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Friday, January 10, 2020

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-10-2020

Babe Ruth, quoted in the Pittsburgh Press, January 10, 1920:

[Red Sox owner Harry] Frazee is through in Boston and he knows it…Frazee cares nothing for the Boston baseball public and his actions show it.

I have always given the best I had. Frazee tries to alibi by saying that as a star I would be an obstacle to the club winning pennants. I have been with the Redsox six years, and in that time we won three pennants…I have always played for the interests of the [ballclub and Frazee] knows it. Take the Ruth day in Boston for instance, the Knights of Columbus, of which order I am a member turned out in a body to honor me and what did he do? He raised the price of the grandstand seats and held them up. After the game he called me into the office and gave me a nickel cigar for drawing 32,000 people into the park. I even paid for my wife to get in. He talks about shooting square. I guess he did by raising the prices on that day. He is lucky to have anybody in the park at all next year if he owns the ball club.
...
I am refused the privilege of playing in my favorite city all because the man who owns the club is money mad.

Somebody call the cops. Babe Ruth has just murdered Harry Frazee with words.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 10, 2020 at 10:16 AM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: babe ruth, dugout, history, terrible owners

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 10, 2020 at 10:17 AM (#5914473)
Today's Birthday Team would be a lot worse off if not for Beckwith and Jenkins. It's almost like baseball teams in the first half of the 20th century would have been improved by signing people regardless of their melanin level.

C: Johnny Peacock (1.8 WAR)
1B: Willie McCovey (64.5 WAR)
2B: Del Pratt (45.6 WAR)
3B: Adam Kennedy (21.0 WAR)
SS: John Beckwith (0.0 WAR, Negro Leagues star)
LF: Fats Jenkins (0.0 WAR, Negro Leagues star)
CF/Manager: Harry Wright (0.9 WAR, was 36 years old in 1871)
RF: Chick Stahl (31.7 WAR)

SP: Jim O'Toole (18.8 WAR)
SP: Richard Dotson (15.9 WAR)
SP: Cliff Chambers (8.2 WAR)
SP: Chuck Dobson (3.7 WAR)
SP: Ariel Miranda (1.5 WAR)
RP: Ted Bowsfield (2.3 WAR)

Not that one: John Houseman
Umpire: Wally Bell
   2. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: January 10, 2020 at 12:07 PM (#5914521)
I am loving these 100 year anniversary articles, especially lately with the Black Sox and Ruth.

Is there an alternate universe where the Sox don't sell Ruth, he doesn't play at all for a year or so while he rakes in big bucks in Vaudeville, barnstorming, etc., then tests the reserve clause in about 1922 instead of 1976?
   3. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 10, 2020 at 12:45 PM (#5914545)
Is there an alternate universe where the Sox don't sell Ruth, he doesn't play at all for a year or so while he rakes in big bucks in Vaudeville, barnstorming, etc., then tests the reserve clause in about 1922 instead of 1976?

Read Jane Leavy's The Big Fella and you'll get a sense of those possibilities. Ruth was the first athlete to make more in barnstorming, outside endorsements and other deals than he did from his baseball salary. And if he and Christy Walsh had been more alert to what the Curtiss Candy Co. was doing with Baby Ruth candy bars, before it was too late, he could've made a lot, lot more. It'll give you an idea of her slant on the Babe's life if you note that one of the four blurbs on the back of the dust jacket is by Scott Boras. (Bill James is another.)
   4. Walt Davis Posted: January 10, 2020 at 04:24 PM (#5914661)
I have at times toyed with the idea of writing alternate player histories as if arb/FA rules were in place before they were. Sorry Mets fans, you trade Seaver to the Reds even earlier.
   5. The Mighty Quintana Posted: January 11, 2020 at 12:13 PM (#5914773)
I am refused the privilege of playing in my favorite city all because the man who owns the club is money mad.


Ahh, thank god for 2004 or this would still be painful!
   6. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: January 11, 2020 at 12:41 PM (#5914778)
I have at times toyed with the idea of writing alternate player histories as if arb/FA rules were in place before they were. Sorry Mets fans, you trade Seaver to the Reds even earlier.


Start with Ernie Banks. By my reckoning, Banks qualifies for free agency after his second consecutive MVP after the 1959 season. Who does he sign with, and for how much, and does he become known as one of the worst FA signings in history?
   7. Walt Davis Posted: January 11, 2020 at 05:30 PM (#5914817)
Hmmmm .... Ernie. Once the Trib took over the Cubs were quite good about paying their stars (not good about going after big FAs) -- Sandberg, Dawson, Sosa, the rest of the 84 team ... not so much Maddux. But Wrigley was a skinflint so he probably does let Ernie walk. But my alternative FA tales also include arb buyout extensions and pre-FA trades. Both the 58 and 59 teams were under 500, finishing 5th. What's the point of a "Move for 72?" (The few I thought about I thought about in some detail; this one is more off the top of my head considering the scenarios)

1. A prescient Cubs team signs him to Luis Robert's contract (obviously no coffee in 53). That team gets 54 WAR for $88 M in today's dollars and Banks goes FA at 31 and the prescient Cubs team doesn't touch him but he makes a bundle (not sure with who ... that's one of the time-consuming parts). The Cubs have never been prescient so we can rule this one out.

2. A smart Cubs team signs him after 1954 -- 8.2 WAR, 44 HR. That's not gonna be cheap but Bregman seems a reasonable recent comp and he signed for 5/$100 (covering 2020-24) in March 2019 with 2+ years of service time following a 7 WAR year but his first full year was better than Ernie's. So something in that range for Banks covering his 4 remaining pre-FA years and 2 FA years. (Note Trout got 6/$145 over the same service years so Banks would not be getting much more than Bregman.) Still takes him through age 30 so they end up with about 54 WAR for $100 M.

2a. However, like the Angels and Red Sox, the Cubs are under a lot pressure to extend that contract early. 58-59 were Troutian seasons. If the Trib was in charge, Ernie would have gotten a massive extension, say 10/$320 for ages 29-38. Wrigley probably not but probably sufficiently pressured that he can't trade him.

3. So in either scenario 1 or scenario 2, Ernie becomes an FA following age 30. But a good bit of the shine has come off by then -- 7.9 WAR in 60 but only 4.6 in 61 and in 61 the knee issues are becoming apparent -- he misses about two weeks, he spends itme at LF and 1B but he is back at SS by August and he has surprisingly good TZ that year (+9) ... but he never played SS again after that year. If he gets a big FA offer it will be pending a physical and after that physical the offer will be reduced. He looks like Dawson when he came to the Cubs. The Cubs did reward Dawson reasonably well after the MVP blank check year, making him a top 10 paid player (per b-r). I don't think a modern team would be quite that generous to Banks though.

3a. Still, he looks better on paper than JD Martinez and the defense numbers suggest he should be a solid 3B for a few years. Goldschmidt has a 5/$130 starting in his age 32 season and he didn't look as good as Ernie when he signed that deal. Rendon just got 7/$245 covering ages 30-36 -- his age 29 better than Ernie's age 30 but Ernie kicks his but before that. We'd probably be looking at a min of 5/$140 up to 6/$180 with a shot at 6/$210. For that, the winning bidder would have gotten 11 WAR which is bad but not as bad as Ryan Howard or Josh Hamilton (adjusted for inflation). Figuring out who might sign him after 1961 would take a lot of time and not be particularly interesting (much more interesting who signs him after 59, discussed below.)

4. The Cubs never get the arb buyout. Our current comps for this scenario are Betts and Lindor. If they consider trading him before the first MVP in 1958 then he's Lindor. If he's still there after the first MVP then he's essentially Betts in the 58-59 season. He's slated to make $15-20 M in arb for 1958 and tops Betts' $27 M in 59 so he's not cheap. We haven't seen Lindor or Betts move yet.

4a. The Wrigley Cubs were generally terrible at drafting, developing and evaluating young talent but this period is an exception (maybe jsut lucky). B Williams debuts in 59, Santo in 60, Brock, Ellsworth and Hubbs in 61, picked up a young Don Cardwell in a smart trade in 60. So that Cub team probably does hold out for the sort of talent that apparently Cle and Bos are holding out for and so no deal gets made.

4b. But if a deal did get made? Figuring out which team and for what talent is one of the very time-consuming parts. Does he go to a rich team with prospects that tries to extend him? Or does he go to a Dodgers-type that is chasing a WS for a year or two? Or, as we've seen with some FAs, does he actually end up in some competitive smaller market for those 1-2 seasons?

5. So now Ernie becomes an FA entering age 29 with 2 MVPs. His simple Marcel for 1960 is 8.9 WAR (he had 7.9). His TZ was off the charts in 59 (+23) but always rated well and, as noted, he still put up a +9 in 1960 despite the knees. He's a year younger than Rendon; he's older than Machado but projects way, way better. Now even Trout didn't bust things wide open but if Rendon can get 7/$245 then this Ernie gets at least 8/$280. He can probably force the 9th year to push it to 9/$300-$310. Trout probably serves as a hard barrier for AAV so it's unlikely he could go much past that but a 10th year can't be ruled out (taking him through age 38). He actually had a solid age 36 and a nice age 37 (3.5 WAR) so let's assume the team gets all of that so that's 27 WAR for $300 M.

5a. So that's not really that terrible of a deal at about $11 M per WAR. That's not good but by FA disasters, not bad at all. It's mainly because he was still a monster at 29 and very good at 30 (12.5 WAR across those years). There's drudgery for ages 31-35 before the age 36-37 bounce with plenty of electrons spent on how much salary the team will have to eat to move Banks.

5b. So not Pujols who is at just 14 WAR for the Angels (and we'd need to adjust that contract for inflation to compare with my Banks numbers. In total value, it would be about the same as Cano who gave Seattle everything they were looking for in the first 5 years of the contract (24 WAR) but the last 5 years is looking worse than expected; Ernie's production had a different shape though so the "Seattle" half wasn't quite as nice while the "Mets" half was OK. Comparing with those, I don't think either Pujols or Cano would get 10 years today ... if Banks had gone FA around the time they did then, being 2-3 years younger and looking noticeably better than Pujols and even better than Cano, Ernie would have gotten at least 10 years (through 38) or maybe even 12 (through 40 which is what Cano got) and even more money. So in Pujols/Cano terms, Ernie would have been at least 10/$270 I think, making him exactly Cano's equal on a $/WAR basis (assuming Cano doesn't add much from here).

5c. As to who does he sign with -- that's another very time-consuming part. They need to be wealthy enough but, as we know, that can be a Seattle, Anaheim, San Diego, Philly. They need a SS and probably don't have a great young 3B so Ernie can move there as he ages. (Another interesting alternative reality question is whether Ernie moves to 3B if Santo isn't there ... again, his SS defensive numbers still looked good.) Presumably they expect to compete over the next three years (although San Diego didn't look competitive even with Machado). Ideally you'd even take a guesstimate at how much payroll room the team would have.

So ... the Dodgers are an obvious candidate. They won the 59 pennant but can feel the Braves breathing down their necks. (Although the Pirates came out of nowhere in 60, the Reds out of nowhere in 61 and the Giants out of nowhere in 62.) They split SS between Zimmer and Wills (already turning 27 and can't hit) and have the aging, average Gilliam at 3B. The downside is that the lineup has gotten old although they have some excellent young pitching in Drysdale, Podres, Stan Williams and a solid swingman or potential #4 in Koufax (Gerrit Cole?).

The Braves aren't a great candidate with Mathews already at 3B and the old but still pretty good Johnny Logan at SS. Might depend on Mathews' contract status plus signing Banks probably means they will have to let at least one of Mathews and Aaron go unless they've got some team-friendly extensions already in place (obviously it is OOTP level of complicated to figure out all that stuff). The Giants seem like a good dark horse NL candidate -- jealous of the Dodgers, want to win in the Mays window (who's on a Troutian contract presumably). They don't have a SS for years although 3B Jim Davenport eventually has a couple of good seasons. If Banks goes to the Giants, they probably make a Cepeda vs. McCovey decision sooner ... but as Banks knees get worse, they might need 1B open.

Of course the AL 1959 pennant winners were the Go Go Sox. Chicago papers would have been going nuts if Banks was an FA that offseason. The Sox would probably stick with Aparicio at SS but have a hole at 3B. But the Sox have always been cheap bastards and it's hard to see them putting up the dough.

The Yanks are obviously in play and are about to win 5 straight pennants. They do have Kubek at SS and Clete Boyer on the way at 3B but those guys wouldn't block Banks (and Kubek could move to 2B). If/when the move to 1B is necessary, Joe Pepitone's night life takes a hit when he's traded to the KC A's.

Cleveland was very good in 59 so might be a surprise team. They'd have to figure out whether Banks or the very good Woodie Held played SS. But they've always been cheap too so hard to see that one happening. Finally Det, Bos and the emerging O's all seem like reasonable candidates.

One final challenge in doing something like this is how much stuff do you move into the future. In general, I use today's dollars just as the easy way to reference contract value but try to keep other stuff the same. In this case, a possible issue is that the AL at this stage is still very white. Banks in Bos in 1960? Probably not. I wouldn't use it to decrease Banks's contract value (although that quite probably would have happened in "reality") but Milw, LA, SF and Cleveland had already shown themselves as very open to black players and would probably have been more attractive destinations for Banks and probably would have been more willing to sign him.

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