Friday, October 06, 2006

The War of Words Between Bonds and Giants Management



It all began with Bonds telling the media that he won't "ever ever ever ever" accept a contract with incentives in it. Ever. He would rather retire, see ya! He don't need to work, he's tired, he loves his family, he can retire. Meanwhile, Sabean is talking about getting younger and healthier and getting the Giants back on the winning track in 2007 with the same payroll as this season, and how the Giants are probably not going to sign anyone to a big contract, that they need to spread the wealth among the 11 positions opening up this off-season. Then Bonds noted that Clemens didn't accept any paycut, why should he.

Magowan followed that one up with a statement that even if Bonds was resigned, he would no longer be the centerpiece of the team, that he would be part of the equation of returning the Giants to their prior winning ways. Last we left the story, Bonds calls Magowan's statement "dirty".

Bonds Brought This Upon Himself

I love and respect Bonds as much as anybody but, not to sound juvenile, he started negotiating through the media, not the Giants; the Giants had asked that everything be kept private and that is Sabean's style, he doesn't like to reveal much to the public, as I have mentioned many times before in my posts. Even in interviews where he is suppose to be revealing things about the Giants future plans, he hedges everything just so. He tells without telling that much and circles around the question without fully answering it. He is a master at this.

So the Giants were left with bad options. Either they take the high road but get public opinion about the team being shaped by someone who is no longer an employee and potentially gone, or they strike back. Neither way is palatable, but I think they took the route that they had to take, they need to make sure the public understand where they stand in the whole thing.

My Take On Magowan's Centerpiece Statement

Here is how I took Magowan's statements. All he said is that Bonds will no longer be the centerpiece of the Giants going forward. And that's realistic to all but those still wearing Bonds-colored glasses.

Bonds is at the end of his line. Bonds will be playing probably one more year, maybe two if he wants 3000 hits. The Giants took the stance that they are now looking at the next 4-5 years of the Giants, not just year to year like they had been doing the past few years. Hence the Alou "amicable" parting and the search for a manager for the next 4-5 seasons. And hence the statement Bonds is no longer the centerpiece, which fits in with this new management strategy/philosophy that started with Felipe being not re-signed.

Magowan is as media savvy as owners go and there is a huge image problem if the public thinks that the Giants signed Bonds because of the potential for 755. His statements reinforce the marketing message that Sabean has been regurgitating for a while now: Giants are working to bring a winner in 2007, they will have the same payroll budget, they will be competitive. And to win, they need to get younger and healthier, with personnel who they think will be around 4-5 years, not 1-2 like the past few years.

But the Giants management is thinking fans will be thinking that there's no way the Giants can field a winning team if Bonds expects to get the same salary, because the Giants didn't in 2006 with Bonds at a lower or same salary, and are probably losing key players like Alou and Schmidt. How can they sell fans that they are serious about winning if they just bend over for Bonds and hand over even more money plus, say, have Sanchez replacing Schmidt and Linden replacing Alou. That's a negative sum equation in all Giants fans heads, that's an equation for a losing team proposition going into next season. And Giants fans (as well as other fans) have shown that they don't show up for losing teams, no matter what the attraction (they sometimes don't even show up for a winning team).

So to cut off that thinking at the pass, they make it clear that the decision on Bonds will rest on whether the Giants can win with Bonds, at the salary they sign him to, and not at all costs and not for the marketing plus of the home run chase. A side benefit, is that now they can say in negotiations with Bonds that 755 is nice, but we want to win, we are not paying much for your record. Therefore Bonds cannot leverage the Giants as much with his homerun career chase and the Giants will offer less, because now the value equation is how many games we can reasonably expect Bonds to play and to perform well in and not mainly centered on some personal individual goal on his part.

Magowan Not Dirty, Bonds Was

Bonds called Magowan's statement dirty, but really, Magowan didn't say that Bonds would not be a significant producer on the team, nor even the most important player on the team, but that the Giants centerpiece going forward will be someone else, looking at the long term. And implied that the Giants will not outbid anyone to potentially get the record breaking homerun at the expense of a winning season. Sometimes, impression is everything and the Giants don't want fans to have the impression that management will sacrifice winning just to get Bonds back.

If anything, Bonds is the one who was being dirty. First he explains that he would never ever ever ever ever accept incentives in a contract. Which, of course, is a lie because his last contract had an incentives clause that vested the team's option for 2006 if he met Plate Appearance targets, both for 2005 and for 2003-2005. That makes it harder for a team to justify signing him because he's one bad Fred Sanford "heart attack" ("my elbow! my elbow! my knee! my knee!) from costing the team the full contract amount with no production - think the Astro's wouldn't have caught the Cardinals if they had the insurance payment for Bagwell's injury funding acquisitions instead of a useless Bagwell? - which will sink the Giants again in 2007, for its third consecutive losing season.

Then he makes the outrageous statement that Clemens got more, why not Bonds? Well, Barry, it's because Clemens missed the first half of the season, which for a pitcher is good, he can then start all his starts for the rest of the season, but Houston prorated Clemens salary for the games he missed and so he didn't get paid for the games he missed in the first half of the season. If Bonds was willing to prorate his full-season salary based on the games he actually played then that would be the same as Clemens contract, but, oh wait, Barry wants to be paid for all the games he misses too.

The Company Line is "To Win"

So if Bonds being called part of the package to win is "dirty" to him, then perhaps it is time to part company with him. I wasn't too happy with him taking the day off on the last Saturday, if you cannot game up for a game against the Dodgers that could put them out of the players, when can you game up? I want him back but not at the cost of the team winning, if that is what he insists, then his goals are not my goals, are not any Giants' fans goal, which is to win, and to go on and win the World Series.

It would be hard enough even with him on the team, but if he costs an elbow and a knee, it would be even harder. And we are already suffering from the lost of the money for Matheny and Benitez. Plus perhaps Lowry, Morris and Winn, depending on how they recover from their injuries over the off-season and show which was the real player, the one in 2006 or the one they were before. Overpaying Bonds for the privilege of seeing him break the homerun record (and even that is a maybe, he might still need 2008) would not make good business sense, it will cost us a winning season.

So the Giants have a new centerpiece going forward, why is that a big deal, he must have known it would happen someday. And at an age when most players of his ilk are hoping to get enough votes to continue to stay on the HOF ballot, he's still playing well, just not at either of his peaks, of the 2000's or the 1990's, he's just part of the puzzle now. That's life, deal with it, accept that he's not the centerpiece.

And the Next Centerpiece of the Giants Is...

And who will be the centerpiece? My guess at who that would be is that it will be the pitching, headlined by Cain and Lowry plus perhaps Lincecum. Unless the Giants are able to trade for some young great hitter, like Miguel Cabrera, that is what they will have to go with. Or perhaps if they can sign Aramis Ramirez if he opts out of his option with Chicago, but even then the pitching will be one of the key strengths of the team going forward.

But the odds of the Giants getting any young stud appears slim to none unless one of these centerpice starting pitchers are traded because the Giants have said that they probably are not paying any player a large, Bonds-sized salary because they need to spread the wealth and fill 11 positions in total, and probably keep anywhere from 3 to 6 of our free agents because of the dearth of better alternatives on the free agent market. So Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez are pipe dreams unless Sabean can backfill most of the other positions with cheap vets who are nonetheless productive, like Vizquel, only younger.

Go Giants!

4 comments:

  1. I don't know the exact numbers, but we should have quite a bit of money to play with. Assuming the exact same payroll as this year, the Giants theoretically have:
    18 million - Bonds
    10.5 million - Schmidt
    7 million - Durham
    7 million - Finley
    4-6 million - M. Alou
    3.6 million - Feliz
    2 million - Kline
    1 million - Stanton
    .7 million - Greene
    .8 million - Wright

    That all comes out to about 56 million. Factor in Bonds' and Alou's deferred salaries, and raisers here and there and we'll subtract 16 million.

    That'll still leave us about 40 million to spend on re-signing and pulling in new players. It is noted that we need almost a dozen players to fill out the roster, but how many of those are starters/pitchers?

    As far as I can tell, we would like to have another starting pitcher, maybe two. Same goes for the bullpen. These guys don't necessarily have to be stars, but solid would be preferred.

    As for position players, we need corner infielders, a second baseman, and two outfielders (at most).

    It's so hard to speculate who should sign where, as free agency hasn't officially started, and demands aren't out in the air. But it's fun to think and speculate to one's self.

    I totally agree with you though. Bonds is putting Giants in a tough spot. I know he wants to be paid, but you'd think he's been paid enough and would just want a ring. He was my favorite player, still is, and could possibly be forever, and I hope he ends his career on a good note (and as a Giant, for less than he is considering).

    Anyhow, Go Giants!

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  2. Nice rundown. Most discussions I have seen have come up with a similar number, about $35M, as the amount we can spend. I think most places uses Cot's (link on Lefty's site) for their numbers.

    Nice summing up of what's needed. Basically we need 8 starters: one starting pitcher, closer, C, 1B, 3B, 2B, LF and RF. I don't think Matheny will be playing next year, plus Sabean normally does not like going into a year without a viable starter, or at least one they think is viable. Hence why I added closer.

    There was talk about making Wilson the closer, but I don't think he's ready yet. Don't know what's out there on the market either.

    Based on the need for 8 positions, that averages out to about $4-5M per position, and if you pay more for one, you pay less for the rest. Let's say Bonds gets the $9M that Nomar got (I think), then that's 7 positions spliting the $26M left, or about $4M each. Hence, even a Feliz or Hillenbrand would be too much, unless they are balanced off with another player under the average.

    Hence the real need to use pre-arb players at some of the starting positions so that you can spend more on one particular position, like Niekro at 1B, Linden in RF, Frandsen at 2B. That would, in my above example with Bonds, leave 4 more positions and $25M to spend, or $6M per. Then if we get a Soriano or Aramis ($15M-ish), then that leaves us at 3 positions and $10M, or $3M per. At that salary, we can get a Aurilia or other similar journeyman vet to fill in some of the starting positions.

    But just from this example, it is clear that even with so much money available, it goes fast if you sign Bonds and one good player, and hence why the Giants are talking about not getting such a cornerstone player and not fully committing to getting Bonds: either could kill the budget for filling the other positions.

    Plus, there aren't that many premier free agents to pursue this season anyway, so perhaps the Giants are better off not trying to get one of those few, led by Soriano and perhaps Aramis Ramirez.

    As Sabean said, he will need to spread the wealth.

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  3. Comparing Bonds to Nomar is just ridiculous. Even at his age. and Bonds won't be signing for $9 million because he's thinking butts in the seats, winning games, etc.

    Soriano can't be had for $15 million, unless it's a 7-year contract or something. And, on top of that, Soriano has got to be the most overrated player in the NL. He had a career year, with a .351 (basically league average) OBP and a .560 SLG. Giants surely need another hacker.

    There isn't that much money and the Giants have made their own bed. Most of the big $ signings have been bad, and trades have been bad for the last 3 or 4 years. Omar is practically the only value they've obtained. They're a team trying to have a mediocre budget and produce more than mediocre results, and that only happens if a team get value. Getting value is very difficult through free agency, it primarily comes through the team's own system.

    Signing Bonds for one year at a pay according to last year's production is reasonable in terms of winning and collecting capital. He of course is looking at it that way. He feels he'll be more productive. The Giants won't win - well because there aren't enough good players to possibly win. But maybe they won't be able to afford to sign Feliz or Hillenbrand (guys who totally suck) to multimillion dollar contracts.

    BTW, after Bonds leaves. Giants = Pirates

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  4. I mentioned Nomar more because I think that's what's Bonds is worth - if you want outside validation of that, the SJ Merc had an article a few days back where they polled some agents and that is about what they were thinking too, with incentives (they actually gave a range but I just wanted to go with the $9M).

    But also, there is the very real risk of injury taking him out, just it finally did before the 3rd game of the playoffs. This year I think they dodged the bullet but it is like Russian Roulette. So I symbolically chose Nomar because that is a very real risk with Bonds as well.

    The $15M I quoted for Soriano is just for the 2007 season budget, as that was all I was talking about. I agree he'll probably get more in total package but to start out, that seems about the upper limit of what he'll get, so I just used that, thinking it would get no argument from anyone.

    I mainly mentioned Soriano because he would be a big ticket item and because many Giants fans seem to want him. I would prefer Aramis Ramirez if he becomes a free agent.

    The Giants made their bed as much as any team who made their bed signing a free agent. There are no silver bullets, there are no sure things, everyone is a risk.

    Look at Durham, he's a perfect example. Never on the DL his whole career, 6 years in a row playing 150+ games. And damn if he never had a season in his four for us where he didn't go on the DL or get over 500 AB or play over 142 games.

    So let's even take Benitez. Arthritic knee or not, 8 straight seasons with 62 or more games, at least 68 IP each season, before signing with the Giants. He has barely played a full season altogether the two seasons he was with us.

    How about Worrell? Before his personal problems broke his streak, he had 6 straight seasons of pitching about 70 IP or more, 70+ games per season for the most part. And he started 2006 gangbusters then that neck problem did him in.

    True, old players break down, but Durham and Armando were not that old, in baseball age, they were middle-aged.

    If Bonds wants to be paid per his production from last season, fine, then lets prorate his salary using incentives-based targets and I'll be happy to pay him $15M+, if he can put up a full season at those stat rates. But if he expects to be paid a set figure, no matter how many games he plays, then he will need to accept less because any true businessman would factor in the risk of him not playing AND the risk of him having a poor season AND the certainty that he will not play 162 games, that we'll be lucky to get another 130 games, might only get 100 games. It is nice he feels he'll be productive, he probably felt that way in February 2005 too, but that didn't do a hill of beans for the Giants on the field during the 2005 season.

    I agree that there's not much money, hence why I said the Giants have to be careful what they pay Bonds. I also know that the team will have a hard time winning in 2007, hence why I said "It would be hard enough [to win] even with him on the team..."

    Getting value on the free agent market is difficult, but that's where the Giants will have to fill spots on the roster. Obviously it is better to fill spots from the farm system but as I have noted in my series of posts on the Draft, it is damn hard to find journeyman players, let alone the good and superstar players, when you are a consistently winning team drafting in the last 10 spots in the 1st round, which the Giants were from 1998 to 2005.

    For example, if Lowry and Cain turn out to be good to star players for their careers, Sabean would have beaten the odds, because the odds are 43% you end up with 0 after 10 years, 38% you end up with 1, or 81% of the time you end with with 0 or 1 good player from a 1st round draft pick in the last third of the first round.

    So it is all relative, fans don't realize how hard it is to find starting players via the draft, unless you have a Top 5 draft pick or some fool teams pass on a good player and he falls to the teens to be picked up.

    And if farm system production is examined, the Giants actually have a good percentage of the 25 man roster filled with farm system products: Lowry, Cain, Sanchez, Hennessey, Correia, Accardo when he was here, Alfonzo, Linden/Ellison/5th OF. That's not too bad given the generally poor condition of the farm system he inherited plus the poor draft position he has had for most of his years as GM.

    So 2007 will be quite a challenge to be competitive, let alone win, but we have a strong core of starting pitchers who look set to have good careers. And that's the beauty of baseball to me, the reality show aspect of it, seeing whether your players do it or not.

    I think it is too soon to say what the Giants will be after Bonds leave. Basically half the team is yet to be determined. The Pirates would be a low end possibility, but if the pitching comes through the way I think they can, I think we can be competitive for the division title with the Padres and Dodgers. Cain can only get better. Lowry was very good before and so there's the injury to explain his poor 2006, so he could return to being very good again. Morris was suffering first season jitters early on - something I've thought and Krukow mentioned in his morning show - then was very good until late July when he somehow broke his ribs, because he pitched really well until then, then was bad once again, it was day and night. Sanchez didn't look good starting but was kind of thrown in there too. Give him an off-season to prepare and spring training to know his role on team, I think we'll see the guy who was getting hitters out regularly mid-season. Throw in Lincecum, perhaps, by mid to late season, and we have a pretty good looking rotation.

    So no, I don't see a repeat of Bonds leaving Pirates disaster repeating with the Giants, they have a good core of pitchers to lead the way, the only thing is that they need to deliver and perform.

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