Welcome as we go kicking and screaming into the new world of the Wordpress format, where we’re pleased to start things off by announcing Liberty Media’s surprising decision to immediately double the Braves’ payroll and, more importantly, splurge for all-expenses paid trips to the San Diego/L.A. trip for three Braves/MIB blog denizens to join me in SoCal Aug. 3-9!
OK, none of that is true.
Well, except for the part about us starting today on the new Wordpress format.
And this blog is a very rough version of what’s to come, because I don’t have a good grasp of the technology and because the bold-face and italics functions don’t seem to work very well, at least when I preview this page.
We’re giving it a first run today before we head to Florida for spring training on Friday, reporting for assignment one day ahead of pitchers and catchers, who are due in Saturday. Folks, do you realize we’re going to be in Florida 50 freakin’ days this spring training, counting Friday? Yes, 50 days. Damn the WBC!
(I’m serious about the WBC. At least the timing of it. If it didn’t line the coffers, they wouldn’t even consider having this thing disrupt spring training the way it does. And they know that if they had it in November, they wouldn’t have even one-third as many star players agree to participate. And there’s no way to compress this thing into an All-Star break, so that’s not a realistic option.)
Anyway, where were we? Oh, with the Braves and Tom Glavine butting heads. No, wait. That’s probably overstating it. After all, Tom and his agent met with GM Frank Wren for quite a while Wednesday, after an informal breakfast meeting between Glavine and Wren a week or so earlier.
Both sides want to get this done. It’s just that the Braves want soon-to-be 43-year-old Glavine to take a deep paycut after his injury-ruined 2008 season.
Now, I think most of us rational folks can see why the Braves are reluctant, with no more than $5-7 million left to spend in their budget, to commit half of it to an aging pitcher coming back from elbow and shoulder surgeries, however serious those surgeries were (the elbow was significant, but not nearly as much as “Tommy John” surgery; the shoulder procedure was a routine “clean-up” thing).
But I think plenty of us could understand why a 305-game winner (the only living, unretired 300-game winner in baseball — might be less than thrilled by a mere $1 million guarantee and incentives that could be worth a maximum of only $3 million.
Think about it: If he went 13-8 with 200 innings pitched, the way he did in 2007, Glavine would still make only $3 mill in the contract the Braves have offered him. If he 15-7 with a 4.01 ERA and 198 innings, as he did in 2006, he’d still make just $3 mill.
And if he got hurt again like he did last year, when he went 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA and only 63 innings, Glavine would probably get $2 mill (the current offer is for $1 million, plus another $1 million if he makes the opening-day roster; he would get the final $1 million if he didn’t get hurt before the 60-day mark).
He’d get another $1 mill if he’s still on the roster after 60 days. That’s $3 mill total, if he makes it to the 60-day mark. Which seems fairly reasonable, actually, especially in a real-world economy that’s finally trickled down to baseball.
However, it should be noted, Mike Hampton got a one-year, $2 million guaranteed contract this winter from the Houston Astros. Someone can look this up, but I think he’s missed some starts and been on the DL one or two (or seven, or 10) times in recent years.
(And please, can we confine this to actual relevance. By that I mean, I know the economy’s gone to hell in hand basket and millions of people are out of work. And yes, of course baseball players and other athletes and entertainers make obscene amounts of money, compared to you and me and just about everyone else who’s not a CEO of a failed financial institution. But it’s been that way for a long time, and as long as some movie stars make $10 mill or more for working a few months on a movie, or a few talk-show hosts make more than that for sitting behind a desk interviewing people … well, folks, they get what the market will bear. And folks in dangerous and/or noble jobs like cops, teachers, soldiers and sports writers — OK, sorry, thought I’d try to slip that through — are, relatively speaking, vastly underpaid.)
The thing that Glavine is upset about is that there is no way for him to make anything more under that contract. He’d like the opportunity to earn more incentives, to push the deal to perhaps $5 million or more, if he has the kind of season he was still having every year until 2008.
(For those who act like we can start correcting that disparity by not paying Glavine more than $1 mill guaranteed or paying him a maximum of $3 million. Even in this economy, Brad Penny signed a one-year, $5 million guaranteed contract this winter with Boston, after going 6-9 with a 6.27 ERA in 95 innings in an injury-plagued 2008 season with the Dodgers. He’s got no ties, no history with Boston, which also gave the aforementioned Bearded Icon (Smoltz) a $5.5 mill guaranteed contract, even though he had major shoulder surgery, will be 42, and might not pitch until June. Hey, and 45-year-old Randy Johnson this winter got a two-year, $8 million contract with San Francisco, after totaling 240 innings and 15 wins over the past two seasons combined. Just saying, dude’s as old as me, with a back that’s even worse than mine. Far worse, actually.)
It’s worth noting, Glavine had never been on the disabled list in his entire major league career until 2008, and had pitched at least 200 innings in 10 of the past 12 seasons before last year (and 198 innings in one of the two years he fell short of 200 in that span).
Glavine says he’ll be creative with the Braves and agree to defer money if it’ll help them with this year’s payroll. As he said, if he’s on the team he wants them to be able to sign an outfielder.
Maybe I’m missing something, but if he’s really willing to defer salary, would it be unreasonable for the Braves to offer him a contract that pays him what they’ve already agreed to pay him this year — $1 mill guaranteed, $1 mill if he’s on the opening day roster, and $1 mill if he’s on the roster after 60 days -– plus another $2 mill or $3 mill in possible incentives, for making 25 and 30 starts and/or pitching 175 innings, with all of that additional incentive money to be deferred for a year or two?
Doesn’t it seem like the Braves and a pitcher with so much Atlanta history, such deep roots in the community (despite a five-year affair with Flushing), could work out such a deal? Particularly after the icon (Smoltz) already left this winter, leaving a lot of fans upset and leaving only Glavine, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox around from the Atlanta Braves’ 1990s Mount Rushmore (or Stone Mountain, as it were).
If Glavine isn’t good enough to beat out Jorge Campillo, Jo-Jo Reyes, Charlie Morton and uber prospect Tommy Hanson this spring, well, then you pat him on the back and consider that $1 mill guarantee the gold watch he’ll get for his years or service to the Bravos (if I’m not mistaken, Glavine had five 20-win seasons and won a memorable postseason game or two for Atlanta).
* Mariners to sign the Kid or Garret Anderson: So if Seattle signs Ken Griffey Jr. or Garret Anderson this week, some of you have asked if the Braves will pounce on the other. Well, don’t hold your breath waiting for that development.
While Griffey can still hit right-handers, he’s lost a lot and scouts who saw him last year say he can’t get to a lot of fastballs. At his age, he’s a risk the Braves, with their limited remaining funds, seem unwilling to take. I could be wrong, but I think they’d rather see how their young kids do in spring training and/or try to trade for Nick Swisher soon, if his price comes down or the Yankees are willing to offset a couple mill of his $5.3 mill ’09 salary.
There’s no question that this weeks signings of Bobby Abreu (by the Angels) and Adam Dunn (by the Nationals) diminished the field of potential run-producing outfielders for the Braves to choose from, but they were never going to give Dunn the kind of money he got from the Nationals (two years, $20 million).
Seeing Abreu sign for a mere $5 mill with incentives that could push it to $6 mill tell you something about how tight the Braves’ budget really is — it’s tight, folks.
As for Anderson (who’s been almost Ryan Freel- or Carl Crawford-like in terms of recent obsession with some on the Braves/MIB blog), the guy’s got poor plate discipline and his power has been in decline since the early part of the decade. Plus, he’d be changing leagues at age 36 (37 in June). I don’t think Braves have much, if any, interest. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong (and I’ll just delete those paragraphs after the announcement they’ve signed him).
* Another thing, re: Glavine’s options: One other thing about Glavine (sorry to ramble on about the old lefty). Some have portrayed it as a decision he has to make this week or soon after, on whether to take this offer, go elsewhere or retire.
Actually, he could wait until March, knowing there’s always a team or three that becomes desperate for starting pitching. Remember the Braves a couple years ago, when they literally brought Mark Redmond out of his Oklahoma basement (where he had makeshift pitching tunnel complete with a mound and home plate at the proper distance. (Along with a Bowflex machine used as a clothes rack, two bicycles with tires that have been flat for at least six years, a massive black & white Pulp Fiction poster with Jules and Vincent Vega pointing large guns, and a collection of VHS tapes that haven’t been played in at least five years… No, wait, that’s my basement. Nevermind.)
For what it’s worth, Glavine has also pitched off a mound in his basement some this winter (he’s also gotten out and pitched elsewhere, including Turner Field in front of Braves officials, who liked what they saw).
“If anything time is on my side,” he told me last week, when he was prepared to keep pitching in Atlanta when spring training began in Florida (Braves pitchers and catchers report to Dark Star on Saturday).
“I’ll just continue doing my thing, continue getting myself to the point where I’m ready to start pitching in some games, which I’m confident is going to be early March, and see where that happens, whether it’s with the Braves or somewhere else.
“Someone always gets hurt in spring training, or a team is not happy with how things shake out with the pitchers they have. Just keep doing what I’m doing here, keep getting myself ready to pitch, and I’m confident the phone will ring from somebody. I hope it’s here, but we’ll see.”
After his meeting with Wren on Wednesday, it sounded like not much had changed.
* Counting on Hampton (no, really): Who’d have thought anyone would be talking about the star-crossed, injury-plagued (collossal understatement) former Braves lefty in these terms, afer he missed the entire 2006 and ’07 seasons and made 13 starts in ’08.
Richard Justice wrote this last Sunday in the Houston Chronicle: “Hampton is the most important piece of the puzzle. If he’s even close to being as good as he was his first time around, the Astros have a great chance of contending.
“He has made just 25 starts the past four years and didn’t throw his first pitch last season until July 26. Hampton had an 8.10 ERA in his first four starts. After that, he was terrific, rolling up a 3.72 ERA with quality starts in eight of his last nine turns.
“[General manager Ed] Wade is betting Hampton finally is healthy and that, at 36, he’s still capable of being a top-of-the-rotation starter.
“Hampton wasn’t in the original blueprint. The Astros began this offseason thinking they would have to say goodbye to [Jose] Valverde and Ty Wigginton to keep the payroll in the $100 million range. At some point, Wade and Astros president Tal Smith reconsidered their strategy and decided to say goodbye to Wolf, sign a cheaper starter and hold on to Valverde.
“Enter Hampton. Many other things have to happen for the Astros to contend, but everything begins with Hampton.”
Oy. Much as we like him as a person, if everything begins or hinges on Hampton, it could be a long summer in Houston.
* OK, let’s get this thing posted and see what the new format holds for the Braves/MIB blog and its denizens. Please be patient, folks, and get registered and start using this new format. We should be able to do a lot more linking and all kinds of cool stuff with audio and, eventually, video. But for now, I’m keeping it simple with the first post.
“CHARLEMAGNE’S HOME TOWN” by James McMurtry
I’ve got it all to myself now
Crack the window just a hair
Dark and close, the way I like it
Black tobacco chokes the air
I keep to myself, I lack the language
I measure out my life with coffee grounds
The trees are the color of ashes
In Charlemagne’s home town
I said I didn’t fear the distance
As if I’d ever been that tough
I can hear your voice across the water
But that’s nowhere near enough
Won’t you fly across that ocean
Take a train on down
Because the night’s growing lonesome
In Charlemagne’s home town
The fortune teller told me nothing
That I wouldn’t have found out on my own
She read my palm and she took my money
She looked at me with eyes of stone
She said the odds are long and stacked against us
Still we try because we must
To keep from leaving our senses
Long forgotten in the dust
Like the bones of some saint
Beneath a church floor
Who must have died for lack of light
The color snapshots I sent you
All came out in black and white
There’s a lonely child on a snow white pony
On a carousel in the market place
He sits on that horse and he looks right through me
A shadow falls across his face
What will I do when my glass is empty
What will I do when it all comes down
What will I do when it comes to nothing
In Charlemagne’s home town