Monday, February 14, 2011

Andy MacPhail is Terribly Wrong

Just a little bit more from Bob Nightengale’s article on Pujols…

His article uses a much discussed quote by Orioles president Andy MacPhail that I wanted to touch upon.

"I read that he's looking for $30 million a year, and I just can't see how that's going to happen…Alex Rodriguez to Texas was the worst signing in the history of baseball in my view," said MacPhail, referring to the 10-year, $252 million deal signed in December 2000. "There is this assumption that because this guy got (a huge contract) and this guy got (an even bigger contract), Albert Pujols has to get (more than both). Well, what if there are no bidders? What if the music stops and there are no chairs?"

In most cases, I’d agree with MacPhail.  In the game of musical chairs, it’s never fun to be left without a chair when the music stops.  Still, isn’t MacPhail the pot calling the kettle black in this situation?  Isn’t he the front office executive that offered Vlad Guerrero a $2M contract, and then later tripled the offer despite the fact there weren’t any non-imaginary bidders?  Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’d be best for MacPhail to keep his mouth shut.

In addition, MacPhail couldn’t be more wrong about his assessment of A-Rod’s contract with Rangers.  Was it ill-advised?  Probably.  Could it have been avoided?  Absolutely.  Was it the worst contract in baseball history?  Definitely not.  In fact, it’s not even close.  Furthermore, A-Rod’s contract didn’t ruin the Rangers.  It was the large sum of money the front office chose to spend on replacement level players that did them in.  Their pitching staff, in particular, was absolutely putrid.  During the A-Rod era, only once (among qualifying pitchers) did a Rangers pitcher produce a season that exceeded the replacement level threshold.  Once!  That pitcher was Kenny Rogers in 2002 with an unbelievably feeble 0.1 fWAR. 
So how poorly did the Rangers spend their money?  Let’s take a look.

In 2001, the Rangers spent $40.2M of their $87M payroll on the following players, and received 1.6 fWAR in return:  Kenny Rogers ($7.5M), Darren Oliver ($7M), Andres Galarraga ($6M), Rusty Greer ($4.6M), Rick Helling ($4.5M), Ken Caminiti ($3.5M), Randy Velarde ($3.15M), Mark Petkovsek ($2.05M), and Chad Curtis ($1.9M).

In 2002, the Rangers spent $58.7M of their $106M payroll on the following players, and received 1.7 fWAR in return:  Juan Gonzalez ($11M), Carl Everett ($8.67M), Kenny Rogers ($7.5M), Chan Ho Park ($6.88M), Rusty Greer ($6.8M), John Rocker ($2.5M), Ismael Valdez ($2.5M), Frank Catalanotto ($2.5M), Jay Powell ($2.5M), Dave Burba ($2M), Todd Van Poppel ($2M), Gabe Kapler ($1.85M), Dan Miceli ($1M), and Rudy Seanez ($1M).

In 2003, the Rangers spent $54.9 of their $103M payroll on the following players, and received 3.4 fWAR in return:  Juan Gonzalez ($13M), Chan Ho Park (13M) Carl Everett ($9.15M), Ugueth Urbina ($4.5M), Jay Powell ($3.25M), Ismael Valdez ($2.5M), Todd Van Poppel ($2M), Einer Diaz ($1.87M), Esteban Yan ($1.5M), Herbert Perry ($1.3M), John Thomson ($1.3M), and Doug Glanville ($1.0M).

During the A-Rod era, the Rangers managed to spend approximately $155M on mediocre talent, while receiving 6.7 fWAR in return.  For those of you who aren’t quick with math, that equals out to be $23M per win—hardly an efficient use of funds.  For reference, by today’s standards, the average cost of a win is around $5M.  Back in the early aughts, it was around $2.5-3.0M. 

Blaming A-Rod’s contract as the reason the Rangers failed during his time in Texas is both false and intellectually dishonest.  A-Rod did everything he possibly could to help the team win.  It’s not his fault the team wasted millions (nearly 40-50% of the overall payroll) on replacement level quality players.  That blame rests squarely on the front office. 

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