Hang on just a minute. If anyone thinks baseball has cornered the market when it comes to handing out ridiculous contracts, look no further than the deal Alabama just awarded Nick Saban, $32 million for eight years. Guaranteed. This is a college football coach we're talking here, one who incidentally hasn't hung around very long at any of his previous posts, college or professional, and who has no history at this particular university. Eight year guaranteed contracts would be a stretch even for coaches with a long tenure at an institution, and Alabama has been burning through enough of them in the recent past that one would think they'd learned a lesson. Apparently not. Eight year guaranteed contracts might as well carry the subtitle "Coach for Life", something that puts Saban on the same level as Bear Bryant...at least until they blow the whistle and kick off.
Oh, and by the way, the contract calls for up to $4 million in bonuses should a Saban-coached Tide roll into a bowl game.
No word at this point on how the deal is being viewed in the Chemistry Department, but we can guess.
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Ruben Amaro has never struck me as a particular astute baseball man, but then, I've always given him the benefit of the doubt because he is the Phillies' assistant GM and thus not really calling the shots. Moreover, whenever GM positions open up in other cities, Amaro's name is frequently mentioned, so somebody out there must be impressed. After yesterday's comment about Ryan Howard's contract status with the team, you can put me down as definitely not undecided. Amaro gets no more benefits from this quarter; he isn't smart or diplomatic enough. Asked what the organization planned to do about Howard's contract given his monster year and his bargain-basement salary, Amaro bluntly stated "We're not doing something on Ryan Howard. He's not our priority."
Let's review Howard's role on this team apart from leading them in most offensive categories and Awards won since his arrival.
He is undoubtedly the face of the organization, literally, his image plastered everywhere. Did anyone in, say, Denver, give a damn what the Phillies did day-in and day-out in 2006? Next question. Did those same fans wonder whether or not Howard homered the night before? Did teams pitch around Bobby Abreu, Pat Burrell or Chase Utley?
Let's take another approach. Can anyone recall broadcasters, reporters and commentators speaking so fondly of a local athlete, not just for his production on the field but for the way he carried himself, especially when everyone with a microphone or notepad wanted a piece of him? Even in Japan the fans and media could not get enough of this guy. Neither could his teammates in Philadelphia and among the touring MLB stars.
Let's get mercenary here, which is presumably what Amaro had in his narrow mind. When the Phillies push ticket sales this off-season and beyond, who are they going to dangle in front of prospective fans as the biggest enticement to come out to the ballpark? At at time when local sports heroes are dropping like flies or departing altogether, Howard stands out for his performance and personality.
"Not our priority"?
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It looks like Carlos Ruiz is the backup. None other than the Phillies web site has anointed Rod Barajas the starter and tutor to the younger Ruiz. It's hard to figure out what it is the alleged brain trust of the Phillies does not like about Ruiz, but clearly something is sticking in their collective craw. Hopefully, what we have here is merely another situation that resembles the slow integration of a rookie into the starting lineup, something the Phillies excel at. Ruiz showed he can hit at the major league level when given steady at-bats. Whether or not the pitchers like the way he handles them is something harder to determine, but based on his late season appearances in 2006, Ruiz earned the nod. Nevertheless, Charlie Manuel prefers veterans and may not want the inexperienced Ruiz handling a pitching staff with two newcomers and a few temperamental holdovers.