Home > Uncategorized > The Day the Phillies Jumped the Shark…

The Day the Phillies Jumped the Shark…

Well, it’s happened. The writing’s now on the wall for the Philadelphia Phillies. We might have wondered this winter, when they pulled off a brilliant trade for Roy Halladay and then mucked it up by giving away Cliff Lee. Still, the Halladay trade and the subsequent contract he signed were enough to determine that Phillies management still remained cognizant of how to build a top flight baseball organisation. Then, today, with Ron Howard driving the boat, the Phillies strapped on their water skies, jean shorts, and signature leather jacket and… jumped over a great white shark.

I touched briefly on Howard’s limitations when the “trading him for Albert Pujols” nonsense percolated, but just to review: His greatest claim to fame is his prodigious power and his copious RBI totals. One’s legit and one isn’t. He doesn’t run the bases, is a weak fielder, has a body that wont age particularly well, and – oh yeah – he’s twelve days younger than me. Trust me when I tell you that my wily eyebrows and rogue nose hairs have the Bride telling me daily that I’m an old, old man (my cranky demeanor probably doesn’t help either).

I don’t want you to think that I think Ryan Howard’s a bum, he’s not. He’s got phenomenal power and decent plate discipline. He’s also made strides to become a better fielder and seems to be a nice guy, but he also cannot hit lefties. Serioulsy, in 957 lifetime at bats against lefties, Howard has a phenomenal 54 home runs. He also has a .226 batting average, .309 OBP, and .443 slugging percentage. Against righties, Howard is essentially Albert Pujols (1.064 OPS), but against lefties he’s Alex Gonzalez (.752), but without the defense at short. So, basically the Phillies are committing 25 million a season to a glorified platoon hitter who’s going to age poorly. Great! As the incomparableRob Neyer points out, Howard’s deal really is a victory for the RBI believers over logic. Which for any intelligent Philly fan (and given that none of them seem to realise how valuable Chase Utley is, I’m starting to wonder if there actually are any…) must be a real kick in the n***s.

But, it acutally gets worse, because there’s also this… in baseball history there have been 20 players to receive 100 million deals (ARod of course has two of them). In order of size, courtesy of Cots Baseball Contracts:

Alex Rodriguez, $275,000,000 (2008-17)
Alex Rodriguez, $252,000,000 (2001-10)
Derek Jeter, $189,000,000 (2001-10)
Joe Mauer, $184,000,000 (2011-18)
Mark Teixeira, $180,000,000 (2009-16)
CC Sabathia, $161,000,000 (2009-15)
Manny Ramirez, $160,000,000 (2001-08)
Miguel Cabrera, $152,300,000 (2008-15)
Todd Helton, $141,500,000 (2003-11)
Johan Santana, $137,500,000 (2008-13)
Alfonso Soriano, $136,000,000 (2007-14)
Vernon Wells, $126,000,000 (2008-14)
Barry Zito, $126,000,000 (2007-13)
Mike Hampton, $121,000,000 (2001-08)
Jason Giambi, $120,000,000 (2002-08)
Matt Holliday, $120,000,000 (2010-16)
Carlos Beltran, $119,000,000 (2005-11)
Ken Griffey Jr., $116,500,000 (2000-08)
Kevin Brown, $105,000,000 (1999-2005)
Carlos Lee, $100,000,000 (2007-12)
Albert Pujols, $100,000,000 (2004-10)

Now, I’m sure you know where I’m going with this, but since the Bride’s at work and the Jays are getting hammered by Boston, let me break it down. Of those deals, the second ARod contract, Mauer, Tex, CC, Cabrera, Santana, and Holliday were all handed out recently enough that the jury is still deliberating in regards to their overall worth. So that leaves us with 13 monster contracts to examine. The Yanks would give Jeter his deal over again and obviously Pujols’ contract is a massive bargain (calm down people, I mean relatively). You could argue that both Manny and Helton were worth their money – of course the Devil’s Advocate in me would point out that both their team’s spent several seasons regretting that much dough going to one player – but still each has been roughly worth their large contract, even if marginally so.

I’m not sure, if given the choice to go back in time, whether or not the Mets would still give Carlos Beltran his monster deal, but FanGraphs estimates his dollar value over the first five years of that deal to be 101.5 million, so we’ll chock it up as a win. If you’re keeping track at home, and I hope one of us is, that leaves Soriano, Wells, Zito, Hampton, Giambi, Griffey Jr, Brown, Lee, and Texas’ ARod contract as deals that the team came to regret. In the case of a few of those guys (cough-vernonwells-cough) when I say regret, I mean waking up after a wild night out with a 300 pound, naked man named Earl spooning you…

So, out of thirteen 100 million contracts, that’s five, or just slightly more than one in three, that a team received reasonable value from. Really only three (Jeter, Pujols, and because of the ’04 and ’07 titles, Manny) would be no-brainer do them again deals, and at least twice that many were outright disasters. To be clear, I’m saying that spending a 100 million on a player will work out at best a third of the time, and nearly half the time it will cripple any franchise that isn’t spending a 140 million on salary. I don’t know much about numbers, but that sure seems like bad math to me.

So, does giving Howard a 125 million deal (and a 25 million yearly average to boot) seem like the decision a smart franchise makes? Especially when you factor in the glorified platoon hitter with a DH’s body? Look, I’ve been wrong before (the Bride would tell you often), but as soon as I read of this deal, I instantly thought, “Yikes, in three years, we are going to look back at this signing as the moment that the Phillies dominance in the NL East started to crack. Or, more accurately, we’re going to see it as the moment when the Phillies jumped the Shark…

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