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Just when you thought the contract negotiation nightmares were over another problem surfaces. Ace pitcher Cole Hamels was insulted today when he was forced into a contract worth $490,000 – $500,000 when Cole was asking for $750,000. He said he felt disappointed and disrespected while calling the Phillies decision a "low blow". He said he might remember the slight down the road refering to his long term status. The Phillies have full control over Hamels through the 2012 season. For the full story click here.
Now I know the Phillies have the highest payroll they have ever had (although shouldn’t that always be the case with inflation and increased revenue?). $110 million plus is a lot of money. The Phillies are in the biggest baseball market with only one team however. If the team would have spent an additional $3.25 million more they could have signed Ryan Howard and given Cole Hamels what he wanted without arbitration and slighting of your young stars. I understand that Dontrelle Willis, Scott Kazmir, and Chien-Ming Wang all made less than what Hamels is making at this same point in there careers. But it is about public relations and tact. The Phillies at times seems to have neither. They need to face the facts that Howard is the face of their franchise and the major reason for the excitement of the fans and the ticket sales, television contracts, and concessions creating their revenue. Cole Hamels generates that same excitement from the pitching side. No slight to Brett Myers but Cole has the potential to be a special pitcher that could be one of the best of his era.
Phillies front office, be proactive, not reactive. Read my article about "Building a Dynasty". Pay these guys NOW before the price goes up more. Every day both players get more expensive. I promise this, if either or both leave Philadelphia the fans will not be forgiving when they hear "the team can not afford them" or "they didn’t want to play here". Fans will stop coming out and it will be like the Vet in the late 1980’s and late 1990’s. I just watched a 1997 Phillies video that was nothing more than a sales pitch to get people to keep their season tickets (my parents dropped theirs after the dismal 1996 season). It was pathetic. Please don’t do that to us again. Sign these men. Sign them long term. Sign them now! We need them to remain competitive and keep the great excitement for this team in our city.
Harold Reynolds hosts a show on BaseballChannel.TV called Lineup Card. If you have not tuned into the Baseball Channel you owe it to yourself as a fan. Hopefully this network will end up on cable as it is a great place for the true baseball fan.
On the 1/22 episode Reynolds discussed contracts and building a franchise around a core of young players. He discussed the importance of identifying talent early and signing players long term to lock them up beyond their arbitration eligible years at a better price. Examples he cited were the Cleveland Indians of the 1990’s and the recent signing of Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies. In addition to Reynolds insight, there is the example of Ryan Howard and the comments of Aaron Rowand about wanting a five year deal and the Phillies not wanting to commit. Rowand said, "They obviously didn’t want me as badly as the San Fransico Giants did. And they made me feel like that."
How do the Phillies measure up to Reynolds point about evaluating and signing talent early?
In recent years, the Phillies have done a good job of following Reynolds plan for success. They inked Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley early and have both players signed long term at a substantial discount to what they would be worth on the open market. Pat Burrell was also signed early and perhaps is overpaid, but that is the risk of following this road map.
But what about Ryan Howard and Aaron Rowand? Should the Phillies have signed Howard early? Absolutely! When Howard won the rookie of the year award and Jim Thome was traded, the Phillies should have opened their wallets and signed him to a long term deal immediately. Tulowitzski signed a 6 year $31 million contract. Had the Phillies offered Howard something similar, they would have saved a lot of money and all the drama and speculation that has come from Howard’s uneasy signings the past two years. Now Howard is on a path where he will be looking for $20 to $25 million a season to sign long term and is in a place where the Phillies may not want to pay him and anger their fans while losing what may be the greatest player the team has ever produced. Every day the team waits, Ryan’s price tag goes up and the chances of a long term deal become less probable.
Aaron Rowand on the other hand was a prudent move by Phillies management. Aaron was a fan favorite and a leader, but 5 years at $10 to $12 million a year is just not worth it to a player who has had up and down seasons and can be replaced more easily. With the addition of Geoff Jenkins and So Taguchi and Shane Victorino moving the centerfield the Phillies arguably have a better outfield this year than they did last. Not resigning Rowand was the right move for the Phillies considering his demands.
The Phillies have done a pretty good job of evaluating their young talent and locking the players in. Ryan Howard seems to be the exception here and it may cost the Phillies a lot of money or the respect of their fans and the revenue these fans give the team. Vice president of ticket sales John Weber said the Phillies have sold more than 250,000 tickets which is an increase from last season while Spring Training attendance is booming with their best ticket sales yet. The Phillies are becoming a force in the league again like they were in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and their revenue will show that as well. If Howard is not resigned, the team could take a huge step back both in competitiveness and revenue. Let’s hope a deal is struck and Philadelphia once again becomes a leader in being a baseball city.
With money in hand, Ryan Howard know what he wants his first purchase to be. He has been looking at an Aston Martin DB9 priced at $170,000. Jimmy Rollins reported he had been looking at it for a year and preferred silver. Howard, a James Bond fan, has been talking about this car since the latest James Bond movie was released.
It must be nice to have $10 million in hand. Of course my first purchase would be a house on Clearwater Beach! Then the sports car.
Ryan Howard won his arbitration case and will be paid $10 million. His salary is the largest ever for a first year arbitration eligible player. This will hopefully make Ryan a very happy player but where does this leave the Phillies? A report on Comcast Sportsnet last night said that long term discussions broke down because Howard wanted $20 million a year and a contract worth around $200 million. That was his request this year. What will it be next year? My guess is that it will go up. With all of the revenue in MLB and other teams being willing to spend, the Phillies should learn from their loss today and get Ryan signed long term. Although Pat Gillick is not a fan of long term contracts, this is a special player where an exception should be made.
Again, it is many fans in Philadelphia’s fear that a contract will not be agreed on and Howard will end up in another uniform. Some fans have told me they will not buy season tickets or fully believe in the front office of the team until they sign Howard long term. In my opinion, signing Howard long term would stop the references to the team being cheap, short sighted, and unwilling to do whatever it takes to win. What are your thoughts on Howard’s contract status?
While Phillies fans speculate about Ryan Howard’s desire to stay a Phillie after 2011, there is no question about Pat Burrell’s wishes. Burrell has made it publicly known that he wishes to stay in Philly. Should the Phillies keep him? Let’s break it down. Burrell is the best left fielder the team has had since Greg Luzinski. He has also been inconsistent and streaky. What he has done is average 30 homeruns and 95 RBI’s per season. If Pat would agree to a two year deal with a team option for a third at $10 million a year I think he is worth signing. Will Pat sign for that? What would another team pay for his services?
Man or machine?
Ryan Howard on one side, the Phillies on the other. That is how it will be tomorrow when Ryan Howard goes into his arbitration hearing. Howard’s agent Casey Close will make a case that he is worth $10 million by talking about his rookie of the year and MVP campaign along with other accomplishments. Ruben Amaro will criticize Howard probably making mention of his setting the all time strikeout record, his defense, and perhaps even his overall fitness, body weight issues, and health of his legs.
The hearing is a recipe for disaster and could be the beginning of the departure of one of the teams brightest stars. Had the Phillies not been so short sighted, they could have signed Ryan to a long term deal for a lower price than he will be looking for in a year or two. Sure they may have to go over their anticipated budget, but is Howard not worth it? Howard came into camp fit and ready to go, if he hits 55 or more homeruns this season, how much does his contract demands go up? Johan Santana just set a new record for a contract for a pitcher. Every year the Phillies wait, the price goes up. A 60 homerun season will probably make Ryan Howard a Yankee, Red Sox, or God forbid a Met in July of 2011 while the Phillies get four or five prospects that do not pan out. Tomorrow is a sad day in Philadelphia!