Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

I don’t want them forget Ruth; I just want them to remember me. -Hank Aaron

30 Jun

$10 million down the drain

SI.com – Baseball – Braves’ Byrd to undergo Tommy John surgery – Monday June 30, 2003 07:05 PM

That’s just super. He may never pitch for the Braves; if he does, he almost certainly won’t be effective. Good one, Scheurholz.

16 Responses to “$10 million down the drain”

  1. 1
    Colin Says:

    I feel bad for Byrd on this, up to a point. He really wanted to pitch for the Braves, and instead he gets two years gone from his career. Brutal. But I said up to a point, because this is the guy who was feeling pain in January and never sought any help for it. Geez, your arm is your livelihood.

    I don’t imagine it’s $10m down the drain. I would presume they have insurance, so it may be as little as $3m down the drain. If insurance pays, say, 70%, then the Braves may have just picked up $5m in payroll for next year.

  2. 2
    Creg Says:

    Although there’s a lot of competition, Byrd now almost has to go down as the Braves’ worst free-agent signing since Nick “I’m Feeling Dizzy” Esasky. You could argue that it’s worse, since the 1990 Braves were looking to fill a huge power hole in a position that Gerald “Homeless Man’s Mark Grace” Perry had manned for the previous few years.

    But it did have a happy ending, since Atlanta brought up David Justice early that summer (Justice moved to right field when Dale Murphy was traded and Tommy Gregg and Francisco Cabrera platooned at first the rest of the year).

    Byrd indirectly (or perhaps directly) cost Atlanta Kevin Millwood. Unless the Braves cut Shane Reynolds and call up Adam Wainwright and he pitches like 1991 vintage Steve Avery the rest of the season, I don’t see a similar outcome this time.

    In an unrelated note, Rudy Seanez has been designated for assignment by the Red Sox. What are the odds the Braves grab him?

  3. 3
    Robert Says:

    Byrd makes $3 million this year. To say that his salary is the reason they had to give away Millwood is, let’s say, fudging the facts a little. A combination of poor planning and $14 million to BP Maddux is the reason Millwood is in Philly.

    6-1 Fish in the third. Good thing BP has his personal catcher in there to reduce any chance of a come back. Obviously the chemistry between him and Blanco is working.

    Seriously, how does a guy that will be starting the All-Star game have his playing schedule determined by a guy who the only way he will see the All-Sar game is if he gets off his golf playing fat ass and buys a ticket? How bad does it have to get before BP loses the right to make out the rest of the lineup card?

    Seriously, I’m asking. This has gone past ridiculous.

  4. 4
    Creg Says:

    Robert, That’s why I said “indirectly.”

    Here’s a timeline for you of the Braves’ offseason transactions, as they relate to the starting rotation:

    Nov. 18 — Braves trade for Hampton
    Dec. 8 — Glavine signs with Mets
    Dec. 17 — Braves trade for Moss for Ortiz and sign Byrd
    Dec. 19 — Maddux agrees to arbitration
    Dec. 20 — Braves trade Millwood

    Now certainly, Maddux was the straw that broke the payroll’s back, but acquiring Byrd, Hampton and Ortiz also contributed. Most of what Atlanta took on in another year of Maddux ($14.75M) was absorbed by letting Glavine ($11M with Mets) and Remlinger ($2.3M + $1M bonus with Cubs) walk. Even though the contract is massively backloaded, Hampton over the next two years makes exactly what Albie Lopez was making last year ($4 million). So, in essence, bringing in Ortiz($4.4M this year, with $5.7M team option for ’04) and Byrd ($3M this year, with $7M PLAYER OPTION for ’04) cost the Braves Millwood ($9.9M this year and then a free agent).

    Now, two pitchers are better than one, right? Not when Millwood and Damian Moss (who makes $1.55M this year) would probably have put up the same numbers as Ortiz and a healthy Byrd, not to mention they would also have spared us the indignity of bringing in Shane Reynolds (at $300K, with a “mutual” option — whatever that is — for next season).

    * Total cost to the Braves of Byrd, Ortiz and Reynolds, assuming team options for next year are NOT picked up = $14.7 million (might be $20.1 million, since they almost certainly will pick up Ortiz’s option)

    * Total cost to the Braves of Millwood and Moss, assuming they let Millwood walk = ~$12 million, giving Moss his 2003 salary plus a $450K bump in arbitration

    If they don’t bring in Byrd and Ortiz, that’s at least $2.7 million — and probably more like $8.5 million — to play with. When coupled with the nearly $17 million they’ll save by cutting loose Maddux and Castilla, Atlanta could have made Millwood a rich man and still had enough money to give Gary Sheffield a nice raise.

    I suppose you can switch the names around and argue it another way, but having Byrd on board (who Schuerholz has coveted since he lost him on waivers in 1998) made the Ol’ GM feel like he could part with Millwood.

  5. 5
    D Says:

    Didn’t the guys at Baseball Prospectus or Baseball Primer do a study that proved, fairly conclusively, that catchers had absolutely zero repeatable impact on pitcher ERA? So that guys like Ausmus or Blanco (although you never hear anyone say Blanco is a great “handler of pitchers”) who are reputed to save runs by their savvy pitch calling, etc, are basically exposed as frauds? I guess Bobby and Leo wouldn’t believe it anyway, but it would sure be nice if someone would show it to them.

  6. 6
    Creg Says:

    D — It’s not so much what Bobby and Leo believe as what Maddux wants. At some point in the mid-1990s, Maddux decided he didn’t like the way Javy calls pitches, frames the ball or combs his hair. Cox has decided not to argue that, figuring a four-time Cy Young Award winner can have whatever catcher he wants.

    When the Braves had Charlie O’Brien as the backup catcher or when Javy was hitting like Alex Trevino, it was no big deal. But with an offensive zero like Blanco and Maddux not pitching worth a damn this year, it’s become a rather embarrassing and obvious form of managerial inertia.

  7. 7
    Ed Says:

    Javy may have (okay, DID) hit like Alex Trevino in the past, but present times show us Blanco hitting like Alex Trebek. Dump the baggage, and if Maddux insists on not using Javy, let him use Estrada. Anyone remember him? Currently batting .350 in Richmond? Why in the world do we still have Blanco (a blistering .185 in Atlanta) on the roster? We “traded” Millwood for a guy who’s languishing in AAA ball. Why?

    Sorry. I’m way too emotionally involved in the hate triangle of Blanco, Reynolds, and Vinny. It’s like the Bermuda triangle, only it causes wins to vanish without a trace, instead of planes and ships.

  8. 8
    Rob Cope Says:

    I’m really starting to go nuts over Maddux sucking and his personal catcher. If Ortiz told Bobby that he didn’t want Lopez catching him and wanted Blanco starting instead of Lopez, Cox would laugh at him. I mean, Boom-Boom Bobby has a better ERA than Maddux. Give me a break. Do we really have to kidnap 2/5 of the rotation to save Bobby Cox from himself?

  9. 9
    Colin Says:

    It’s all good and well for us to get worked up over the personal catcher crap. What I’d _like_ to see is some media person ask about it. And not just take the “days off” BS at face value – really press on it. Ask why in the past we’ve had games after off days against the likes of Curt Schilling where Javy has “just gotten a day off.” Ask Cox if, in the playoffs, he expects to bench his 40 homer catcher on days when the guy with the near-5 ERA is pitching. Ask what exactly Blanco is contributing to Maddux’s game. Ask if the fact that Javy hasn’t started a postseason game with Maddux pitching since 1996 has anything to do with the string of postseason failures in that timespan.

    But no. That would be too much to ask of a reporter.

  10. 10
    Creg Says:

    Colin, I’d suggest you shoot an email to David O’Brien and ask him about it (but don’t start off by calling him an idiot).

    dobrien@ajc.com

    He’s the youngest of the AJC reporters and seems to be the most sabermetrically-inclined (I’ve actually seen OPS in his stories…gasp!) Whether he’d have the balls to challenge Bobby Cox or Greg Maddux on this issue, I don’t know.

  11. 11
    Rhett Says:

    This is the kind of questioning that, coming at what seems to be the end of this great pitcher’s career (at least with Atlanta,) will seem like sniping. It’s going to be obvious that these questions should have been asked long ago, but timed now, when the pitching quality has been so bad, it will look like the vultures are gathering around Maddux.

    We shoulda put these questions to ’em when times were good.

  12. 12
    Mike A Says:

    OK, I was curious, so I did a long and detailed analysis of whether or not Maddux starting the backup catcher in the playoffs had cost the Braves. It got eaten. So you guys (luckily) get the short version.

    Surprisingly, I only found two games that I felt that starting Javy could have reasonably made a difference. One was 1997 NLCS Game Five, the famed Eric Gregg game. Perez went 0-3 that day. Perhaps Javy could have done better and helped get a much needed run, though he had an awful series, going 1-17. The other game was 2001 NLCS Game One. Bako went 0-2 that day, Javy came on and went 0-1 and the Braves lost 2-0.

    There were – sadly – three playoff games where Javy was inserted almost immediately after Maddux gave up considerable early runs. The Braves lost all of those games, and Javy didn’t contribute in any of them either.

    The rest of the time, Maddux won. Well, there was 1998 NLCS Game Three where Eddie went 2-3 and was the only Brave other than Weiss with multiple hits. I gave Eddie the benefit of the doubt over Javy in that one (Javy came on with the bases loaded against Hoffman and struck out on three pitches).

    OK, we now return you to your regularly scheduled Byrd bashimg. What a stupid signing that was…

  13. 13
    Ken Says:

    Now that Byrd’s fate is sealed, I’m expecting SOME kind of reaction from the Powers-That-Be. I’ve felt recently that Bobby’s kept running Reynolds out there to buy time until Byrd was available, not wanting to shuffle people’s roles around knowing he was going to have to do that sometime in July. Now he needs to go ahead make the change to either Hodges, Marquis or somebody so they can get a few starts in before the pennant race heats up (this may be sooner than we think). We can safely say Shane Reynolds is not someone we can count on in a pennant race.

    Every Hall-Of-Fame pitcher has had a year or two down the stretch of his career where his stuff changed just enough to cause his overall effectiveness to slip. I believe this is one of those years for Maddux; his cut fastball is moving so much he occasionally loses it out over the plate. The strike zone controversy hasn’t helped him either. The pitcher has to adjust for the changes, and they often get it turned around (Roger Clemens comes to mind). If anybody in baseball could make those adjustments, I would have to expect that Greg Maddux could do it.

  14. 14
    Robert Says:

    Responding to Creg’s post about my post I have to say that I certainly understand we could have afforded all the old pitchers if we didn’t bring in any of the new pitchers. But the thing is, bringing in the new pitchers was a great idea.

    Ortiz has been a tremendous value and is looking like an ace. Hampton had and continues to have a lot of upside. Byrd is a washout but two out of three ain’t bad, especially when you are dealing with pitchers.

    And while we are here, let’s shine some light on the Legend of Damian Moss. Damian has a 4.92 ERA this season. His whip is 1.66, the highest of any Giant who pitched more than 13.1 innings this year. He has 51 walks and 44 Ks. He’s allowed 11 HR and 51 walks in 89.2 innings. And it’s only getting worse, against the Dodgers on Wednesday he lasted 2 innings and gave up 5 runs. Selling Damian Moss at his highest value was smart, getting an ace for him was brilliant.

    The one mistake John S. made (what I called poor planning) was offering Maddux arbitration. The idea was always to let Glavine and Maddux go. He offered them arbitration so he could collect the draft picks, but obviously he misjudged the market for Maddux. He had to be thinking someone like Arizona would sweep in with a three year deal and Greg would be gone. Then we would have been left with a Millwood, Ortiz, Hampton front three which would have been golden.

    So it really comes down to the one mistake, offering Maddux arbitration. And I still think that it’s a defensible mistake. The guy is going to the Hall Of Fame, you have to think someone is going to offer him something.

  15. 15
    Colin Says:

    Someone likely would have offered him something, if he and his agent hadn’t been sending strong signals that he didn’t plan to leave Atlanta.

    MikeA: thanks for the analysis. You da man.

  16. 16
    Jim Says:

    There is one major difference between Maddux and Clemens…In the offseason, while Maddux is playing golf and eating pizza in the Vegas vicinity, Roger Clemens is churing 100 lbs barrels of rice with his right arm and going through workouts that his younger teamates can not complete.

    Unless the lightbulb goes off in Maddux’s head this year and he starts to take conditioning seriously, he is going to have to Wibur Wood his way to 300 wins. It would be a real shame to have to suffer through that spectacle..

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