Thursday, November 27, 2008

"Free Agency"

The economic backdrop has resulted in a glacial start to the free agent market...unless one considers Damaso Marte and Jeremy Affeldt as an avalanche. Ryan Dempster obviously is the exception, and nobody doubts that the premium class of Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, and Manny Ramirez will get paid.

But how many major corporations, lining up at the public trough in Bailout Nation will be plunking down megabucks for luxury boxes and blocks of season tickets. And if they do, should we, socialist sponsors of their profligacy, scream bloody murder. Should the employees of AIG whose annuities evaporated watch the fat cats sit in luxury boxes and get 'retention payments'?

First, let's understand that major league baseball owners are extraordinarily wealthy, competitive people who want to win but live by the rules of Warren Buffett:
  • Rule one. Don't lose money.
  • Rule two. Never forget rule one.
Most likely hold a diversified investment portfolio. Here is a list of some asset classes sorted by year-to-date results. At the top, Japanese Yen, in the middle the SP500 down 40 percent, and at the bottom the India Fund, down 73 percent. Hard not to lose money under those circumstances.
However, some hedge funds, like John Henry Investments have performed spectacularly in a difficult environment.

But I digress. Who among us will not feel the slightest schadenfreude if some free agents get the Jody Reed treatment? As I recall, the Sox offered Reed ten million over three years, and when the smoke cleared, the offer disappeared and Reed never came close to that again.

Of course, he made more money than most of us could ever dream of making, so he gets the last laugh anyway.

Let's examine the case of Derek Lowe, who 'desperately' wants to come back to Boston. Lowe has won in double digits for the past seven seasons, but is not far over .500 for his career, but has had a good WHIP in the National League. Lowe turns 36 next season.

Lowe has a reputation as, to be kind, having a minimally high character. Now this might not separate him from the majority of the descendants of "Ball Four", somehow I want to believe that his presence amidst Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Masterson, Michael Bowden et al. sends the wrong message. Didn't John Henry want Lowe exiled after his previous Red Sox tenure? I could be losing my mind.

Frankly, I'd just tell Derek "we want you, not so much" and move on. I'm gonna put my eggs in the Bowden basket. There is nothing more important to achieving greatness than wanting it and working toward it.

Here's an excerpt from "On Bowden" referenced above...“If all the players we had were Michael Bowdens, we wouldn’t need coaches,” Beyeler said. “That’s the kind of kid he is. He is so driven. He’s the first guy here, he’s the last guy out every day. He’s here to get better, every day he’s here. You ask him to do this, he does that, every bit and more. You never know he’s around, to the good point. He takes care of his own business. He’s the guy, every time you turn around, oh, Michael’s working. Oh, Michael’s doing something to get better. Oh, he’s doing this. He’s doing pick-off drills, towel drills. He’s constantly doing something that benefits where he’s trying to go."

I remember reading Peter Gammons about another Sox prospect who needed to be great...Jon Lester.

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