You may be wondering why this news is appearing on a Mets blog. There are a few reasons.
First of all, the Giants are sort of a parent to the Mets — they are the “other” franchise that left behind thousands of National League baseball fans (and the Mets’ original home park, the Polo Grounds) in 1957 — many of whom eventually transferred their allegiance to the Amazins. Their orange “NY” logo is now stitched on the Mets’ Dodger-blue caps. The Giants were honored in the New Ebbets Field with a soot-colored outfield wall and the same color of green seats that once appeared in the Polo Grounds. But the Mets’ parentage is not the main reason the releases of Rowand and Tejada matter here.
Do you remember Aaron Rowand? He was the guy on the Phillies who face-planted the outfield wall while catching an Xavier Nady fly ball against the Mets back in 2006.
He’s also the guy who the Giants signed to a 5-year, $60M contract after sparking the Phillies to the NLDS in 2007 (i.e., the Year of the Collapse). At the time, handing Rowand so many millions and so many years seemed like a bad idea — and it looks even worse now. Because after that career year, Rowand turned 30 and quickly sunk back down to his usual standards — hitting in the .260s with 10-15 HR and a .730-.750 OPS. Over the last two years, his performance has dropped more drastically — his line last year was .230 AVG, .281 OBP, .659 OPS, and his numbers this year are worse (.233/.274/.621). He’s been absolutely awful, and as a result spent significant time on the bench.
Right here I’m going to point something out: the Giants committed more years and dollars to Rowand and pitcher Barry Zito than anyone else on the team — a combined $186M from 2007-2013. The top-two highest-paid men on the Giants also happened to be their worst pitcher and the worst hitter. To help you more fully understand the situation, the Giants’ payroll last year was roughly $96M, with Zito ($18.5M) and Rowand ($12M) hogging nearly one-third of it. Yet, the Giants were World Series Champions last year (Zito was actually left off the postseason roster).
This year, Rowand and Zito were once again eating up $30M+, with Tejada getting another $6.5M, for a total of $37M for all three — or 31% of the club’s $118M payroll. In return for that investment, Zito made 9 starts (3-4, 5.69 ERA), Tejada hit .239 with a .596 OPS, and you saw Rowand’s line above.
Despite this poor return on investment, the Giants spent much of the season atop the NL West. Their postseason hopes are dimming quickly now, though, as they are 7.5 games behind the Diamondbacks (and 8.5 behind the Braves in the wild card). Many see the release of Rowand and Tejada as a last-ditch, desperate attempt to spark the club to an impossible run to reach the playoffs — and maybe it is, but let’s move away from that for a moment.
By cutting Rowand and Tejada, the Giants have essentially wasted $18.5M this year, and eaten another $12M owed to Rowand next year. Despite his big contract, Rowand was relegated to irregular duty; the only reason he played as much as he did was because of injuries and ineptitude in the San Francisco outfield.
Compare and contrast what the Giants just did to what the Mets have done with similarly bad contracts over the last few years — but also in looking toward the future, since we can’t do anything about the past. Much has been made about the long-term, high-salary deals that have been a stranglehold on the Mets’ ability to compete — but is that really the case? Do huge contracts really hold teams back? More specifically, will the commitments to Jason Bay and Johan Santana hurt the Mets going forward?
I’m happy to see Bay starting to hit, and hope he continues when 2012 arrives. But what if he doesn’t? Will the Mets consider moving him to the bench, as the Giants did with Rowand? Would they eventually release him, and eat the remainder of his salary, if Bay becomes a detriment to the club? Or will eating that money be too much for Mets ownership to bear — as it seemed to be with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo? Further, if Santana does not return to full strength next year, will people point to the $50M left on his deal as an obstacle?
Also, going off on a tangent for a moment — in addition to the bad money thrown at Rowand, Tejada, and Zito this year (and another $6M for Mark DeRosa), the Giants also were without Buster Posey since late May, were without starting second baseman Freddy Sanchez for all but 60 games, and also saw these key contributors (among others) hit the DL during the season: Brian Wilson, Jonathan Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval, Pat Burrell, Sergio Romo, Brandon Belt, and Andres Torres (some guy named Beltran went on the DL, too, but from what I understand he was a late-season rental). The reason I digress here is because I’ve grown tired of hearing that the Mets have been “devastated” by injuries this year — it’s become an annual mantra, and while it’s true that the Mets have had a large number of players disabled, it’s hardly unusual in comparison to other MLB clubs. Injuries are no excuse in this day and age of fragile ballplayers — they happen in volume to all teams.
Anyway back to the main point of this long-winded post … what do you think about the Giants’ decision to release Rowand and Tejada? Do you think the Mets would make similar moves, if need be, in the future? Post your opinion in the comments.
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.