Sunday, March 02, 2008

Feeling Disrespected

Grapefruit League question of the day:

Just how eternal doth hope spring if you have to hand the ball to Adam Eaton every fifth day?

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There are few if any beat writers in MLB more even-tempered and fair-minded than the Inquirer's Jim Salisbury so it was more than a little noteworthy this AM that he minced no words in taking Cole Hamels to task for complaining about the contract the Phils renewed with the young southpaw. Here are a few samples from Salisbury's piece:

Cry no tears for Cole Hamels.

Hamels, frankly, sounds spoiled and out of touch when he talks of being slighted by the deal, when he hints that he'll hold it against the club in the future. What does that mean? He's going to walk when he becomes a free agent after the 2012 season?

Hamels needs to take a deep breath and do his history homework. He needs to learn from what Howard went through last year.

This contract renewal shouldn't be getting Hamels down. But if he wakes up this morning still feeling slighted, he needs to get over it quickly.

and finally,

Pretty soon, the system will favor Hamels and he will have his say.

In the meantime, he's being treated fairly this season. Go pitch.

Those are strong words for Salisbury and, frankly, Hamels deserved every one of them. As it turns out, Hamels isn't the only unhappy budding star out there this morning. The Brewer's Prince Fielder is also feeling "disrespected" by the $670,000 salary at which his team renewed him.

The whole matter of salary being tied to respect, not just to performance and in this era length of service, is the new wrinkle in professional sports. Baseball players have complained about being underpaid since, well, probably Abner Doubleday may or may not have excluded them from revenue sharing, but their arguments always centered on performance. When told in 1928 he was being paid more than the President of the United States, Babe Ruth is reported to have said "I had a better year than he did!" It was all about performance then . Now, the complaints grow louder with each passing season and emanate from younger and less experienced players each Spring who feel slighted by management not just for what they've done but for who they are.

The crux of the matter seems to hinge not on length of service or performance but on gestures. A player like Hamels, who has 1.5 years of major league service under his belt and who is still at least year away from salary arbitration, is in no position at this juncture of his career to demand bigger money but as the Phillies' top starter last season and putative number one guy in 2008 he believes in his heart the Phillies should have shown him more respect and made the appropriate gesture of paying him a few hundred thousand dollars more than they finally did. Length of service be damned, his argument goes. I'm good!!

Last year many people including this observer felt the Phillies would have been doing the right thing by increasing Ryan Howard's salary to an even one million dollars instead of the final figure of $900,000, but in his case the argument was buttressed by a few incontrovertible facts, namely, he'd followed his ROY honors with an MVP season of prodigious proportions. The additional $100,000 might have been a gesture by some accounts, but strictly speaking the facts in the case were compelling: Howard's performance kept getting bigger and better.

When he didn't get the respect he deserved, Howard pouted. Make no mistake about it, his injured quads weren't the only reason he got off to a bad start. He came to camp a little too beefy and more than a little too out-of-sorts and it took him a long time to get over it.

Hamels' performance has also improved with each passing month, not year, but he still has a lot more to prove including whether or not he can stay healthy and whether or not he can keep the ball in the park, especially Citizens Bank Park. Lest we forget, Hamels also complained somewhat bitterly last year that the Phillies didn't provide a chiropractor's services and he hinted that contributed to his health problems. Let the record show the Phillies now have a chiropractor on staff at their expense.

Salisbury is right on when he advises Hamels to "Go pitch".


Anonymous said...

I don't see Eaton making this team, or at the very least having anywhere near the leash he had last year. I think we can look for another of those extended, unexplained disabled-list stints. If Kris Benson can break 80 on the radar gun, he'll be going north. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if Carlos Carrasco is in the rotation by the middle of the season.

I, too, was surprised by the uncharacteristically emphatic writing from Salisbury. However, while I was loath to give Cocky Cole much sympathy for his ill-timed 'precautionary' shut-down late last season, I kind of see his point this time around - just as I and a lot of people saw Ryan Howard's last season. 'Service time' aside, it's simply a gesture, an acknowledgement of importance, to go a little above and beyond the standard renewal - something that would have cost the team a proportionately negligible amount of money, and which would have gone a long way to cement the idea that the organization is really behind the player. Now, you've stuck some doubt in his mind. Is that really necessary? Look at what the Rockies are doing - going out of their way to reward their young players with extended contracts well before such it's technically necessary. You can cite whatever underlying motive for this you may choose, but it's the polar opposite approach they are taking with a young nucleus than the Phillies. The players around the game notice it, and certainly the fans in Denver notice it. I don't think it's appropriate to step in and defend the Phillies for their customary bottom-line ways simply because Hamels has further revealed himself as one inclined not to check himself before shooting his mouth off.


Anonymous said...

crying doesn't get me what i want at my workplace.these KIDS need to realize that by their pouting and whining THEY are disrespecting the game they only play at for what,maybe 6 months?when the N.B.A. went on strike i never even looked back.let ALL the,ahem, professional athletes get out and work a 40 hour a week job and THAT will shut their crying up but fast!! coffey in ga.

Tom Goodman said...

The beat goes on with these contract renewals by the clubs. Jeff Francoeur of the Braves took his in stride (as did his agent) while Nick Markakis of the O's and Prince Fielder of the Brewers were at least as angry as Hamels. If nothing else, the point must be made that most if not all clubs handle these cases in a similar fashion. Surely Francoeur and Markakis are as valuable to their clubs as Hamels is to his.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, Eaton has just put together his second atrocious start of the young spring. Will the Phillies eat the $8 million and simply release him? Could be the biggest story of the spring.