For those Kendall haters - or those who don't understand (warning: long)
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| By asch on Monday, May 16, 2005 - 01:37 pm:|
This is a paper my friend wrote - he's a HUGE Pirates fan and just all around great baseball fan, very knowledgable.
I asked him why a light hitting catcher got the big contract he got. Below is his response.
There is some bad language and it's long -that's about the only warning.
It's a good paper on baseball economics, kendall and a small market team.......
Pittsburgh Pirate General Manager Cam Bonifay signed Jason Kendall to a six-year, sixty million dollar contract. The contract was one that was weighted heavily towards the tail end of the contract. The first three years Kendall earned six million, then eight million, then ten million. In the final three years the numbers go like this:
Iím assuming that Bonifay slanted the contract so heavily towards the tail because he had some other pretty big salaries at the time that he signed Kendall. Bonifay probably figured that heíll get a little relief in the first three years of the contract and then figure things out by the time the contract was halfway done. But it certainly didnít help any in trying to trade him for the least few years. Every trade fell through because there was this constant negotiating about how much money would go along in the trade or who would eat what portions of whose contracts. Bonifay was a horrible general manager and made some of the most boneheaded moves in Pirates history. He was fired in June of 2001, about six months after the Kendall signing.
At the time that Kendall signed his sixty million dollar contract, it was not so rare to get a deal of this size. This was a long time before all of those ďone year, one million dollarĒ contracts were common. This was a time when superstars were getting twenty million per season, for 6-8 years. Giambi with the Yanks, A Rod with Texas, those fucking contracts were ridiculous.
Baseball was back and business was booming. After the 1994 strike, business was bad for a few years, then everyone started spiking their veins full of steroids and homeruns were flying! The chase of Marisís homerun record by McGwire and Sosa in 1998 really brought baseball back into the limelight and business really began to pickup. Owners were locking up their superstars to massive deals left and right.
So, if you take Kendallís contract at six years for sixty million dollars it averages ten million per season. If you take A Rodís twenty-five million for ten years it averages twenty five million per season. Now I am not trying to justify that any of these douche bags deserves ten million per season, LET ALONE FUCKING TWENTY FIVE MILLION!!! Iím just trying to give you a little context.
So in essence, Kendall earns forty per cent of what Alex Rodriguez earns. Now you are probably thinking to your self that even that is insane. Is Kendall 40% the player that A Rod is? With the numbers that Kendall put up the last few years, maybe he is 40% as good as A Rod, maybe not. But now letís go back to the time that Kendall got his contract.
I know that you are aware that Kendall is slumping horribly right now. Donít let that take away from his previous accomplishments. And you know the kind of numbers that he put up recently. But I am also pretty sure that up until this year, you never really watched him on a day to day basis. It sucks that you have been watching him for 6 weeks now and he has flat out sucked.
There was a time when Kendall was one of the true superstars of the game. If he had played in a big market city, he really would have been a big name. Before we get to his actual stats, he is a guy that always has a dirty uniform, slides head first, gives maximum effort, is gritty, tough, has started a few fights in situations where he really feels disrespected. He was an incredible defensive catcher, who had a strong presence and knew how to work with pitchers and call a game even as a rookie. He never really had a great arm but in the beginning of his career he was very fast with his throws and that helped compensate, so he was OK at throwing runners out. He is a second generation player, son of a longtime catcher, he grew up around the game and his work ethic showed it. He was also a catcher with speed. He could steal bases, bat leadoff or second, he was a true rarity for a catcher. He also doesnít strike out almost ever, has an almost .400 OBP and frequently leads the league in hit by pitches. He loves to lean into pitches and get on base. He plays hurt, rarely misses a game with the exception of the one year where he broke his leg in half.
So, on to his actual stats. Here are his numbers in the three years leading up to his contract:
G AB R H HR RBI SB AVG OBP
1998 149 535 95 175 12 75 26 .327 .412
1999 74 280 61 93 8 41 22 .332 .428
2000 152 579 112 185 14 58 24 .320 .412
Now, keep in mind that in 1999, he broke his leg and missed half the year, he only played in 74 games. Iíd say that we could safely predict that had he not gotten injured he could have doubled the numbers that he put up that season. So, letís double his stats for 1999 and insert them in there:
G AB R H HR RBI SB AVG OBP
1998 149 535 95 175 12 75 26 .327 .412
1999 148 560 122 186 16 82 44 .332 .428
2000 152 579 112 185 14 58 24 .320 .412
Those are some pretty fucking impressive numbers. Letís average those together for those three seasons:
G AB R H HR RBI SB AVG OBP
3 Year Avg 150 558 110 182 14 72 31 .326 .417
Those are the numbers that got Kendall his contract; those are the numbers that the Piratesí ownership was expecting/projecting for the next six years.
When I look at those numbers the only player that comes to mind (that played during our lifetime) is Roberto Alomar. Iím not saying that there arenít players who put up better overall numbers, but those numbers look pretty much like what Alomar did in hid prime. During the prime of Alomarís career he was earning eight million per season, so yes it is less than Kendallís ten mil per. However, Alomar is older than Kendall by about ten years so he played during somewhat different economic baseball conditions. If Kendall could have continued to put up numbers like those, he would have gone down as one of the greatest catchers of all time.
What Went Wrong
There were a few things that went wrong.
1. Kendallís broken leg from the 1999 season. He has never been the same player that he was before the injury. During the 2000 season he was right back in form, he didnít miss a beat. It was after that when things started to decline. His explanation was that when he healed and was given clearance to begin playing, everything was fine. He said he felt better than ever. It was after the 2000 season that he began having problems with the leg in the spot where he broke it. If you donít remember his injury it was one of those ďJoe Theisman/Tim Krumrie/Geoff JenkinsĒ breaks where the bone is sideways sticking out of the skin. It was absolutely horrific. He was running down the line to first base, his foot hit the bag wrong and it twisted his leg to where the bone was showing. It was fucking nasty.
Anyway, he completely lost his running game as a result. No more stolen bases, no more going from first to third on a single, no more infield hits. That was one of the most unique facets his game. It is so rare to have a catcher that can steal bases and is not a liability on the basepaths. Without the running in his arsenal, he immediately becomes a lot less valuable.
2. PNC Park. In 2001 The Bucs opened up PNC and there went some more elements of his game.
One of the reasons that he was able to keep his average consistently near .330 was the Astroturf at Three Rivers Stadium. He was like the Cardinals of the 80ís (Willie McGee, Lonnie Smith, Ozzie Smith, Tommy Herr) in that he purposely swung at a lot of low pitches. He would pull a ton of ground balls down the line that would whiz past the thirdbaseman because the turf would give the ball all of that extra momentum. The same would happen if he sliced a low pitch on the ground down the firstbase line. This led to a lot of extra singles, doubles and triples. When Three Rivers closed and he began to play on the grass at PNC, all of those grounders turned into outs. It totally showed as his average went from .320 in 2000 to .266 in 2001. That is a fifty four point dropoff, not good. The grass just slows the ball down so much. Then, a lot of other teams followed suit and followed the trend that had been happening, of opening a new stadium with grass as opposed to turf. So now even on the road, most of the turf stadiums were gone. Also, now with his speed gone, even if there was a grounder that he used to have a shot at legging it out, he didnít have a shot anymore. He just doesnít have the speed from before his broken leg. So, if you canít run and you are going to bat .266, youíve just gone from Jason Kendall to Toby Hall. Yikes! But, Kendall is a gamer and a ballbuster. So he changed his approach to hitting. He worked tirelessly to stop swinging at low pitches and go for the higher stuff. The result is that he doesnít ground out much anymore. He now loops the ball either over the shortstop or over the second baseman. They are like soft little liners that fall in front of the outfielders, that is about all he does with the bat nowadays. However he has embraced it. Since his .266 season in 2001 his average has continued to climb to where it used to be:
PNC park also has a ridiculously deep left field. Goodbye homeruns. He never hit a ton to begin with, but he could hit the power alley at Three Rivers. At PNC there was no way he could hit any bombs.
Other injuries. He began having all of the long term problems with his hands that most catchers get. He essentially played the entire 2003 season in need of thumb surgery. He could hardly even grip a bat, but he gutted it out and played the whole year. Was this a smart move? Not necessarily. Could it have hurt the team? Possibly, but we really didnít have another option at catcher. He had his surgery in the off-season and came back to hit .325 the following season.
The New Ownership/Rebuilding the Pirates
This will really explain the rest of the reasons why he got a six year, sixty million dollar contract.
After suffering through a lot of bad years, the Pirates were attempting to ring in a new era of baseball. New ownership (McClatchy), a new stadium (PNC Park) and a new, young, hungry team with a lot of promise.
The Pirates won the World Series in 1979 and it has pretty much sucked to be a Pirates fan ever since. In the 80ís we were a horrible team, with multiple 100 loss seasons. We had the Pittsburgh cocaine scandal where half of the team got into trouble of varying degrees for all sorts of different shit.
However in 1986, the Pirates brought up a young outfielder named Barry Bonds. Things began to turn around. Not quickly, but things began to improve. They cleaned house a bit with some of their older talent and they had a very successful rebuild. Their general manager at the time was Ted Simmons, a real baseball guy, not some bullshit business man. He traded Rick Rhoden to the Yanks for Doug Drabek, Brian Fischer and Cecilio Guante. He traded their most popular player of the 80ís, who was in the prime of his career in Tony Pena. But what they got in return was Andy Van Slyke, Mike La Valliere and Mike Dunne (who was a lefty starter that pitched great for two years and then flamed out). He traded Jose Deleon to the White Sox for a young third base prospect named Bobby Bonilla. Hr traded shortstop Felix Fermin to Cleveland for a shortstop prospect named Jay Bell. Jim Leyland was the skipper and he pulled the strings just right and made the team gel.
This Pittsburgh Pirates team went on to win the NL East three consecutive years from 1990-1992. They had the best record in baseball in two of those years including two 100 win seasons. They were awesome and a fun team to follow. And you know what we have to show for it? THE BIG FUCKING ZERO!!! We got punked three straight times in the playoffs. First by the Reds and then twice by the Braves. It was awful. It was embarrassing. But more importantly, it was over. Economics were rapidly changing. The team needed to be dismantled because the small market Pirates just couldnít pay the players. The Pirate ownership promised the fans a three year rebuilding program that would have the Bucs younger and more competitive than ever. The fans werenít buying it.
So out went Bonds, out went Bonilla, out went Drabek, out went everybodyÖexcept for Jay Bell. They were able to hang onto him for a few more years. But most importantly, out went the fans. Attendance dropped, season ticket sales dropped. The fans just couldnít understand how the Bucs could replace Barry Bonds with a washed up Lonnie Smith and expect to compete. But, low and behold the Bucs went with a youth movement and they began to compete. Al Martin, Jeff King, Jay Bell, Orlando Merced, Denny Neagle, Carlos Garcia, they were getting pretty good. They never had a great record but they were improving. So what happens? They gutted them again. As soon as any of them commanded any decent salaries, they got rid of them. Bell and King went to KC, Neagle went to Atlanta etc. etc. The fans were devastated. What happened to the three year rebuilding program? Well, they started all over again.
There was all sorts of talk about the Pirtaes moving to another city. There were about six or eight different cities that were strongly rumored to be possibilities. There was even talk about the Pirates being contracted. It was almost surreal because while some Pittsburgh sports fans were going crazy at the possibility of losing the Bucs, it seemed like even more fans were saying ďgood riddance.Ē It was like they had just had enough of the bullshit. Well, this is where Kevin McClatchy bought the Pirates and saved them from contraction. He was young, a big Pirates fan, very wealthy and more importantly he was willing to spend. He promised that he would save the Pirates and spend money in order to put a quality product out on the field. He promised not to let the home grown talent, like Barry Bonds, walk away when they are free agents. He promised lo lock up his key players to long term deals.
This is where Kendall steps into the picture. When he came up in 1996 he was a huge fan favorite. His blue collar style of play and gritty attitude was a big hit in the Burgh. He was the complete opposite of the prima donna Barry Bonds. He got ripped off at the end of his first year when they gave the Rookie of the Year to fucking Todd Hollandsworth.
Along comes 1997. The Bucs are mediocre most of the season but they are playing in a horribly weak NL Central division. Sure enough, the Bucs get hot and go on a run during August and September. They end up finishing in second place in their division. Houston ended up beating us by about three games but it went down to the final weekend of the season. So the fans were left hungry at the end of the season, but we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The team was once again improving. So the Pirates make a few more moves in the off season to try to bolster down the weak spots. Another year or two go by and now it is time for Kendall to get a contract.
So, Kendall gets the six year, sixty million dollar deal. A lot was expected from him, a lot was expected from the team. They began to lock up their key players, like McClatchy promised. They wanted to show the fans that they were not going to let Kendall and the other players that they were now fielding just walk away. McClatchy promised to continue to increase the payroll and go after better free agents.
The team was once again on the right track. Their roster was beginning to look pretty solid. They had Brian Giles and Jose Guillen in the outfield. Kevin Young, Aramis Ramirez and Tony Womack in the infield. Kendall behind the plate and starters like Jason Schmidt, Esteban Loaiza, Jon Lieber, Kris Benson and Mike Williams as a closer.
We were a few pieces and a manager away from being a contender.
So what happened? As soon as the team struggled a little he showed no commitment. He basically said that this team stinks and it will not improve. McClatchy decides to completely change his strategy. He decides that rather than continue to increase the payroll, he would AGAIN, gut the team, slash salaries and pay guys the major league minimum if possible. This was in 2001 . He did it again in 2003.
Anyway, now I am just ranting about Kevin McClatchy and that state of Pirates baseball in general.
So, while Kendall certainly isnít worth ten million dollars a season nowadays, this essay should at least make you understand how it happened. I really believe that had Kendall continued to do what he was doing in the beginning of his career and had the economics of the game stayed the same, then his contract would have been justified. When you look at what he earns now in terms of todayís market and the type of numbers that he puts up now, it is a joke.
So, in essence the reasons that Kendall got such big money are:
At the time he got his contract, it was pretty common. Big contracts were normal.
He was a much better and more complete player back then. There were no holes in his game.
The new ownership wanted to show loyalty to the fans. They had already gutted the team a few times recently. This time was supposed to be different. They were to keep their homegrown talent, continue to grow the payroll and become a winning team.
| By eyleenn on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 12:33 pm:|
Read the whole thing. Very good analysis. It's surprising to me how much the Pirates have in common with the A's.
I remember hearing Kendall on radio with Jim Rome and how Rome raved about the guy for his grit and attitude.
No one is worth the $$ being paid to Kendall, but he is still one of the better catchers out there.
| By sactodavey on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 12:47 pm:|
yea like last night droping an out by the back stop, he is not worth 3 mill a yr.
beans worse trade to date
| By asch on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 01:03 pm:|
Sacto, you crack me up.
Look at Ramon's offensive numbers the years he was here. He has ONE good year and petered out at the end. I also remember he was afraid to get dirty and block the plate.
Kendall is one of the best offensive catchers around - he just doesn't have the power. He'll get his swing back.
| By beaneball on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 02:32 pm:|
What about the fact that he's 5 for 39 in throwing out baserunners? That is completely pathetic.
| By sactodavey on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 05:06 pm:|
Ramon had trouble blockin the plate but how many times does a catcher really do that in a season? he was great at throwin runners out.
kendall has been a complete joke wish we had d. miller and our 11 million dollars back.
| By washfan on Tuesday, May 17, 2005 - 05:13 pm:|
Ramon had trouble blockinG the plate.....yeah, try was a total pussy at that part of his job. I remember one time Rincon went to back up the plate and actually tagged the runner while blocking the plate!