Friday, December 19, 2008

Move Over A-Rod, Tex is the New Number 1 A-Hole!

Do you know who should be sending Mark Teixeira a big old Harry and David gift basket plus maybe a new Escalade for his struggles? Alex Rodriguez. You know why? Because now, thanks to Tex, Rodriguez is no longer the most loathsome player in Major League Baseball. Even more amazing is that Tex seemingly came out of nowhere to steal this crown.

I bring up the A-Rod comparison because last year, as Scott Boras was pulling out all of the unseemly tricks from his big old bag of them, A-Rod finally put his foot down, "fired" Boras, stated his desire to stay in New York and then immediately hammered out a monster contract. Say what you will about A-Rod (and I will!) but this was a very crafty move on his part because a) it was an over-the-top move to endear himself to the NY fans which kind of worked and b) he knew that he would stay there anyway so why not take the money and be done with it. Teixeira could have done the same. He could have told Boras to screw, stated where he wanted to play once the final bidders had their bids in place and then been done with it. But of course that did not happen.

So how did Tex get here?

It all started back when the Red Sox drafted him out of high school but he did not sign with them because Scott Boras advised him that he could get more money down the line if he went to college, dominated, and then re-entered the draft after a few college seasons. Players do this all the time so it is really tough to fault him for going this route. Plus it worked. You gotta give the guy a pass there.

Fast forward now to 2007.

The Rangers offer him an 8 year/$140M contract. And he turns it down. With that, they trade him to the Braves mid-season. The Braves playoff push that year falls flat with him. In 2008 they try again to use Tex for a run at the NL East but injuries and other issues made it clear that it just wasn't happening for them so they traded him in July to the Angels. Upon his arrival in Anaheim it was supposedly pre-ordained that he would be THE guy to push them over the top.

Their lineup was thin and a bat short. They were winning the AL West with or without Tex, but he was the guy to finally push them past the Sox in the playoffs. And you know what, he almost did hitting .467 in the ALDS.

Or did he? Because we remember that that .467 was about as empty as a .467 could be as it included 0 extra base hits and 0 hits with runners in scoring position. What would happen to A-Rod if he did the same thing? He would get CRUSHED, that is what. But somehow, with his pending free agency everybody focuses on the .467 with him and not the dubious zeros.

The other thing that nobody mentions; for a supposed cornerstone franchise guy, he could very well be on his fourth team in three seasons in 2009. Yes, all of his trades were dictated byhis impending free agency, but the other big elephant in the room is that in each of the last two seasons he was acquired by teams making a playoff push and neither time could he push them over the top, even with impressive numbers. Baseball is not basketball, you cannot bring in just one position player and expect him to bring you from point A to point C. Maybe he can get you to B, but he can't get you to the next, next level.

Does any of the above really make him that bad of a guy? No, not really. Sure, turning down that 8 year/$140M contract is a little jarring, but he was advised - and advised correctly - that he could make more money if he just waited a year and hit the open market. Again, he is not the only player who has done this but when you consider the recent trend of young stars inking team friendly extensions with their current teams to money that guarantees them long-term financial comfort it does make you wonder just a bit. Especially when a good bulk of those young players are guys BETTER than Teixeira. If I asked you to choose between Teixeira and any of the below guys, do you go with Tex over any of them? I am not sure.

Consider some notable young position players who have signed team friendly relative big money extensions in the past few years:

David Wright
Jose Reyes
Hanley Ramirez
Ryan Braun
Evan Longoria
Dustin Pedroia

Maybe I missed a couple of guys there (I'm just going off the top of my head) but wouldn't you rather have any of those guys over Tex for the long haul? Do you know who has the biggest contract of that lot? Hanley Ramirez. At 6 years, $70M. Is he the best of that bunch? Maybe. But that really is not the point. The point is that those are six arguably superior players to Mark Teixeira all making less than half of his potential salary. In most cases far less than half.

Am I begrudging Teixeira for chasing the money? Most certainly not. If he wants to leverage his skills into the richest contract possible that is absolutely his right and I say more power to him. I have done that in my own professional life so it would be hypocritical for me to rail against him for doing otherwise.

So why then am I calling Mark Teixeira the new most loathsome player in baseball, a moniker he is stealing from A-Rod?

Here is why? Because he has had four and maybe five ENORMOUS contract offers in front of him for close to a week now. All of the offers were legitimate enough to be deemed serious by both parties (him and the team offering him the money). So why then the s-l-o-w deliberations? Make up your mind already! Right now it seems like the choices are, play in Boston for a winner and get back to the east coast, stay in Anaheim and re-sign with the Angels, or play for a team in your home-town region t who will suck initially but at least in the case of the Orioles may become pretty good in a few years. Those are the choices. I am not saying they are easy choices. What I am saying though is that he is a big boy and needs to make them. It's like when Brett Favre indulges himself for weeks on end about whether or not he will retire. At some point you need to just say to yourself, "F--- it, this is my decision and this is what I am going to do". Don't painstakingly drag it out. By doing that you make every single person involved in bidding on your services re-evaluate whether or not you are really worth it. That's what Teixeira has done. Two months ago, everybody was completely gung ho about bringing the guy on. Now, it seems like people just kind of want him to go away.

If Teixeira had signed a contract with Boston swiftly, he would have been ushered into town like Manny was years back, a hero's welcome with the whole city opening their arms to the new offensive savior. Instead, even if he does wind up in Boston, everybody is already so revolted by the ongoing shenanigans that they may need to hold the press conference at 2 AM EST on Christmas Morning like outgoing presidents, pardoning white collar criminals. It should not have to come to that.

With the Red Sox being the Red Sox it of course won't. They'll pretend like it never happened but you can bet there will be a lot of bad blood from the fans. Of course Tex can erase all of this by starting the year on fire a la Manny in 2001. But if he finds himself with a .250/7/20 line around June then watch out. Things will get nasty. Actually, Teixeira if he winds up in Boston will be in a complete no win situation because the only way he can live up to his contract and the expectations is to suddenly start out-producing the way he has produced his entire career to date. Unlikely. I'd like to say I feel sorry for him, but I really cannot. He brought it upon himself.

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