Orlando Hudson thinks there is racism in baseball that supersedes a club’s desire to win. He didn’t come out and say those words, but that is pretty easy to infer by his recent comments regarding the jobless state of aging sluggers Jermaine Dye and Gary Sheffield. Here is a taste of his recent comments to media:
“You see guys like Jermaine Dye without a job. Guy with [27 home runs and 81 RBIs] and can’t get a job. Pretty much sums it up right there, no? You’ve got some guys who miss a year who can come back and get $5, $6 million, and a guy like Jermaine Dye can’t get a job. A guy like Gary Sheffield, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, can’t get a job. …
“We both know what it is. You’ll get it right. You’ll figure it out. I’m not gonna say it because then I’ll be in [trouble].”
“Call it what you want to,” Hudson said. “I ain’t fit to say it. After I retire I’ll say it. I’ve got a whole bunch of stuff to say after I retire.”
What Orlando is saying here has no merit, plain and simple.
In the case of Jermaine Dye – he is 36-years old, had a miserable second half last year, can’t play the outfield, and is demanding close to $10 million (plus he is a Type-A free agent, meaning the team that signs him is going to have to give up a couple draft picks to sign a 36-year old one-year rental). Before the season, Jermaine Dye turned down a reported one-year, $3 million dollar deal with the Cubs, so they signed Xavier Nady at a similar price. More recently, he reportedly turned down an offer from the Washing Nationals for around the same amount, and another report says talks stalled with the Brewers shortly before spring training, too. Not being able to find a job is different that turning down what you deem unworthy job offers. But the real reason that Jermaine Dye can’t find a job is because he is 36-years old and in the post-steroid era, GMs are watching and waiting for that sudden and rapid decline in production that is linked to a player in their mid-to-upper 30s. And in their opinion they saw it happen with Jermaine in the second half last year – .194/.274/.414.
I imagine that Orlando’s biggest issue is with Orioles signing of Garrett Atkins for $4.5 million and San Francisco’s signing of Aubrey Huff for $3 million. Atkins, 30, hit just .222/.308/.342 last year, but has a 162-game big league average of .288/.353/.456. Huff, 33, hit .304/.360/.552 with the Orioles in 2008, but hit just .241/.310/.384 between Toronto and Detroit last year. The biggest difference here is that Atkins and Huff had quality agents who clearly said – you get a deal you sign that thing before the ink is dry. Atkins inked his deal December 22nd and Huff signed his contract January 10th, and you can assume, as with most contract negotiations, they were committed to signing a couple weeks before putting their pen to paper. Huff and Atkins are also both younger and play both corner infield positions (and if Huff’s case, hits left-handed). Oh yeah, plus neither player qualified for a Type-A or Type-B free agent, so the teams that signed them didn’t have to give up any draft picks – big difference between that and Dye, who is a Type-A.
When you take a look at Atkins stats, in particular, it is a sign of the times that the gigantic contracts for mediocrity are gone. If he had put together any kind of decent year in his contract year and this was 2003 and not 2010, he would have gotten a five-year deal for $8 or $9mm per year. But when you look a the effect of the economy in baseball as well as the effect of the post-steroid era and the hesitancy to hand out long-term deals to players over 30 (not to mention 35), it is no wonder these guys are diving for whatever scraps they can get on the free agent market.
Right now the role of the agent should be simple. Inform your players – teams are investing in scouting and the draft, not the free agent market; no one wants to sign Type-As or Type-Bs for one-year, and once teams fill their spots, your value is going to go off a cliff (ask Johnny Damon). Teams are also going to pay you based on what they think you can do, not what you’ve already done. What happened to Jermaine Dye? He waited around for the better offer and teams got tired of dealing with his unrealistic expectations. The Orioles, Cubs, and Giants got their guy and removed themselves from the bidding and flushed Jermaine’s value down the toilet.
Beggars can’t be choosers, but they can’t be whiners, either. Just ask Randy Winn, who hit .262 with 2 home runs last year and still got $2 million from the Yankees. I don’t hear anyone banging the drum on Randy’s raw deal.