The Cardinals-Pujols Negotiation Debate… Pujols Deserves To Play Hardball

February 17, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

The St. Louis Cardinals have fallen victim to one of the classic blunders – the most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia.” But only slightly less well-known is this – “Never go against a Dominican power hitting first baseman when free agency is on the line!”

The St. Louis front office has engaged in a potentially disastrous game of chicken with Albert Pujols, and by all outward appearances, the front office has lost. Pujols and the club have been deadlocked in a contract standoff for weeks, and it appears the window to get a new deal done before free agency (which has been graciously extended multiple times) has finally closed. This virtually assures that the Cardinals will have to pay an even greater price to reacquire the services of the man who has become the modern face of the franchise and is arguably the greatest player in baseball today – that is, if the team is even able sign him again, considering the sizeable number of suitors he is sure to attract.

Is Albert Pujols at fault for wanting to be compensated as one of the highest paid players in the game today? Certainly not! Some 24 other contracts have surpassed the 7 year $100 million mark that Pujols’ current deal set back in 2004. While it might be expected that a few of the recent splashy contracts of players like Alex Rodriguez ($275,000,000 for 10 years), Joe Mauer ($184,000,000 for eight years) and C. C. Sabathia ($161,000,000 for seven years) might have exceeded that of Pujols significantly older deal, it should come as an absolute shock that the contracts of Alfonso Soriano ($136,000,000 for eight years), Barry Zito ($126,000,000 for seven years), and Carlos Beltran ($119,000,000 for seven years) surpassed that of Pujols considering the players’ comparative values.

The Cardinals should be kissing Pujols’ cleats right now for the simple fact that he has played for the franchise at below market value for as long as he has. This is after all Albert freakin’ Pujols we are talking about, the man who has been an unstoppable force both at the plate and in the field since bursting onto the scene as the Rookie of the Year in 2001. The same man who is a three time MVP, a nine time All-Star, a six time Gold Glover, and six time Silver Slugger winner. This is the same man who is the active career leader in batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. He deserves whatever contract he wants. Considering he isn’t even the greatest compensated player on his own team – a distinction which Matt Holiday holds with his seven year $120M dollar deal – it seems as if Pujols has every right to demand more money.

While critics of Pujols will point to his desire for a 10-year deal worth around $300M as unreasonable, it is honestly just fair market value. Alex Rodriguez is probably the closest player to Pujols in terms of caliber of talent, and the deal Pujols is requesting is only $25M more than what A-Rod got just three years ago. Admittedly Alex Rodriguez’s numbers have dropped as of late, making a similar deal look like a bad investment for the Cards. But it must be considered within the greater context of the economics of the league.

Albert Pujols would be the most coveted free agent of this off-season, if not of all time. Nearly every team in the league would attempt to acquire his services. There is a common misconception that Pujols may not demand A-Rod type money in free agency because most of the clubs with deep pockets – namely the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies – already have serviceable options locked up at first base, but this theory has some serious holes. It would be foolish to count the Red Sox and Yankees out of any free agent bidding war, as an American League team can always find ways to work a bat, especially one of Pujols caliber, into the lineup. Add to that the fact that Adrian Gonzalez only has a one year deal in place in Boston, as well as the fact that the Yankees could have a spare $90M if C.C. Sabathia opts out and walks after this season, and suddenly these two unmotivated teams have a reason to give Pujols a good look. Even if its not Boston and New York that offer to shell out the big bucks for him, some team will. Teams like the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, and Angels all seem to have the bankroll and the desire to ink a game-changing player like Pujols. Unfortunately for Cardinals fans, baseball is a sport without a salary cap. A team’s unwillingness to meet his demands may very well mean that the franchise must sit idly by while the single greatest asset in team history leaves with absolutely nothing to show for it.

So how did it all come to this? Who is to blame?

This worst-case scenario nightmare that the Cardinals are now in was COMPLETELY avoidable. The team had the resources and means to sign the slugger, even given his self imposed pre-Spring Training deadlines, but the organization chose not to. That blame sits squarely on the shoulders of the St. Louis front office staff.

It should be remembered we are not talking about resigning just any old player, but rather the preeminent player of this era – Albert Pujols. Can you really put a price on that? Apparently the Cardinals did and time will tell if it was worth it.

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The Yankees Free Agent Attraction Debate Verdict

December 21, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

There are many different prophecies of those things that will signal the end times – falling skies, boiling seas, broken seals, death riding on a pale horse, dogs and cats living together, MASS HYSTERIA!

The Yankees failing to sign any of their top free agent targets did not make the list, though, so all you fans of the Bronx Bombers can rest easy tonight. Michael Stipe will not be singing his anthem song.

It is true that the Yankees were dealt a very difficult sucker-punch in the ego region as they were turned down (or perhaps not even considered) by both Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford, but as Babe Ruthless points out in his winning argument, this should not be taken at anything more than face value.

Because of unique circumstances, the New York Yankees were not the preferred destination for two baseball players. Nothing more, nothing less.

Don’t get me wrong. Loyal Homer is absolutely correct in stating that everyone (including us) expected the Yankees to land at least one big fish. The fact that they failed to do so this year raises questions about the allure the Yankees actually possess. But I just do not believe that you can allow the admittedly surprising decisions of two athletes to serve as a generalization of shifting tides in Major League Baseball.

There are two “usual” reasons that drive a free agent toward choosing one team over another – money, or the promise of a championship. Realistically speaking, are the New York Yankees lacking in either of those arenas?

As far as money is concerned, the Yankees have proven that they are still the standard bearers. They offered Cliff Lee a far more lucrative deal than the Phillies did, but as Babe Ruthless highlights, it became evident that money was not the most important factor in Cliff Lee weighing his options. Meanwhile, in terms of championship contention the Yankees still remain a favorite every year for the post-season. They are only one year removed from a World Series championship, and last year entered the ALCS as favorites to once again represent their League in the World Series.

The reasons why Crawford and Lee chose to play elsewhere this year are certainly intriguing, and I would recommend that Brian Cashman head back to the drawing board to analyze exactly where they went wrong. The business manager in me believes that there is ALWAYS room for improvement, and this could serve as a critical learning opportunity for a team that perhaps allowed arrogance to make them lazy in their pursuit of people who they REALLY wanted. But there is absolutely no reason to believe that it signifies a shift in the free agent mindset.

For any top-tier baseball free agent with a desire to earn a RIDICULOUS salary while at the same time contending ANNUALLY for a championship, the New York Yankees will continue to play the role of the alpha male.

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The Yankees Free Agent Attraction Debate

December 20, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Allow me to apologize on behalf of all of us here at The Sports Debates for breaking the first rule of clichés.

That’s right – we assumed. And you all know what happens when someone assumes…

So, what is it that we assumed? Well, we assumed that the Yankees would get AT LEAST Carl Crawford or Cliff Lee in free agency this off-season, if not both of them.

As it turns out, we were wrong.

With Carl Crawford now playing in Fenway, and Cliff Lee returning to the city of brotherly love, the Yankees are for the first time in a long time watching their truckloads of money come back to the Bronx with their deliveries refused.

This very shocking turn of free agency events begs a new and unexpected question: Are the post-George Steinbrenner Yankees still the main destination point for free agents in baseball?

Yankees’ money used to mean something in baseball, but this year the top free agents left millions of that money on the table to play elsewhere. Loyal Homer believes that this is a sign that market tides are shifting in baseball and free agents are looking for more than just chasing the Yankee dollar. Babe Ruthless, however, feels this off-season was an anomaly and that the Yankees are still the premier destination point for free agents.

Before we begin, though, I want to offer a bit of advice to both our debaters. Unlike Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford, I CAN be bought for a truckload of money.

Begin…

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The Who Should the Yankees Sign Debate Verdict

November 8, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer.

While the post-season celebration in the City by the Bay may finally start cooling off, the old Hot Stove is just heating up. Mere days removed from the San Francisco Giants World Series championship, some 29 other teams are already thinking about how to unseat the Giants during the 2011 season.

With huge contracts and blockbuster deals in the works, the baseball landscape as we know it could be in for a major overall. The actions in the days to come serves as a crucial indicator for the upcoming season as teams make statements about their willingness to compete or rebuild by being buyers or sellers on the off-season market. It is during this pivotal time that championship contenders are made. This is a very exciting time for a baseball obsessed seam-heads like myself, but especially so for Yankees’ fans in particular.

The Yanks are already making waves with high profile drama about the anxiety ridden task of finding an appropriate deal for the Yankees captain, Derek Jeter. But the Bombers will not be content to just sit on their laurels and re-sign core players. This season is about reloading. Now, deciding which free agents and players on the trading block are worth the asking price, and which players are the next overpaid (yeah I’m talking to you Javier Vasquez and Carl Pavano), is the necessity of the time.

There has been much speculation that the Yankees will make a run at acquiring Cliff Lee and Carl Crawford. While the Yankees have the economic resources to sign both players (not to mention pay off a good portion of the national deficit while they are at it), today’s debate explores the hypothetical scenario of: If the Yankees could only sign one person between free agent pitcher Cliff Lee and free agent outfielder Carl Crawford, who should the team sign?

Bleacher Fan provided what can be aptly called a thorough argument for the Yankees to sign free agent left fielder Carl Crawford. His main premise hinged on the fact that while the addition of Lee would be nice, it was not necessary. I have to admit that I wasn’t completely convinced that the need for another top tier pitcher would be entirely superfluous, but his description of the advantages of adding Crawford to the Yankees’ lineup were undeniable.

The Yankees have clearly been moving towards a more all around athletic club. This ascension of players, like Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson, are proof enough of that, and Crawford fits that mold perfectly. He brings the speed of the former with the power of the latter. Not to mention the best fielding in the AL. It is tough to argue with the attractiveness of adding a player like that, but Loyal Homer was more than willing to give it a try.

Loyal Homer made a strong case for the New York Yankees to acquire free agent pitching phenom Cliff Lee. As is often the case in Yankee Universe, the team has become enamored with a player that has dominating success against the Yankees. As Loyal Homer adeptly points out, Lee nearly single handedly eliminated the Yankees from the playoffs, and if that doesn’t qualify as success against a given team then I don’t know what does. This has no doubt made him an all the more attractive option for the Bombers. Add to that the fact that the Yankees made a huge push for Lee and failed to land him before the trade deadline, and we are talking about team wants Lee more than Brett Favre wants attention.

Aside from C.C. Sabathia, the Yankees’ rotation is about as stable as a Milton Bradley meltdown. Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett are both hot and cold pitchers that cannot be counted on during the post-season. As Loyal Homer’s observes, Andy Pettite’s Brett Favre-esque “will he or won’t he” retirement melodrama only serves to further undermine the stability of the rotation. So it’s clear that acquiring Lee would be a great first step in shoring up a beleaguered rotation, not to mention providing them with a great one-two punch in the post-season.

What ultimately determined the outcome of this debate was a statement Loyal Homer made about what might have been if the Yankees acquired Lee in July, rather than see him slip to the Rangers.

We all know that scenario actually played out – with Texas beating the Yankees in six games and going on to their first World Series in franchise history – but Loyal Homer’s hypothetical scenario got me thinking about how the 2010 post-season would have played out with Lee in pinstripes. The Yankees probably would still have beaten the Twins, and would probably handled a Lee-less Rangers rotation with relative ease. But would the World Series have proven any better for the Yankees than it did for the Rangers?

I have to believe it would not.

Lee proved less effective in the World Series, and that was with a much hotter offense than the Yankees displayed this October. Although Lee’s presence would undeniably make the Yankees a better team, there is no proof that it would have made the Yankees into World Series champs. In fact, the evidence points to the contrary. Crawford, on the other hand, packs more potential. Based off of the numbers that Bleacher Fan presented, it seems likely that Crawford’s potent bat behind Derek Jeter would certainly prove more effective. It could even have a trickledown effect providing relief to the rest of the lineup by bumping a bigger bat like Nick Swisher further back in the order and removing questionable DHs like Marcus Thames altogether. While Crawford isn’t a sure thing (because really, who is besides Mariano Rivera) he has more potential upside given his track record. That’s why I’m awarding this debate win to the Bleacher Fan. While I don’t have a fat contract offer for you, you have my congratulations and another notch in the victory column.

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The Who Should the Yankees Sign Debate

November 8, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer.

Anyone familiar with baseball knows that for the New York Yankees, their season does not even begin until October. Other clubs may desperately seek to make the playoffs or even have a winning record. But for the Yankees, each season that does not result in a World Series championship is, by, definition a failure.

Although the Yankees made it to the ALCS and posted 2010’s ,third best record 95 wins and 67 losses – only bettered by the Philadelphia Phillies (97-65) and the Tampa Bay Rays (96-66) – it will be counted a failure because the Yankees did not accomplish what they set out to do. Now Brian Cashman and company will set out to make a plan to bring home the next title, perhaps without the decade long wait this time.

Today, however, The Sports Debates enter the realm of the fantastic as we explore a hypothetical scenario – what if the New York Yankees had a limited supply of money?

As ludicrous as that proposition may be, it is somewhat plausible considering the Yankees enter a new era with different Steinbrenners at the helm. So what should the Yankees do if they only have the funds to sign one big name player this off-season? Which bring us to the debate at hand: If the Yankees can only sign one person between pitcher Cliff Lee and outfielder Carl Crawford, who should they sign?

Obviously the Yankees have a penchant for chasing guys who get in their way in the post-season (see Jason Giambi, Carl Pavano, and Randy Johnson). Likewise, we all know that pitching wins championships and Cliff Lee is unquestionably an ace. But this debate is no open and shut case. It was not New York’s pitching that looked the most vulnerable this past post-season, rather the lack of punch in the offense. The Texas Rangers outscored the usually potent, but suddenly anemic, Yankees offense in the ALCS. Adding the speed, quality glove, and capable bat of Crawford could also be exactly what the Yankees need in 2011.

It is up to Loyal Homer to make an argument that proves Cliff Lee is the more important target this off-season while Bleacher Fan will make a case that Carl Crawford should capture the hot stove attention of the Bronx Bombers.

As an obvious Yankees fanatic, I can hardly wait to hear these arguments. Gentlemen, let’s “Play Ball!”

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The Who Should the Yankees Sign Debate… Cliff Lee is a Luxury, Carl Crawford is a Necessity

November 8, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

I can absolutely see the attraction that Cliff Lee holds as a free agent, and from the New York Yankees’ perspective, Cliff Lee is basically the reason their season ended in October rather than November. To be able to add a pitcher like Lee to the Yankees rotation would absolutely be a major plus, but if Brian Cashman and the Yankees organization are afforded the ability to only sign one free agent this off-season, then Carl Crawford should be the primary target.

This is a simple question of need versus want for the Bronx Bombers.

Do they NEED another pitching ace? In short – no.

C.C. Sabathia remains one of the frontrunners to win the AL Cy Young Award AGAIN for his performance in 2010. He was the only 20-game winner in the American League this past season, and at a pricey $25M per season, he is the undeniable anchor of the Yankees’ pitching rotation.

If the Yankees were to sign Lee, he would become a luxurious complement to Sabathia, but he would neither supplant nor replace Sabathia as the top pitcher in the Yanks’ rotation. As much as the Yankees may enjoy opening up the check book, I don’t think they NEED to pay upwards of $150M for a number-two pitcher.

Now, left field in New York is a different story.

Brett Gardner had a decent season in left, but this is an area where they could absolutely use an upgrade. Enter, Carl Crawford.

At the plate, Crawford is exponentially more productive than Gardner. In 2010, his average was 30 points higher, and he racked up 52 more hits, 14 more home runs, and 43 more RBI than did Gardner.

Just imagine Crawford at the plate in pinstripes, batting behind, say, Derek Jeter (who I am confident the Yankees will re-sign). Yankee Stadium is a home run paradise for left-handed hitters, which should inflate Crawford’s home run total, and Jeter will give Crawford many more RBI opportunities than Jason Bartlett, Tampa’s leadoff hitter. As for those at-bats where Crawford doesn’t go yard, his base-running ability will be another huge boost for the Yankees, who have hitters like Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Alex Rodriguez, or Robinson Cano to move him around the bases.

The best lineup in baseball just got better. Oh yeah, did I mention that Crawford provides an upgrade in the field as well?

Gardner may have only committed one error in the field for the Yankees last season, but Crawford’s speed, range, and athleticism make him a much better defensive left fielder, especially when paired with Curtis Granderson in center field.

Crawford, who is in line for his first career Gold Glove award this season, led all left fielders with a range factor of 2.24, and his 306 put-outs were second only to Juan Pierre (307) of the Chicago White Sox.

The addition of Carl Crawford to the New York Yankees further solidifies their positioning as the best lineup in baseball, and elevates their outfield into the ranks of being the best defensive trio in the league.

Any way you look at it, Carl Crawford IMPROVES the Yankees, while Cliff Lee only COMPLEMENTS them.

If Hal Steinbrenner signs only one free agent this off-season, it had better be Carl Crawford!

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The 2010 NBA Under The Radar Pick Up Debate… Bell Joins Jazz Ensemble

July 21, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

The Utah Jazz took an early hit when the 2010 free agency period kicked off, immediately losing Kyle Korver and Carlos Boozer.

After reaching the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, the losses of both Korver and Boozer to the Bulls presented a sudden and serious obstacle to the team’s chances of stretching that run into a fifth season.

In response to the loss of Boozer, the Jazz landed Al Jefferson, who brings him with the potential for even greater production that Boozer had while at a much cheaper price. But it is the new shooting guard who will have the most valuable impact on the Jazz roster – Raja Bell.

Already once a fan favorite in Salt Lake City, this signing serves as a bit of a homecoming for Bell who previously found success in Utah under head coach Jerry Sloan. The experience that Bell already has in playing for Sloan, combined with the support he will undoubtedly receive from the fans upon his return, should make for a very smooth transition as Bell returns to the Jazz once more.

But sentimentality is not the reason this is such a solid pickup for Utah.

What really makes this the prize under the radar pickup is the combination of solid offensive and defensive perimeter play that Bell brings with his game.

It was his defensive prowess that made Bell a standout during his first Utah Jazz campaign (as well as elsewhere around the league). A two-time winner of the NBA’s All Defensive honors (in 2007 and 2008), Bell has a very quick and aggressive style in moving to the ball, and he is able to apply constant pressure to opposing shooters on the outside. It is precisely that perimeter defense which will be invaluable to the Jazz, who ranked 16th in the league last season in allowing three-pointers.

As for his offensive credentials, Bell may not have earned All NBA honors but he IS one of the top three-point shooters in the league. Just four seasons ago Bell led the league in three-pointers made with 205 while he was playing with the Phoenix Suns. And, his CAREER three-point shooting percentage of .412 ranks as the 11th best mark ALL TIME.

The only knock against Bell is the fact that he basically missed the entire 2009-2010 season because of a wrist injury. Bell is confident that he has fully recovered from that injury, though, and will in all likelihood prove to be a solid upgrade on both sides of the ball from what Kyle Korver offered the Jazz last season.

Bell is one of the league’s all-time best from beyond the three-point arc, he plays some of the best defense in the league, and he is returning to a team and coach that he previously found success with, in front of fans who are ecstatic to see him back on their side of the ball.

That sounds like a successful, low-profile signing to me!

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