27 December 2008

They Might Be Giants

Today's the day I join the club. The day it hit me, like it did more intelligent folk several weeks back. Our greatest player (by a wide margin), on the cusp of the greatest individual career milestone in franchise history, will close out his career in pursuit of that quest -in a San Francisco shirt! Too bad. 300 wins would've been memorable and positive, two adjectives all but absent in Diamondback annals since the departure of Jerry Colangelo.

More germane to today's transactional disappointment is that Johnson pitched very well last year - 184 IP of 117 ERA+, and was reportedly willing to return to AZ for well below market value. He posted four months of sub 4.00 ERA (same as Dan Haren) at pinball alley Chase Field, and after the All Star break, only Sabathia, Oswalt and Santana clearly pitched better in the National League.

Randy offered to stay in Phoenix for half ($7.5M) of his 2008 salary, and might well have signed for less had it not been for the club's stunningly low $3M offer that effectively terminated negotiations. Johnson signed with the G-Men for eight, but the Giants also dangled $5M in performance bonuses, something the new and "improved" Arizona FO categorically eschews. In addition, Randy's from the Bay Area, and it's reasonable to assume he gave the Giants (and Oakland) something of a hometown discount as well. Based on all this, I estimate his "true" market value to be closer to $12M and his "Arizona discount" as $5-6 million (40-50%) below market.

Jim McLennan is feverishly trying to cherrycoat the Dbacks' parsimony across the Internets, excoriating Johnson loyalists as "know-nothings and not "true" Diamondback fans who dont understand the "reality" of the situation, to a point where one can be forgiven for wondering if Jim receives a small stipend from the club for these curiously energetic, broad-based efforts.

I dont know much, but I know Randy Johnson is likely one of the dozen greatest pitchers in baseball history, certainly the greatest Diamondback ever, coming off a deceptively strong season, and on the cusp of the town's greatest individual career athletic milestone. And I know the club ultimately offered this icon one third to one quarter of what he was actually worth on the open market, after recently shedding $35M from what was already baseball's eighth lowest payroll.

Only time will tell if the Giants made a good deal for $8M plus incentives, but the Dbacks' failure to scrounge up even $5M for a pitcher of Johnson's established and recent quality speaks to this FO's apparent reluctance to balance cost containment with competitiveness. They'll insist that's their raison d'etre, but the fact is $35M paid to departing free agents, non-tenders and Russ Ortiz has dropped off the 2009 books. Some regulars are getting raises, but it isnt close to $35 million. Further, there's no established pitcher of Johnson's quality available for $5M (let alone 8). The money's there. The clear desire to fund an MLB-average or better team, however, propped up by a largely inherited farm and residence in baseball's worst division, is not.

Quite apart from cheating AZ fans out of the most significant career milestone in franchise history, does the greater abandonment of an affordable, aging warrior like Johnson (and others), reflect an organization that keenly values its traditions and paying customers - or one systematically taking both for granted?


Song of the Day - Older (They Might Be Giants)


ByrnesBlogger1 said...

The latest entry on the ByrnesBlog:

Bay Area native Randy Johnson has signed a one year contract with the San Francisco Giants.

Let’s see…that leaves the Diamondbacks without a number 3 starter, number 4 is “a player to be named,” number 5 is a rookie (Max Scherzer) with limited professional experience. (Is there anyone else out there who also thinks pitchers are being rushed to the majors these days?) The team has lost Orlando Hudson and has designated Eric Byrnes the 4th outfielder. (I think this is a salary dump strategy. They figure he’ll be miserable as a part-time player, emotionally and statistically, and will beg to be traded). An extension for Brandon Webb still has not been worked out.

Watch the D’Backs and the Giants fight it out for fourth place in the division in 2009.

A Still Angry ByrnesBlogger1

Matt said...

They still have Doug Davis, so it’s a pretty good rotation - even without Randy. If Scherzer blossoms - and their paltry $3M lowball to Johnson makes me think the FO expects that to happen - it could be another terrific rotation.

Right now, I expect the offense to improve from 2008, but the rotation, pen and defense all to be a tad worse - especially if Felipe Lopez plays more innings than EB, which sounds likely.

Normally, I’d say that doesnt translate into a contending team, but the Dbax division and youth make them impossible for me to write off.

Thx for the comment. Nice to see you raising hell.

Jeff said...

I heard that SF would be interested in sending Zito to AZ in exchange for a ham sandwich and a teaspoon of feta cheese.

Matt said...

Dbax braintrust thinks the world of Zito, but wants to hold onto feta in crumbling economy. Sorry.

Jeff said...