bad move.

My problem with the move is that it encourages other teams to sign similar players for similar salaries--for every team that wins a championship via such moves, there are a dozen who just throw good money after bad, inflating their budgets, blocking themselves from sound reasoning in building a quality ballclub, and failing to reward their own younger players who are more difficult to assess without as much of a track record as older veterans. Essentially, I find it a CYA move, for the most part, signing older players who much of the time will not give you value in return for gigantic contracts, but who will protect you from much of the fans' wrath when those contracts go bad. The Mets fans I used to hang out with were remarkable in justifying Alomar/Bay/Baerga/Vaughan/etc signings as "Who knew they would be total busts?" It's the GM's job to know when they're spending huge sums on geriatric players on the verge of career collapse, but few fans see it that way, and none do when their team happens to dodge that bullet and emerge with a championship banner.

10:14 AM Jul 20th
 
steve161
llozada, we talk about intangibles a lot in the Reader Posts (consider this an invitation), expressing a wide range of views. Some of us do believe that there are aspects of the game that are not expressed in numbers, but are nonetheless a fruitful subject of discussion.

As an example, I watched the opener of the Dodgers-White Sox series a couple of days ago (I try to see as many of Kershaw's starts as I can). The White Sox broadcasters* noted that the Dodgers had not intended to re-sign Chase Utley (who batted 9th as the DH), but that Corey Seager and Justin Turner told the front office that his presence in the clubhouse was important to the team.

Steven and I have our friendly disagreements now and again, mostly about tone rather than content. In this case, my only objection was to lumping the Maris signing in with other, less successful, ones.

*Jason Benetti and Steve Stone. I will miss Ken Harrelson's unique style, but I greatly enjoyed Benetti's less homerish approach. And Steve Stone seems to be much more comfortable: he didn't refer to the Sox as 'we' even once.
5:25 AM Jul 20th
 
MarisFan61
I just think you missed the point and your arguments are more of a personal opinion.

Of course my points are an opinion. So is the article. I didn't miss its point(s), I simply see them differently, as do some other members.
2:47 PM Jul 19th
 
llozada
@MarisFan61: Thanks for the response. Of course teams overpay for aging superstars, that's how the system is set up and it is hardly unknown or controversial. Who do you think paid/is paying for Pujol's peak years, the Cards or the Angels? The answer is obvious.

Posnanski just wrote an article on Sandoval, who do you think paid him for his 140 WAR, my Giants or Bill's Sox? The answer again is pretty obvious. And like this there are many many examples, Miggy's extension is based on what he did and some stupid hope that he'll maintain that level until his 40's; Joe Mauer's extension was based on his MVP year and hasn't been close to that level since, Barry Zito got paid for his Oakland years. So again, this view is anything but controversial. The system is set so players get paid on past performance. This is so obvious that I can't believe it needs repeating, and like Bill would say, the problem with not understanding this is yours, not ours. Or maybe show us a large number of examples where aging superstars exceeded or maintained their performance (steroid age players excluded).

I am not defending the article or the points he is trying to make, I just think you missed the point and your arguments are more of a personal opinion. The premise of the article is that two guys defended the Hunter and the Pedro deals because of the intangibles and credibility they brought, SG disagreed. That's the whole point.

As to the "intensity" (your word) and other subjective arguments. I didn't feel it anywhere in the article. I disagree with some of his points but that doesn't mean he is wrong.

@SG: If you had written the article as bullet points like I did it would've been a really bad and boring article!

So much in baseball opinions are based on narratives by sport writers: they try to convince us on what's good or bad based on their own personal biases. A lot of times I feel they think stats are for them when in reality stats are for the teams judging players. We may argue for the next year the validity of exit speed and launch angles but what I really want to know is if teams use them; this is what really determines the value of a stat, otherwise is just entertainment.

Your point is correct, if a team wins a bad contract is hidden behind the success, if they had lost those same contracts would've been called "albatross deals that killed the team" and other such adjectives; the only difference between the two situations is the emotions of the sports writer or talk show host.

P.S.: are we really talking about [i]intangibles[i] in this site? not BABIP, not OPS but [i]intangibles[i], [i]intangibles?[i]. Not a game, not ERA+, [i]intangibles...[i] :-)
12:15 PM Jul 19th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Yes, llozada, thanks for stating my argument better than I had. I think the Cardinals, Cubs, etc. would have gotten universally KILLED if they hadn't had very good seasons on the team level after signing Maris, Heyward, etc. But they did have excellent seasons, and so avoided the criticism that would have been inevitable and, in my opinion, richly earned. I think calling such acquisitions "successes" somewhat inflates the way we tend to view such signings, and to skew the wisdom of such signings in general.
10:08 AM Jul 19th
 
MarisFan61
re Llozada's post:

I really don't get what's the issue with SG's point. The way I see it this is what he was trying to convey:

.....Teams usually overpay for the aging superstars


You think that's a given? Sure, it's a legitimate view, but it's controversial, as is the intensity with which it's presented here.

- Aging superstars decline and perform at the level of a multitude of other cheaper players
- Are the intangibles worth the difference in pay between the aging superstar and the cheaper player?
- SG's answer is no


His view on the frequency and degree of their decline is debatable, and some of us disagree.
Some of us also think he underestimates and perhaps simply doesn't believe in some of what you call "intangibles."
Plus, some of us think he's way off on his examples.

Those are the issues. :-)
4:32 PM Jul 18th
 
llozada
Very nice article, really clear and easy to follow.

I really don't get what's the issue with SG's point. The way I see it this is what he was trying to convey:

- Teams sing aging superstars
- Teams usually overpay for the aging superstars
- If the aging superstars don't perform as in their pick years, there are still intangible benefits i.e. potential signing of other stars free agents
- Aging superstars decline and perform at the level of a multitude of other cheaper players
- Are the intangibles worth the difference in pay between the aging superstar and the cheaper player?
- SG's answer is no

Also, he didn't say Maris was a bust or below replacement level, his argument is that the Cards clearly overpaid for him. That's it.
2:20 PM Jul 18th
 
steve161
Steven, I know you take great pleasure in pointing out other people's stupidity, and the Heyward signing is certainly an easy target. But I think you miss the mark with the Cardinals' acquisition of Roger Maris: stevemillburg covers the ground nicely. I'd add to that Maris' stellar production in the 1967 World Series (.385/.433/.538/.972). And you really weaken your argument by suggesting they'd have done as well by handing the RF job to 21-year-old Bobby Tolan, whose career-best season at age 24 only produced an OPS+ of 126, just 10 points higher than Maris' 116 in 1967. It's a real stretch to think Tolan would have produced anything like comparable value.
2:47 AM Jul 18th
 
MarisFan61
Following up on Stevemillburg's post, although at the risk of making anyone think I'm saying that what the article said is wrong :-) (although of course I think it is).....

As to fielding:
I know that "range factor per 9 innings" doesn't prove anything, but since it's the main thing I can find that's inherently based on "per playing time," that's what I looked at.

In '67, he was 3rd in RF/9 among N.L. RF's who had at least 600 innings. (He had 933. If I used 900 as the cutoff, he'd be 2nd, just barely behind the #1 guy.)
BTW, regarding his limited playing time, there were only 5 RF's in the league who had more innings at the position.

In '68, again he was 3rd in RF/9. He had 667 innings; 6 guys had more.

====================

As to how I judge the Cardinals' having gotten him: I don't know.
I think the article's take is wrong and that Maris was not merely OK but in fact an important part of the team's success, as lore has it.

That said, I have to say, I was surprised when I first heard this lore. I didn't know it at the time. I wasn't following baseball very closely. All I really knew about Maris in those years was his basic stats, which of course were mediocre. Of course I was glad to read, years later, about what people on the team and connected with the team said about Maris's role and how they felt about him. I tend to think it's true, and not just because I'm a fan of Maris.

It's much because I just have a different 'default' take on such stuff than the writer of the article. It seems that his default is essentially to dismiss such stuff (actually not just to dismiss it, but to dismiss it dismissively) :-) if it isn't borne out by data. Mine is to believe that there's probably (probably, not certainly) at least something to it.
10:02 PM Jul 17th
 
stevemillburg
Maris was acquired, at the cost of a journeyman player the Cardinals didn't need, to fill, for a couple of years, the right-field vacancy created by moving Mike Shannon to third base. He was a productive player for the Cardinals those two years. In 1967, by the Baseball Reference version of Wins Above Replacement, he finished fourth among National League right fielders, behind Clemente (Pirates), Aaron (Braves), and Rusty Staub (Astros), and ahead of Ted Savage/Lee Thomas/Clarence Jones (Cubs), Ron Fairly (Dodgers), Ollie Brown (Giants), Ron Swoboda (Mets), Johnny Callison (Phillies), and Tommy Harper (Reds).

You say that acquiring Maris didn't work, that "the Cardinals won the pennant both years despite the presence of Maris in their lineup, not because of it." The numbers do not back you up.

Your larger points that teams often overpay for veterans and sometimes make bad decisions that are camouflaged by the team's success are, of course, true. (Although, forgive me, they seem kind of obvious.) But the Cardinals acquisition of Maris supports the first point only weakly and the second not at all.
8:48 PM Jul 17th
 
MarisFan61
....and neither was I!

Steven, sorry to say it, but you very frequently mistake what people say, by extending it way beyond.

I never said anything of the sort about the Maris acquisition. Look back, if you're interested, and read closer.

Or, you can take my word that this is what it was:

It's impossible to prove that the article's point about him is wrong, but, for what it's worth, it goes severely against what the people on the team thought about it.
7:40 PM Jul 17th
 
Rich Dunstan
I wasn't really disagreeing with you in 2017 on the Maris acquisition, Steven, although I probably would have in 1968. My main point was that I remember there were people in 1968 who more or less agreed with you even then.

7:04 PM Jul 17th
 
Steven Goldleaf
I'd like to know what you think those errors have been, and why you think so. You seem adamantly to reject my nomination of Maris (surprise, surprise) as a poor acquisition by the Cardinals, so now I'm curious about which players you would nominate as poor decisions. Do you accept Hunter as a foolish signing? Pedro? Heyward? Someone else?
6:42 PM Jul 17th
 
MarisFan61
Do you really think there's anyone -- anyone -- who doesn't think teams have made such errors?

Assuming you don't, what's the relevance of asking such a question?

(In case you don't know, rest assured that there isn't anyone who doesn't think so.)
6:32 PM Jul 17th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Either you do think that teams have made personnel errors while winning championships, or you don't. If you do, then I'd be interested in hearing your choices. That's why it's relevant to me.
5:53 PM Jul 17th
 
MarisFan61
How is asking such a question relevant to anything?

Where we are: Some of us are saying you're missing stuff in some of your examples and so maybe they're not well taken. How does it get at anything to ask us for our own examples of poor acquisitions???

Fuzzy thinking.
Squared. :-)

I like off-the-subject stuff as much as anybody. Probably 90% of what I say is off the subject. But confronting people with questions that are off of anything that's relevant to what they're saying is something else.
5:34 PM Jul 17th
 
Steven Goldleaf
OK, so if not, let's hear some. I'm arguing for this principle, which you're certainly free to differ from me on. I'm quite sure some people will think Maris was the greatest acquisition of all-time, and some will concede that he may have fallen into this strange category of "Players acquired who get credit for their new team's winning despite a disappointing personal performance."
4:23 PM Jul 17th
 
MarisFan61
(sorry for the typos, you're scrambling my brain) :-)
3:59 PM Jul 17th
 
MarisFan61
You're also great at either misunderstand something or taking it to an absurd extreme. (Honestly I can't ever tell which it is.)

Like: "Are you suggesting that no team has ever won a championship while making some roster moves that were extremely unwise?"

Yeah, that's exactly what I was saying. :rolleyes"
3:58 PM Jul 17th
 
Steven Goldleaf
That's possible, Rich. We're entirely in the realm of "speculating what's possible" here. It's also entirely possible (I think likely) that the Cardinals could have played Bobby Tolan more in RF and gotten a pitcher for Charley Smith (and the difference between Smith's salary and Maris's) who might have helped them when Bob Gibson broke his leg in mid-season. I can think of plenty of moves that could have strengthened the Cardinals' more than acquiring a fading Maris. That's the move they made, and it worked out for them, but that doesn't mean the move was the right move--maybe they just got away with making a poor decision.
3:56 PM Jul 17th
 
Rich Dunstan
Concerning Maris, I recall that there was some criticism at the time of the fact that he made so much more money than his fellow outfielders, Brock and Curt Flood, both of whom were clearly better players than Maris at that point in his career. I don't remember a specific answer from the Cards, but my sense is that they felt Maris was still doing more for the team than Charley Smith would have done, and the fact that over-the-hill stars are still highly paid was just something that has to be put up with. ,
3:30 PM Jul 17th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Exactly. This article is positing that the conventional way of looking at the signing of Maris (for much more salary than Charley Smith was making) as a colossal error in judgment which the Cardinals got away with via their other players playing well while Maris performed, let us say, disappointingly. You will always win this argument if your argument is based on "Look at the results, dummy! The Cardinals won the whole thing! Acquiring Maris was, therefore, a success. No, a colossal success! There is no 'better than World's Champions"! There is no 'eleven on other amps'! Winning means that every move they made was brilliant [exclamation point omitted here]." This article, if I may summarize it for you, suggests that World's Champions often make moves--Mookie, Bruton, T. Davis--that are definitely not helpful to the team's effort, but being injuries, we concede that they didn't make those roster moves on purpose. Why should every deliberate acquisition then be deemed "brilliant" or even "OK" ? Some of them are botches, too, and some of them are overcome by the team's other players. I suggest that Maris, Heyward, Martinez and Hunter are four botched moves by the acquiring teams that they, nonetheless, got away with. There have probably been hundreds of such decisions that teams have overcome to win championships with. Are you suggesting that no team has ever won a championship while making some roster moves that were extremely unwise? If so, what's your example of such an instance? If not, then I simply disagree with you: I find it ludicrously unlikely that no team has ever made a poor roster decision and overcome it to win a world's championship.
3:12 PM Jul 17th
 
MarisFan61
I didn't get to the part about Maris.

BTW, they didn't "sign" him, they traded for him.

It's impossible to prove that the article's point about him is wrong, but, for what it's worth, it goes severely against what the people on the team thought about it.
2:11 PM Jul 17th
 
stevemillburg
Going into the 1967 season, the Cardinals were moving their right fielder, Mike Shannon, to third base. They had two young outfielders whom they thought would be stars. But Alex Johnson, 24, and Bobby Tolan, 22, had not yet established themselves in the majors. Injuries had cost Maris his power, but he was still an excellent fielder, at least an average hitter and a smart player. He seemed perfect to fill in for a year or two while the kids developed. They didn't, but Maris (for whom the Cardinals traded journeyman third baseman Charley Smith) did in fact play very well. As you mention, the Cardinals won pennants both of his years with the team. Playing part-time, he contributed 3.6 bWAR in 1967 (tied for sixth on the team, in 472 plate appearances) and 2.3 bWAR in 1968 (seventh on the team, 340 PA).

How was acquiring him a "colossal costly error"? What other theoretical move could the team have made that would have worked out better?
2:06 PM Jul 17th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Well, at least I'm making clear upfront what my offensive views are.

I don't really see an important difference there. Bill contends, and I'm with him, that talent is talent. Teams have paid a lot of money to sign Japanese Leagues' players to play MLB because performance in the Japanese leagues is a reliable measure of their ability to play MLB. If Pedro had burned up the Japanese Leagues, and was the same exact player that he was, at the age he was, etc. in 2005, the Mets might have shelled out exactly what they did to sign him. My argument is that. minus the major league pedigree, Pedro would have had the same exact MLB record he did have after signing with the Mets, but he would have been viewed far differently--I think pretty much across the board. This is the part I find crazy. If a club finds someone worth signing for four years at $52 million dollars, as they could for someone who pitches for MLB or for the Japanese League, and gets 32 wins for 52 million, why should there be such a disparity in how those 8 victories per year are perceived?
1:43 PM Jul 17th
 
MarisFan61
You have a talent for saying stuff right near the top of your articles that brings me to a dead stop.

I can't believe you said this, or thought it:

Consider if, instead, each of them had signed as a first-round rookie-draft pick (or as a Japanese League pitcher, or something) and then had the career he had in New York.

You know better than that. :-)
(Don't you?)

A big part of the point about them -- not just the point that I assume the discussants were making, but (I'm saying) a big point of any meaningful consideration of those deals -- was who they were.
Perhaps you think stuff like this is bull$hit. I don't, and, for what it's worth, I think most people don't.

As soon as you give an example like that, which seems like you just don't get what something like this involves, you lose me, and I suspect you'd lose a lot of people.

1:03 PM Jul 17th
 
evanecurb
And I'm not a big fan or ARod, either.
9:25 AM Jul 17th
 
evanecurb
No Yankee fan would ever admit this, but the best deal the Yankees have made since 1920, when they purchased Babe Ruth, was trading Soriano for ARod in 2004. They had Cano (a better player than Soriano, and, I think, a future hall of famer) waiting in the wings, and ARod was the best hitter in the league (him or Manny), and still 28 years old. Over the next seven years, ARod averaged 38 HR, 120 RBI, and 107 runs, slashed .296/.393/.559, won two MVPs.

The 2004 deal fell in their lap, and ARod performed as expected.

P.S. I hate the Yankees.
9:18 AM Jul 17th
 
 
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