JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN . . .
It’s hard to be a billionaire. It is increasingly difficult to be the richest guy on the block. It’s not fair when you have more money than anyone else, and everyone expects you to spend it like a drunken sailor on shore leave. And despite what people may want, that is not how you run a business (or raise a kid, for that matter).
A whole lot of ink was spilled last week when the Arizona Diamondbacks outbid (?) the Los Angeles Guggenheims for the services of Zack Greinke. People from far and wide bitched and moaned. The hordes lamented: “The Dodgers have an $8.35 billion television deal (insert 65% blackout comment here); Chavez Ravine has hosted more fans than any other park each of the past three seasons; the Bums raised ticket prices . . . again. Any yet, the owners couldn’t cough up an additional $50M to keep Greinke!”
Think about that for a second: just an additional $50M. Sure that is a lot of money, claimed the experts (read: fans), but it would have been spread over 6 years. Okay, let’s do that math: that’s $8.3M/year. Said – or or sung – differently (and keeping with the time of year), the $8.3M/year that people wanted the Dodgers to pay Greinke could buy:
Ten Van Slykes
More than one Kenleys
More than one Utleys
More than one Ryus, and
a Yas-i-el Pu-ig!
And that is just for 2016. It’s a crazy world we live in when $8.3M doesn’t seem like much.
Despite what it looks like from the outside, the Dodgers don’t have an unlimited supply of greenbacks that they can throw at anyone and everyone they want. The Dodgers had a plan, and they executed on that plan. Just because they can spend that kind of money, doesn’t mean that they should.
Most of us writing/reading this post have a few bucks in our pocket. We ain’t Guggenheim or Oppenheim or even Haim, but we can afford to buy our son a $200 bat or our daughter a $100 leotard . . . if we want to. But that doesn’t mean we should.
This is such a world of such consumption that there is an expectation that we will live – at a minimum– to our means, if not beyond. Aunt Martha died and left you a some money, you should buy yourself a new car. You had a good year and got a nice bonus, you should go on a cruise. You changed jobs and now make a few extra dollars, you should take on a larger mortgage.
What ever happened to living within your means? What ever happened to setting a plan, or a budget, and living within it? Since when is that a bad thing?
When the Dodgers failed to sign Greinke, the press kept partially-quoting Magic Johnson. Writers wrote, and rewrote, that Magic said that Zack was the Dodgers’ “number one priority”. However, that is only part of the story. Here is the full quote:
“I think we all want him back, but if somebody comes in and does something that is off the charts and we don’t match that, then, you know, he leaves. We want him back. He’s our priority — our number one priority in the off-season.”
I guess we can all debate the definition of “off the charts”. But, for Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers, committing 6 years and more than $200M to a 32-year old pitcher was “off the charts”. They were willing to give him $155M; they were willing to pay him $31M/year until he is 36. They were willing to commit more than $60M/year to their top two pitchers. That was within their plan.
Could have they have spent an additional $50M to secure Greinke and to pacify the fan base – even if that hurt the team long-term – sure. They have the means to do it. But just because you can . . .
I have not read a single article – I read a lot, but maybe I missed one – wherein the Dodgers were applauded for fiscal sanity. No one leapt to Friedman’s defense to say, “Attaboy; well done; way to stick to your guns and keep the organization in mind in the high-stress, high-pressure stakes of a free agent negotiation.” I didn’t hear a single drumbeat of “that’s why we pay this guy $7M/year, to make hard/smart choices.” Neither Bill Plaschke nor Mark Saxon nor any other writer went on record praising anything the Dodgers did vis-à-vis Greinke. Why not? Are we so hell-bent on winning now that we are willing to sacrifice tomorrow? That was a rhetorical question.
We all sit in front of our laptops and lament someone (not) spending someone else’s money. As Andrew Shepherd might ask: “Is the view pretty good from the cheap seats?”
Let me ask you this: When your kids get back to school after the holiday break, and he/she/they tell you all about the iWatches and ioWalks and iPads that their friends found under the Christmas tree, are you going to be saying: “Right on. That was so good of the Johnsons to spend that money. I am sure their fans (read: kids) are really happy with that expenditure.” You might say/think that; and if so, good on you.
But, you might just as easily be saying, “What the hell were the Johnsons thinking? No 10-year old needs a watch that monitors her heart, receives texts, and changes faces every five minutes; no 12-year old needs a contraption that escorts him – unaided – from the kitchen to the living room to the mailbox and back again. Sure, the Johnsons can afford to get those gifts for their kids, but just because they can . . .”
Here is my DISCLAIMER to any of my readers who are giving those gifts to their kids this year: How you spend your money is your business. My point is that you won’t find me on talk radio or in the blogosphere opining on the wisdom of your choices. With that said, read the following:
The owners’ meeting have ended, and we now know a few things about the game of baseball:
- The game as a whole is doing really well. Any team with a new television contract is spending freely.
- Arms are the name of the game, and without an ace, you ain’t shit (see, Red Sox, ca. 2015).
- Teams never learn that long-term contracts are doomed to fail (see, Sabathia, C.C., Crawford, Carl, Zito, Barry, and many, many, more).
- You will never get commended for not spending money.
As per the above, I think the deal the Red Sox gave David Price was absurd. But, they didn’t have an ace, so they didn’t have a choice.
The days (the ‘70s and ‘80s) when you could get away with 3-year deals for star players is over. The Red Sox had to do it for numerous reasons, including paying for past sins – before the 2015 season they could have closed Jon Lester for about $100M less than they paid Price. Oops! But, if they want to compete in the AL East, they need a horse. Sometimes that costs too much money and too much time.
As an aside, but definitely worth noting: If Price is awesome in the first three years of the deal, which is essential for this deal to make any sense at all, he will opt out when he is 33, looking for even more dough (see, Sabathia, C.C., Greinke, Zack). Being a left-handed stud pitcher is like being a Vegas casino . . . you always win.
But the Dodgers already have an ace. They have the best pitcher on the planet. To spend crazy money (read: the highest annual salary of any player, ever!) to get a beast #2 doesn’t make sense. The Diamondbacks were an also-ran in a division dominated by the Dodgers and the Giants; they needed to make a splash (insert Dodgers celebrating in the D-Backs’ pool joke here) and make a huge push if they were going to be relevant and/or have a chance to compete. So maybe they could justify the move. If they win the World Series in 2016 or 2017, it will have been worth it. But, if they crap and never get that ring, and are paying Greinke $35M in 2020 and 2021 (which they are on the hook for), well, let’s talk then.
Does losing Greinke increase the pressure and level of difficulty for Friedman and Farhan Zaidi? No question about it. But settle down. They didn’t low-ball the guy (ahem, Red Sox). They offered more than any other pitcher alive, save for his teammate. Arizona backed up the Brinks truck, and Greinke took the money and ran. As he should have. The Dodgers shouldn’t be blamed; Greinke (or, more accurately, his agents) should be commended. It wasn’t until Arizona depleted both its current and its future lineup to get Shelby Miller that their deal-making prowess was called into question. But, again, they simply rolled the dice. Only time will tell if that was a gamble worth taking.
With all of that said, the Dodgers better have a plan – more than Hisashi Iwakuma and Chase Utley. They better have something more up their sleeve then (not) trading for Aroldis Chapman. They better have purchased plane tickets to South Beach for Yasiel and Joc and Julio, and a suite at the Standard Downtown booked for Jose Fernandez. Because paying Johnny Cueto nine figures over six years ain’t gonna be enough to either win over the fan base or turn this team into a contender.
But I trust these guys. They made the right choice on Dave Roberts, they made the right choice on Zack Greinke, and they will make the right choices going forward. Be patient, o ye of little faith.
That said, I get it. It’s really hard to root for your team and/or raise your kid in a world where everything is available, and everyone is getting it/that/him, and you/your team/your kid is not.
We should all want our team leaders to be parents, to tell their children (read: fans) “I don’t care what Mikey got, I’m not Mikey’s parent; I’m not responsible for Mikey; and I’m sorry you feel that way. Now walk your 2015 LeBrons back to your room, put on your Under Armour sweatshirt, and play your X-Box until we are ready to go out for sushi.”
Unfortunately, Andrew Friedman cannot tell the Dodger fans that he is sorry they feel that way, that they should just quiet down, go home, and get ready for Kershaw and Opening Day. It would awesome if he could. It would be amazing if he could call a press conference, sit at the dais, and tell the Dodger fans: “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.”
But we can do that. So put that phrase in your back pocket; my guess is it will come in handy in the next couple of weeks.