Tuesday, January 22, 2008

They Just Don't Get It.

Ryan Howard and the Phillies clearly do not see eye-to-eye on money. Prior to the start of last season Howard was reportedly upset the Phillies failed to offer him a salary in excess of one million dollars following his winning the MVP award. Instead, they offered him $900,000, a figure that represented an enormous raise while tying him (with Albert Pujols) for the highest salary every paid to a player with less than two years major league experience. Still, many thought, including this observer, the Phillies could have upped the price to the magic number if only to keep their big guy happy. Gestures, alas, are not the Phillies' strong suit.

This winter, Howard, who is eligible for arbitration for the first time, and the Phillies are far apart on money again, Howard reportedly seeking $10 million and the team countering with $7 million. If the two sides even discussed a long-term deal, no one is acknowledging the conversation took place. Meanwhile, the Phillies have previously signed some of their other core players to long-term deals of varying lengths. Speculation is rampant in these parts that should the negotiations proceed to the arbitration panel Howard will win his case. After all, he won the ROY and MVP in successive seasons and followed those with 48 home runs and 136 rbi's in his third year. No one in baseball has hit more long balls and driven in more runs during that stretch, and if you think the paying public doesn't come to see long balls, what are the origins of the fuss over steroids about?

If the arbiters do side with Howard he may very well be content to sign a series of one year deals after that until he reaches free agency. If things get that far, he's gone for sure. For their part, the Phillies seem content to offer Howard short-term money that puts him at or near the top of his category each time negotiations get underway but not more. They just don't get it. This is the guy people come to see. Yes, we love the way Chase plays the game. Sure, Jimmy is the spark plug. But no one wants to be standing in line at the mens' room when Howard comes to bat. After all, how many chances do we earthlings get to watch moon shots?

But the Phillies just don't seem to get it. They don't have to pay Howard the [admittedly crazy] money he deserves and until now they've shown absolutely no willingness to do so. Howard felt disrespected during last season's negotiations and he doesn't feel any better about his treatment during this one. Some guys put those things behind them. Howard won't. By my estimation, the Phillies have about one or two more weeks before the poison the atmosphere forever. They just don't get it and shortly they won't be given another chance to figure things out.


SirAlden said...


David said...

The problem here is that the Phillies' primary allegiance is not to their players or their fans: it is to Bud Selig. Bill Giles and David Montgomery have closer than close ties to the MLB hierarchy, moreso than any other franchise besides perhaps the Brewers themselves. It's the commissioner's office the Phillies have in mind when they refuse to pay draft picks a cent above the going rate, or when they steadfastly adhere to 'service time' structural mantras. It's not that the Phillies won't 'think outside the box'; they *are* the box, or at least consent to conduct themselves in firm accord with the wishes of Selig & co. This is the reality which is responsible for the Phillies' refusal to push for a championship-caliber team, and which will almost certainly be responsible for driving Ryan Howard out of town before his time.

I have my own reservations about the ultimate contractual worth of Howard; I don't believe he's the type of player whose actual, performance-based value is equivalent to commandeering approximately a sixth of the overall payroll, which is what it'd work out to if he got the kind of long-term deal he'll want. But for now, his asking price is more than reasonable. It is ignorant, it is shameful of the Phillies to not acknowledge a) how much money they have made off Howard's image alone, while it is liberally trumpeted all over merchandise, banners, video games, and promotional appearances out the wazoo - not to mention how much ticket revenue and positive public relations (particularly with the African-American community) his mere presence on the roster has generated; b) how much money they cost him by keeping his career in reserve while Jim Thome was brought in as a hired hand for the New Ballpark's gala premiere; and c) that three full years have passed since Albert Pujols, with similar 'service time' credentials, was offered $7 million. How much more disingenuous could this management group be than to suggest that amount *then* is equivalent to the value it holds *now*, when the salary structure keeps exponentially expanding with each ensuing off-season?

My friend called yesterday from New Jersey, wanted to know what it would take for me to come into town for Opening Day. I said, just tell me that they're dropping Montgomery and Giles from a helicopter with the ceremonial first balls, and I'll be there.

Tom Goodman said...

Absolutely wonderful closing lines. Always a pleasure to read your comments.

SirAlden said...

Beautifully written.

A week has passed and what is becoming clear now is that Howard and his Agents, rightly or wrongly, would not accept a 7 year, 85 million Dollar Chase Utley type contract, or maybe even a 7 year, 100 million dollar Pujols type contract.

While one can argue that Howard is unique, and the Phillies certainly "owe him", Howard risks 50 Million Dollars by not locking in.

The Yankees never extended Jeter, and that did not create rancor.
I just hope that Howard can do well and just not get stuck the way A-Rod or T. Owens did.