Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Loyalty, Baseball, Mike Lowell, and AJ Burnett

I was listening to a podcast of the baseball prospectus radio show today and something they mentioned reminded me of the conundrum that is facing Jack McKeon these days. Mike Lowell could be considered as much of a "Mr. Marlin" as Jeff Conine but his offensive production is down this season. Not only that, but it's been down since the second half of last season. Mike is an upright citizen, a local boy made good, a cancer survivor and he was an important part of the 2003 World Series champion team. To date McKeon has been very patient with Mikey, and loyal. Mike is the highest paid player on the team, which complicates matters. He's also a superb defensive 3rd baseman.

The gentlemen from Baseball Prospectus reminded me that loyalty, though an admirable trait in human beings, is foolish in baseball. Unfortunately, in baseball, as in business, you have to be cold and calculating. The Marlins have gotten great starting pitching and defense this season but have failed to score enough runs. The fact is that Jeff Conine, the original Mr. Marlin, has been more productive offensively in his limited opportunities this season than Mike Lowell. Lowell's recent benching is the correct baseball move, as unsatisfying as it may be to fans who value loyalty.

Which brings me to the real point. Many Marlin fans are still blissfully ignorant of the fact that our team's front office will have to make a lot of difficult personnel decisions in the coming months and years. A.J. Burnett will be a free agent at the end of the season and the Marlins will almost certainly not be able to afford him at the price he's likely to command. And furthermore, even if they could afford him, it probably doesn't make sense to re-sign him. Carl Pavano had a career year with the Marlins last year and signed a 4 year, $40 million contract with the Yankees. This year he's 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA. The fact is the market overvalues free agent players and if the Marlins want to continue to be competitive they need to avoid being "loyal" and becoming enamored with certain players. They need to keep their farm system stocked so they can keep re-loading with players who will outperform their relatively cheap rookie contracts.

Baseball Prospectus reminds us that one-time Yankee manager, Joe McCarthy, once said that to win you have to be prepared to cut your brother or to cut your best friend. Like the Godfather said "It's not personal, it's only business."

10 comments:

ryan said...

yeah,the system is in pretty good shape for next year.at shortstop if laex leaves we got andino and josh wilson.atp ticher to fill in for AJ we got tankersly,and scott olsen. willingham also has a bright future with the club. this system is in pretty good shape.

tealup said...

the "system" is an amorphous non-entity.
If I were Mike I'd be feeling more than ready to try my comeback on non-Floridian ground. Burnett is also likely to be quite willing to seek new,if not greener, pastures next year. I wonder what other absentees the system will cast forth.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

The problem with Mike Lowell going elsewhere is that he's got 2 years left on his deal and he's making a lot of coin. I don't think another team will be interested in trading for him unless he shows he can get out of this funk he's in. Let's hope he has a good spring training next year so that he can contribute to the team or be traded.

tealup said...

If I was Mike...what an if...I'd negotiate with another team for a major (50%) pay cut and get the heck out of Dodge. His self respect/confidence level might improve away from Florida. There are more important things in life than money.
Then again, maybe he feels Florida been good to him.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

I have NEVER seen a player renegotiate a contract to take less money. Remember A-Rod wanted to do this and the union coerced him not to. It will never happen. Besides, the Marlins have done nothing but support him. Jack left him in the starting line up way longer than most people think he should have. They gave him every chance to break out of the funk. He has not been booed by the fans because this is his home town and he's such a great guy. I have mutual friends of Mike's and I can tell you that the only reason he'd leave voluntarily is if the team was losing like it did when he first came up. He's very happy to be playing here near his family (which is very big for us Cuban Americans, He's Cuban American by the way). I'm sure he's not happy about being benched but he's a big boy and smart. He understands that Hermida/Conine can help the team more right now. He needs to keep his head in the game because they are going to need him off the bench down the stretch and in the playoffs.

By the way, you haven't posted anything to the blog. I just wanted to remind you that your a contributor and can post stories, whatever to the blog.

MarlinAddict said...

If a player tried to renegotiate for less money, the MLBPA would be all over it. However, Smoltz renegotiated his contract this past off season, to an extended term one year without any change in salary+bonuses. His something like $100,000 bonus per start was projected throughout the remaining original term, converted to salary, and them one year added to the term. This all done to get Hudson signed.

I think one significatnt event in AJs future occurred in the last week or so when the O's released Ponson, and his salary, under the morals clause. Baltimore wants AJ, and his wife wants to return to her hometown.

tealup said...

If he had the intestinal fortitude he might be able to do it. I mean are they protecting him from himself? Are they protecting players from lapses of reason (smile)??

tealup said...

Mike sure doesn't look happy to be playing for the Marlins. He looks like a severely depressed man to me. The Marlins have shown as much patience as could be expected under the circumstances, and so have his loyal fans. His slump is a private matter that apparently no amount of kindness on the team's/management's part can help. But I do think a change of scene might serve him well. His family could move too. They must be feeling his pain this year. Putting a man on 3rd who can't defend nearly as well as Lowell does give the message that bats are the valued commodity. Maybe some
bat heavy, defense light team could use his excellent glove and give him his props for what he does so well.

Henry "Conductor" Gomez said...

I think Mike is unhappy with himself because he's not performing up to his standards, those of the team, his fans or his contract. If he's miserable now imagine how miserable he'll be in a strange city with the same problems. When I talk about him being close to his family I'm not talking about just his wife and kids but his mother and father and brother. We Cubans are very much momma's boys. No doubt he'd move if he had to but we're talking about his preferences. Bats are certainly worth more than defense. You need to make a whole bunch of above average defensive plays to make up for 10 points of OBP. I don't think that if he were given the chance the Miguel Cabrera would be too bad of an everyday 3rd baseman. Remember that's his natural position which he hasn't played at consistently in more than 2 years. As far as the union goes, they only want to see salaries going in one direction. Can you guess which way that is? Remember all contracts are negotiated based on existing deals. If A-Rod takes less he lowers the market for other free agent players. Same with any player. I understand it.

tealup said...

I guess he would have to speak for himself. With his money he could move an extended family in style!! I think defense is being underrated now. I admire Gulllen's philosphy that with good defense and good pitching the rest will come. As a spectator I love to see hits, but I also love the entire game played well. I think the "bitter with the sweet" trade fiascos (bundling Mike with AJ) were pretty demeaning to Mike. And the one-way, sky is the limit approach to salary negotiation is sweet for those wanting ever more salary but
apparently can have it's drawbacks for those wanting freedom of movement. As they say, be careful what you ask for.