The world has not ended

DMZ · November 15, 2006 at 7:51 am · Filed Under General baseball 

The announcement of the Daisuke posting bid sent columnists across the country to their keyboards, ready to crank out an easy day’s work wringing their hands about how this is the end of baseball.

It’s not. This is ridiculous.

He’s not an everyday player.
Starting pitchers don’t play everyday. But they’re involved in far more outcomes each game than position players. We might as well say that Alex Rodriguez doesn’t deserve his money because he only has a chance to affect the outcome of a game four or five times each day.

The Red Sox are paying more for the right to talk to Daisuke than great players make in a year
So what? The posting process is strange. MLB’s arrangement with Japanese baseball is weird, and it produces results like this. It results in crazy one-time payments that don’t have an equivalent in domestic baseball.

But this is a lot like the wailing about draft pick signing bonuses, or international signings of young undrafted players. “Oh, how can some Felix Hernandez kid get a million dollars when he hasn’t even thrown an inning of minor league baseball?”

Baseball is not a free market. Teams are constantly trying to keep their labor costs down and where they can’t control it, we get these kind of extremely strange values.

This changes everything
Dogs and cats living together!

No it doesn’t, any more than Ichiro’s posting did. It’s true this is unprecedented, but so was Ichiro’s posting, and that didn’t destroy baseball.

Teams are flush with cash and crazy!
Yup. Baseball’s been doing quite well for itself, and good teams spend that money improving the quality of their product. So be it. The fans win when baseball is a more lucrative option for athletes who have choices between sports.

Other athletes get paid far less!
Boo hoo. Football and basketball both broke their unions and, because they went through near-death experiences, are a lot more… socialist? in their structure, where revenue comes from national sources and gets evenly distributed (though, as always, this wavers).

Should we really be celebrating that Peyton Manning is underpaid in the NFL because their ownership groups control labor costs and are able to pocket more money?

We should be celebrating. That smart teams are willing to spend so much on a Japanese player, no matter what the circumstances or how foolish the system may be, is a sign of baseball’s great health, its increasing international reach. It’s an endorsement of the talent in NPB, and how far that league has come.

Yesterday was shocking, but if you’re a baseball fan it should also be a bit thrilling. How many people are going to follow Matsuzaka’s starts this year? How can that be a bad thing?


75 Responses to “The world has not ended”

  1. msb on November 15th, 2006 12:47 pm

    speaking of extra revenue, there is this:

    “Of course, I look forward to facing Matsui, but the batter I am most eager to test myself against is Ichiro,” Matsuzaka said.

    Long before the two were Japan WBC teammates and Matsuzaka was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, they squared off for two seasons in the Pacific League. In their first meeting in 1999, five years after Suzuki had become a national hero for his batting wizardry, the 18-year-old Matsuzaka struck out the master of contact hitting three times.

    Assuming he signs with the Red Sox, although Matsuzaka will be a major league newcomer, he will be in his prime when he next goes gunning for Ichiro, a scenario that already has Japanese fans — and travel agents — salivating.

    “I want to congratulate him,” Suzuki was quoted as saying on the Nikkan Sports Web site. “I was surprised when I learned he had dreamed of playing in America since he was 10. It will be fun to face him again after such a long time, but he’d better practice and come prepared.”

  2. pdb on November 15th, 2006 12:47 pm

    How much did Real Madrid pay Juventus for Zidane?

    €66 million, or $84,616,000.

    London has Arsenal, West Ham, Chelsea, Tottenham, and I think at least one more that I’m forgetting

    Charlton, at least until they get relegated in May.

  3. Bullpen Joe on November 15th, 2006 1:07 pm

    Relegation, now that’s a concept with interesting MLB implications.

  4. pdb on November 15th, 2006 1:08 pm

    Mud Hens go up, Devil Rays go down.
    River Cats go up, Royals go down.

    I don’t see a downside. 🙂

  5. dw on November 15th, 2006 1:34 pm

    37: European soccer teams do have junior teams. They can sign players at Dominican-type ages to contracts.

    Not the same as a farm system, though, where the major league club provides personnel to minor league clubs and controls how they’re played.

    London has Arsenal, West Ham, Chelsea, Tottenham, and I think at least one more that I’m forgetting

    Fulham, Barnet, QPR, Crystal Palace, Charlton, Leyton Orient. Watford isn’t in Greater London, but it’s inside the M25, so might as well count them.

  6. dw on November 15th, 2006 1:36 pm

    Oh, and Millwall. Can’t forget English football’s answer to the KKK.

  7. Karen on November 15th, 2006 1:45 pm

    #14 Jon said: “What disgusts me (OK, just annoys me) is the fact [opinion, Jon, opinion] that the Red Sox during this past season had the audacity to essentially cry poverty, because they didn’t not have the resources to compete with the Yankees.”

    I don’t know if LB, a Red Sox fan, believes this is true, but I sure don’t.

    The Red Sox didn’t get involved in those high-profile (such as Abreu) pre-waiver-trade-deadline deals because they were already suffering substantially from pitcher AND player injuries, and one deal like that for a player they didn’t need at the time (RFer) would be exponentially more foolish than the deal they DID do before the season began that traded away 2006 NL ROY SS Hanley Ramirez, P Anibal Sanchez, P Jesus Delgado and ML RHP Harvey Garcia for an underachieving Josh Beckett and salary-dump throw-in Mike Lowell.

    Some deals work out, and some don’t, as we Mariners fans well know (Heathcliff Slocumb-bad, Jamie Moyer-good, Randy Johnson–good, but too bad it was necessary…). And some, as deals for the Red Sox last season revealed, were not done in favor of planning for the long run…i.e., expediency, not “poverty”.

  8. JMHawkins on November 15th, 2006 1:49 pm

    re pitchers vs “every day” players:

    A starting pitcher is expected to throw 200 or so innings. That’s somewhere around 850 plate appearances the pitcher has a direct role in (wide fluctuation, but 850 seems about right)

    A full time position player will get around 700 plate appearances with a major role in the outcome (again, wide fluctuation, but 700 seems about right). Then there’s another 300 to 700 opportunites to make a difference as a fielder (less for OFs, more for middle infielders), but usually it’s not as big an impact as the batter or pitcher, so they get some discount relative to plate appearances.

    Now, there’s a matter of whether the pitcher or the batter has a bigger impact on the Plate Appearance, but it’s probably safe to say the pitcher’s impact is at least equal to the hitters, so Overall, I’d say a starting pitcher is no worse than equal in impact to a starting position player.

    Take that Hendu.

  9. scraps on November 15th, 2006 1:51 pm

    Wait, wait, wait. Peyton Manning is underpaid? What does that make me then? I’m sorry, but no professional sports player is underpaid, and that’s a ridiculous assertion to make to try and justify the albatross contracts found in the MLB.

    Which professional athlete are you? Oh, you’re not? Then what does your income have the do with whether a professional athlete is underpaid? Like it or not — I’m guessing you don’t — there is a standard that has been set by sports fans with their wallets for the services of a professional athlete, relative to the moneymaking strength of the sport they play in. By those standards, Manning is underpaid. And everyone who describes him as “underpaid” means he is underpaid by that standard. You know this perfectly well, and it’s nothing like “ridiculous”: it’s relevant to the conversation that has been going on, unlike your outburst. If you think professional athletes are overpaid, you ought to put your money where your mouth is and stop paying attention. The money they are paid comes from that attention.

    And no one is using it to “justify” albatross contracts; where does that assertion come from? The person who noted that Manning was underpaid was simply preferring the baseball system, with all its extremes and glitches, because at least the players are getting a better share of the incredibly hug pot that you and me and every fan have created. If Manning shouldn’t be paid more than he is, it means you think more money should be going to the Indianapolis owner. Those are your choices.

  10. NBarnes on November 15th, 2006 1:51 pm

    50: Don’t be absurd. How many people’s attention can you command every weekend? How many people go to Colts games? Watch Colts games on TV? Buy Colts merchandise? Read Colts content online and are subjected to the ads alongside it?

    Why was Boston willing to pay $51 for the rights to talk to Matsuzaka? Because they sell out every single stinking home game, have a massive TV contract, and a huge fanbase online. Matsuzaka will be paid more than you because he can command the attention of literally millions of people, many of whom will pay cash for the privilege, and others are willing to tolerate advertising. Boston believes, and is almost certainly correct, that having Matsuzaka will bring in far more than they are paying out.

  11. NBarnes on November 15th, 2006 1:53 pm

    Also, what 59 said.

  12. CCW on November 15th, 2006 1:59 pm

    This move is impossible to evaluate in ordinary terms. These facts (and others) separate this from any other contract we’ve seen:

    1) The luxury tax exception is huge… $20,000,000 huge.
    2) Boston has more money than it knows what to do with.
    3) Boston was directly competing with the Yankees, who also have more money than they know what to do with, for Matz’s services.
    4) The marketing possibilities associated with having a Japanese star pitcher are unlike the marketing possibilities of having an American star. We have no idea how much money this will bring to the Sox.

  13. gwangung on November 15th, 2006 2:11 pm

    However, I will say this about the NFL: they’ve managed to keep franchises in smaller markets like Indianapolis or New Orleans that couldn’t support an MLB team (the NBA, of course, is in even smaller markets but stadium costs and roster size make that less comparable).

    Um, hasn’t baseball been the pro sports with the FEWEST franchise moves in the last few decades?

    I’m not sure that you’re making a very good argument here….

  14. scraps on November 15th, 2006 2:17 pm

    The NFL moves have been less about being unable to make money than about seeing more money somewhere else, though. The Rams, the Raiders, the Colts, the Oilers, the Browns: none of them were in bad markets; they just thought they could do better.

  15. frenchonion on November 15th, 2006 3:05 pm

    Regarding Matzusaka vs Ichiro:

    Ichiro can influence every game, but his maximum typical influence on an individual game is going to be something like 5 singles spread over 5 innings, with a defensive play thrown in another defender might not have made.

    Matzusaka’s max influence on a game is preventing the other team from scoring for about 9 innings, giving his team about a 90%+ chance to win.

    Matzusaka seems to be viewed as one of the top pitchers in the world right now. (I believe Jim Callis just called him top 5.) Everything I read about Ichiro at the time he posted indicated he’d probably hit between about .270 and .310.

    5 years later, and in this financial climate for baseball — I don’t think $51m is all that crazy. Sure didn’t wind up being the $20m posting fee/$6-10m per year we’d visualized though, did it?

  16. eric on November 15th, 2006 3:32 pm

    I think one thing this highlights is the value of adding a Japanese star and building a market in Japan is a one time thing. Once you have one star adding another doesn’t add any significant revenue. So the value to the Mariners or Yankees has to be entirely in Wins so you would need to factor the posting fee and the contract together as roster cost. The Red Sox on the other hand can probably recoup the posting fee over the life of his contract and can now negotiate a contract that focuses on his on-feld value without worrying about the sunk cost of the posting fee.

  17. Jon on November 15th, 2006 4:06 pm

    #57 (Karen) chides me for stating as “fact” instead of “opinion, Jon, opinion” that the Bosox essentially cried poverty last season. Karen then mentions that she doesn’t agree with that opinion.

    Thanks, Karen for upbraiding me. As it turns out, however, this time I just happen to be right. It is a fact and not an opinion, but feel free to disagree anyway.

    Many observers were taken aback when the Theo et. al. bemoaned the Yankees resources and Boston’s inability to keep up. Feel free to recharacterize their statements from back then if you wish, too. Some of us saw only crocodile tears back then. [Karen, that’s an expression. There really weren’t any actual tears from a crocodile, but feel free to take issue, because I now and forever more defer to your brilliance.]

  18. Wishhiker on November 15th, 2006 4:15 pm

    #51 Sounds like good reasoning for the MLB Offices to want to see Matzusaka in the AL East or AL West but not with Seattle or NY…and they’re the only ones who know the actual bids made (aside from the bidders.) It seems to me that there needs to be an outside party to collect and relay bids, but anything is corruptable.

    #59 Totally…I’m going to use that the next time I have a ‘sports players are overpaid’ debate…”so you think that Paul Allen should get more from the Seahawks instead?” no other choice…A or B!

    Pitcher Vs. Hitter: who has more effect on the outcome of a season?

    I’ve heard this debate over and over again and rarely is the argument Stat-supported. I valued the info on it from #18, but that’s an MVP debate from one year. I wanted to try to quantify the overall debate in a more general way. After compiling and writing all of this I see it done well in #58 also

    There are a couple ways to look at it. Pitchers have an effect on the outcome of 100% of the offense scored against his team during the innings he pitches 1 out of every 5 days. This thinking is incomplete because Aces will regularly get more starts than the 32.4 that is 1/5 of games and games go into extra innings.

    In 1998 Curt Schilling had 268.2 IP in 35 games (Aprox 7.66 IP/G) of his teams 1463 innings (Aprox 18%.) I am very tempted to use Steve Carltons 1980 stats where he averaged 8 innings a game over 38 starts (304IP/1480teamIP=20.5%) or 1972 where he pitched 346 1/3 innings in 41 games (Aprox. 8.44 IP/S)of his teams 1400IP (Aprox. 25%) Steve Carlton and especially his 1980 or 1972 numbers are my idea of an Ace. Pitchers don’t get 41 starts anymore and 37 is the most starts anyones had in a season since Charlie Hough started 40 for Texas in 1987 Either way we haveto quantify them not hitting (if in the AL) by cutting this number in half, so with Schilling’s 1998 season it’s an effect on Aprox 9% of his teams overall play. With the dream of Steve Carlton in 1980 10.5%, 1972 12.5% except that he was in the NL and therefore hit from 1965 to 1986 so we’d get into a whole other debate. I didn’t figure in pitcher fielding which some actually do well because they’ve already affected the play:they pitched the ball.

    The figures for how a fielder/hitter affects the outcome are also a little hard to quantify. For the AB I will use Ichiro and his record 2004 season with the Mariners. His AB that season alone are one shy of Willie Wilsons alltime 1890 record of 705AB. Ichiro averaged aprox 4.35 AB/G in 2004. Of his teams 5722 AB he had 704 of them (Aprox. 12%)

    Defensively the total chances varies greatly by position. Since a 1B has more Total Chances per game I will use 2006 Gold Glover Albert Pujols and the Cardinals. Pujols had 1464 TC of his teams 6170 TC (Aprox. 24%.) We don’t haveto take out missed games because AB and TC reflect that. So with two different players in extreme cases of AB and TC we come out with aprox. 18% of outcomes. If we cut this in half assuming they have no effect on the pitching it comes to about 9%.

    Schilling career year IP wise 9%
    Ichiro/Pujols Cherrypick player mix 9%

    I truly thought going into this endeavor that it would come out severely on the pitching side, but if it does it’s only slightly. I don’t think these numbers are exact and all inclusive, but it gave me a better idea that a CY young is probably only slightly more influentual to his teams chances than an MVP.

    Truly a pitcher can win a game alone without much quality offense for them whereas a hitter can’t win a game alone if there’s not much quality pitching. The hitter requires other hitters doing something to make a great impact whereas a pitcher is doing best if he can get through the game all by himself.

  19. James T on November 15th, 2006 4:21 pm

    Would the people who are up in arms about this be so agitated if the Red Sox had traded $50 million worth of players for the rights to Matsuzaka? What value would the guys at Baseball Prospectus place on the haul the Mariners got for Randy Johnson from the Astros? Garcia, Guillen and Halama. Have they produced $50 million worth of value? I don’t know. Maybe. And Houston only got 2 months worth of RJ. But the value here’s already been translated into money.

    And Jon? A sports franchise didn’t tell you the truth? Shocker.

  20. DMZ on November 15th, 2006 4:25 pm

    Tooooooooooooooooooooooooooone check.

  21. Wishhiker on November 15th, 2006 4:39 pm

    More concisely it is expected of Johan Santana to win a vast majority of the time as long as the hitters do thier job at least a little bit. It’s almost impossible for Ryan Howard to win a game with the support of Scott Mathieson (7.47 ERA in 8 starts in 2006, 1 Win for Phillies) doing his job a little bit.

  22. scraps on November 15th, 2006 5:18 pm

    Many observers were taken aback when the Theo et. al. bemoaned the Yankees resources and Boston’s inability to keep up.

    But that’s not the same thing as “crying poverty”. It is true both that the Red Sox are rich and that they can’t keep up with the Yankees if the Yankees really want something.

  23. LB on November 15th, 2006 10:25 pm

    #62: The luxury tax exception is huge… $20,000,000 huge.

    You can also think about it this way: Boston is paying a tax to Seibu instead of MLB.

    Boston has more money than it knows what to do with.

    I haven’t seen Boston’s books. Some people’s comments here seem to suggest that they have.

    It is entirely possible that the Red Sox came up with this outrageous sum of money by saving their pennies and not blowing them on players in the decline phase of their careers(Urbina, Nomar, Pedro, Lowe, Damon, Nixon and, yes, Abreu). I understand that one of the Globe reporters (Edes?) said yesterday on NESN that the Red Sox have had their eyes on DM for years.

    The marketing possibilities associated with having a Japanese star pitcher are unlike the marketing possibilities of having an American star. We have no idea how much money this will bring to the Sox.

    We don’t, but I bet Red Sox partner Tom Werner does. He made his fortune in TV.

    It’s hard to imagine how either the Yankees or the M’s could have squeezed more money out of the Japanese market than Matsui and Iciro are already bringing them. The Red Sox, on the other hand, are only now opening up that tap.

  24. terry on November 16th, 2006 4:51 am

    Concerning the marketing, can anyone tell me how to say *Yankees suck* in Japanese? 🙂

    Shcolars and politicians are worried about the divide between the christian and Muslim world… I’m starting to wonder if Bud Selig might be the Antichrist and the BoSox-Yankees rivalry will be the impetuous for armageddon…

    OK, it’s apparent that I really can’t drink three gallons of two buck chuck…..

  25. Bullpen Joe on November 16th, 2006 6:47 am

    Q: Can anyone tell me how to say *Yankees suck* in Japanese?

    A: Hideki Irabu?

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