The David Wright Contract Non-Story

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By now, most “experts” and observers predicted that the Mets: A) would have lost 100+ games; B) in bankruptcy court and ready to be auctioned off or sold; C) traded off any and all players who had value for the “future”.

Now because none of that happened, the goalposts are being moved again from how bad is this team was going to be and who was going to be the new owner, to repeated questions as to what they’re going to do after 2013 with David Wright and R.A. Dickey. Here’s the simple answer: we don’t know and nor do the “insiders”. Their collective agendas have gone from blatant to embarrassing.

The Mets have surpassed expectations, shown to have a better farm system than initially thought, and they won around 15-20 more games than the most dire projections said. Consequentially, something else has to be tossed into the ring to attack them. Rather than admit that this is a rebuild that is relatively on or close to schedule and that they’re better than anticipated, it’s evolved into cryptic suggestions straight out of a formulatic horror movie implying, “Yeah, they’re not that bad this year, but they still have money problems and won’t be able to sign Wright or Dickey.”

The Mets are the designated punching bag. Editors know this and take steps to have their reporters treat the team as such with an alarming and obvious redundancy that few admit exists. So it’s changed from the lack of money and poor attendance issues to Wright, Dickey, and how the Mets are going to improve for 2013 given their reportedly limited resources.

First, with Dickey, no one is saying he owes the Mets a heavy discount, but he does owe them a discount. The Mets were the one team that gave him a legitimate chance to use his knuckleball, develop it at the big league level, and they paid him relatively lucratively when they didn’t have to. If Dickey is going to practice what he preaches about spirituality and existentialism, then he can’t try to hold hostage the one team that gave him his opportunity.

With Wright, the question is asked again, and again, and again, and again as to whether he’s going to stay after 2013. As polite as he is, he answers as best he can while maintaining a necessary negotiating ambiguity, and doesn’t say he wants to stay or leave. How is he supposed to answer the question? He can’t win no matter what he says. If he says he wants to test free agency, that’s tantamount to demanding a trade because the Mets aren’t going to sit and wait to see if they can sign Wright knowing that someone is probably going to go crazy with a big money offer. If he says he wants to stay, period, he’d be under pressure to meet the front office at a reasonable number that would be agreeable to them and to him.

Wright’s reply in this piece by Adam Rubin on ESPN, “No idea,” is robotic and designed to make the question and questioner go away; that he’s tired of it and he’d like it to stop.

Wright’s not stupid and he’s been very careful during his time with the Mets in not criticizing anyone openly. He’s not controversial and the media isn’t going to get anything of use from him of the “pay me or trade me” variety. Therefore what he doesn’t say gets magnified and extrapolated into reading between nonexistent lines. Rather than taking Wright at face value when he says he’d like to stay and factoring in that he has a contract for 2013 and that with Jason Bay and Johan Santana coming off the books after next season the Mets will have the money available to sign him, it turns into a bout of uninformed, twisted speculation similar to the pre-settlement Madoff guarantees of bankruptcy and messy ownership change; the preseason projections of 100+ losses—both of which were completely wrong.

Here are the facts: Wright has a contract option with the Mets for 2013 at $16 million that is going to be exercised. He mentioned Jose Reyes in the linked piece as missing his friend and surprised that he left, but Wright, as smart as he is, can look at Reyes and what he’s now dealing with and understand that getting paid his $100+ million may not be all it was cracked up to be as Reyes is trapped in a far more dysfunctional circumstance with the Marlins than he ever saw with the Mets and is facing the reality of being traded next year to a location he may not like because he didn’t get a no-trade clause as part of that contract.

Teams that have spent recklessly and have the large payrolls as a result of it are, by and large, disappointing in 2012 with limited flexibility for the future. The Yankees are fighting for their division and with their own newly stated financial limits, may not have the money available to sign Wright. The Red Sox have a third baseman in Will Middlebrooks. The Phillies are old and on the downslide. The Angels are on the verge of missing the playoffs and badly miscalculated how important cohesion on and off the field had been. The Rangers have a third baseman, Adrian Beltre.

Barring teams making financial maneuvers to free up money through trades or getting Wright to agree to move to first base, the one place he could possibly go right now is the Dodgers.

Unless a team offers 2-3 top, big league-ready prospects, the Mets aren’t trading him this winter, so these ridiculous notions of saying “goodbye” are crafted fiction to—guess what?—bash the Mets!! If he’s traded, the only way it happens is if the Mets are far out of contention in July of 2013, and they haven’t signed him to an extension, and if he quietly asks out. With the way surprising teams like the A’s and Orioles have improved, it can’t be said that the Mets aren’t going to contend in 2013.

Here are the real questions to ask and the actual answers:

Is Wright going to be traded this winter? No.

Could the Mets offer a viable extension and will Wright sign it? Yes.

Will it happen? Maybe.

Does he want to stay? Presumably.

Is it a story now? Not unless members of the media and their editors are trying to make it one in an effort to feed the monster and tear apart the Mets. It’s a plot with no substance to achieve desired results. If it’s not Wright, it will be something else in the ever-expanding circle without end.

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R.A. Dickey’s Story is Meant for Paperback

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How much more money has R.A. Dickey made for himself with his story?

I’m not talking about his baseball contract. The Mets have him signed for next season at $5 million and if his second half goes as well as his first half, I’d expect them to approach him about a reasonable extension. It won’t be 5 years (knuckleballer or not, he’s going to be 38 in October), but 2-3 years with incentives and options is a realistic starting point.

The extra money I’m talking about is with the paperback release of his book.

It’s doubtful that Dickey got a large sum of money in the form of an advance for the hardcover version of his book, Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball.

You can read my review here.

Knowing how the publishing industry works, he’s getting a 10-20% royalty off the cover price on every copy sold and that has to be shared with his collaborator Wayne Coffey. It’s possible that Coffey got paid upfront and isn’t getting a piece on the backend. Bad luck for him if that’s the case.

The cover price is $26.95. It’s currently #58 on Amazon’s bestseller list; #1 for religious and spirituality; #2 for baseball; and #4 in sports and outdoors.

Just for context, if I sell one copy of my book, my rankings rise from say 400,000 on Amazon to 200,000. For my 2001 novel I received a standard entry level author contract. The royalties were such that I got 10% of the first X number of books sold and 15% for anything after that. It didn’t amount to a massive series of paychecks for me, but for a book like Dickey’s that can mean a lot of money just from sales alone.

With the number of books that Amazon stocks overall, Dickey’s book is selling rapidly and it’s been boosted greatly by his performance. The book was interesting before Dickey’s sudden rise to All-Star/Cy Young/MVP status. He pulled no punches and made personal revelations that have rarely been seen from an athlete. The storyline of going from where he was to where he is now is exponentially multiplying the fees his representatives are going to be able to secure for the paperback rights. That Dickey is—I guarantee this—keeping a diary of his 2012 season for the “new chapter” in the paperback and that this new chapter will include everything from the attention he’s received to the Mets’ surprising vault into contention to the way he’s pitched will all combine to make him money that few first time authors and almost no athletes make.

It’s a stunning leap for Dickey on the field; a cathartic and gutsy display of naked self-revelation in his book; and now, a financial windfall.

And that’s before getting to the movie rights. They’re coming too.

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Courageous Anonymity

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This item from MLB Trade Rumors caught my eye:

A National League talent evaluator thinks the Mets should give some thought to trading R.A. Dickey while his value is skyhigh.  The Mets don’t have the money to make the deadline upgrades that they need, so they could instead continue with their three- or four-year plan by making the right-hander available.

An anonymous NL talent evaluator suggests that the Mets should think about trading one of the best stories in baseball; a pitcher who has overcome tremendous odds, injuries, a genetic deformity, sexual abuse as a child and bounced from team-to-team learning an almost-impossible pitch to master; wrote a book and has become a gate attraction everywhere he goes; and is on track to start the All-Star game.

Is that about right?

This is the problem with anonymity; with the suggestions of those who aren’t in a position of power to make any maneuvers; with those who are commenting about complex terms and teams they don’t work for with cut-and-dried simplicity.

Let’s just say the Mets follow this advice. What are they going to get for Dickey that would make it worth the public relations hit? Dickey is 37 and is signed for 2013 at a ridiculously cheap rate of $5 million. Knuckleballers last far longer than conventional pitchers and even if Dickey can’t keep up his current pace (and he can’t), there’s reason to believe that he could be an 180-215 inning pitcher until he’s 42-years-old. That’s five years away.

Are the Mets going to get a package that would replicate that? What would the fans think?

Dickey has become a symbol to Mets fans not because he’s come from the scrapheap to burgeoning star at a late age, but because he never gave up and kept pushing and pushing through endless adversity while refusing to surrender his dream and belief in himself to persevere and make it when few thought he would; when few were willing to give him a chance as anything other than a desperate afterthought or Triple A insurance.

Amid all the suffering endured by Mets’ fans, there’s hope that things are going to get better; that the team will win; that they’re on the right track.

That mirrors Dickey and his life.

Would any return on a Dickey trade be enough even if they get functional big league players ready to contribute in 2013-2015?

It’s very easy for someone to say that teams should do “this” or “that” when not in a position of power to make those decisions. But running a club isn’t about finding players and crafting a roster alone. It’s not a computer or a stat sheet or a game of fantasy baseball. A baseball team is a product. The customer must be kept happy. Mets’ fans have accepted that the team is in the midst of a rebuild and that rebuild is going far better than expected. Trading Dickey would unravel much of the goodwill they’ve accrued and alienate a segment of the fanbase—a fanbase that doesn’t need a nudge to spend their time and money elsewhere.

It reminds me of the caller to Mike Francesa’s show that said he would, in no uncertain terms, tell Jorge Posada that because the left-handed pitcher on the mound was worse against lefties than righties that the switch-hitting Posada was going to bat left-handed against him.

Ignoring that Posada is a borderline Hall of Famer and that this would be considered an insult for a manager, coach or teammate to make such a demand let alone some guy who’d never picked up a baseball and equated understanding out-of-context numbers with an expertise to do such a thing, but Posada’s irascible demeanor and quick trigger temper would make it dangerous to this would-be executive.

He’s going to “tell” Posada to do this?

He’d better be able to take a punch or wear a protective cup under his khakis.

I don’t know who this “evaluator” that thinks the Mets should consider trading Dickey is (if the person even exists), but my evaluation of your evaluation isn’t hidden by anonymity. Here it is: You don’t know anything and wouldn’t have the nerve to put into action that which you advocate if you were in a position to do so. It’s time for you to re-evaluate because your evaluations are ridiculous on and off the field.

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Mount Kill-A-Met-Jaro

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I searched the web and social media sites and no one—no one!?!—came up with the clever “Kill-A-Met-Jaro” gag? I’m disappointed with the world in general and impressed with myself in particular.

More so than usual.

With the Mets having advised pitcher R.A. Dickey that they: A) would prefer he doesn’t try to climb Mount Kilimanjaro; and B) won’t pay him if he does and is unable to pitch due to an injury incurred during the expedition, it’s not necessarily a “no” from the Mets; it’s just an advisory of the risks Dickey is inviting by doing it against club wishes.

In this Wall Street Journal piece, Brian Costa relates Dickey’s preparation for the task and the Mets objections.

D.J. Carrasco continues being an unending burden on the Mets. This time it’s not for his performance or that the club, for some reason, gave him a 2-year contract last winter, but that he purchased the oxygen deprivation mask in which Dickey trains for the climb.

Carrasco’s a gift in his own right—the kind that keeps on giving.

All kidding aside, Dickey’s highly educated; a bit quirky; and a grown man—he can do what he wants—but for someone who took so long and had such a long and arduous road to stick in the big leagues and garner a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract, it’s a bit irresponsible to put himself at risk even if there supposedly isn’t that much risk.

From the time he was drafted and the Rangers discovered that he was born without an ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and slashed his signing bonus because of it; to his ineffectiveness and big league struggles; then bouncing between the minors and majors trying to master the knuckleball and finally landing with the Mets, Dickey must’ve decided that the climb is a worthwhile endeavor.

It’s his right to do it, but it’s also within the Mets rights to try to talk him out of it and remind him of the professional and personal gamble he’s taking.

I was a guest today with former MLB player Les Norman on his baseball show Breakin’ the Norm on the ESPN affiliate 810 WHB in Kansas City talking about Yorvit Torrealba‘s shoving incident with the umpire in Venezuela. The show begins at 7 PM Central Time.

Click on the link above; check my Twitter/Facebook pages; or back here to listen.

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