A Tale Of Two Pitchers
- Which of the following is a better investment?
Pitcher A will be 31 early next season; he’s a nine-year veteran; has pitched 175 innings or more in five of those nine seasons; has never had any serious structural arm damage; throws strikes; doesn’t give up many homers; and, if he’s healthy, will deliver his 28-30 starts without complaint or questionable injuries. He’s had biceps tendinitis; and a sore shoulder.
Pitcher B will be 32 in a couple of days; he’s a ten-year veteran who’s pitched 165 or more innings five times; he’s had Tommy John surgery; has had his willingness and desire questioned because of his historic reluctance to pitch when there’s not a lot of money at stake; has only managed to stay healthy during his contract years; and is an unknown as to whether he’s going to be on the mound for 10 starts; 15 starts; 20 starts or 30 starts.
So who would you rather have based on these facts?
In looking at the circumstances as a whole without getting into money, there’s really not much of a difference between the two, but when looking at the amount of money and duration of contract both are costing their new teams, there’s no debate whatsoever. Pitcher A is the better investment because pitcher A is Brad Penny and he’s reportedly agreed to a contract for one-year and $5 million with incentives that could push the deal up to $8 million—-ESPN Story—-with the Boston Red Sox. Pitcher B is A.J. Burnett and he cost the Yankees $82.5 million over five years.
This deal is a brilliant one for the Red Sox even if Penny isn’t 100% healthy. This isn’t a similar situation to the Red Sox signings of the likes of the fading Bartolo Colon or the bloated Runelvys Hernandez; those pitchers were signed as swing men/worthwhile gambles to see if they could get anything out of them. Penny won 32 games in 2006 and 2007 and started the 2006 All Star game. Had Penny had a season in 2008 similar to the ones he had in the previous two seasons, he would’ve gotten a contract nearly identical to the one Burnett got from the Yankees; instead, Burnett—-again coming through at contract time with a healthy year—-got the money due to his great stuff; his 18 wins; his 231 strikeouts and a determination not just to pitch well, but to pitch at all; a desire that he’s never before shown at any other time in his career except in similar situations when money was at stake.
There’s every possibility that the Yankees are right about Burnett finding his groove; learning about his body; staying healthy and providing the innings and starts that they’re going to need from a number two or three starter and earning that money. But there’s also every possibility that the cycle of Burnett will repeat itself again; that he’ll get hurt with injuries that are reminiscent of Carl Pavano’s; that he’ll be a colossal bust and more money thrown into the trash by the Yankees as they make another misjudgment in a free agent pitcher.
With Penny, the Red Sox aren’t asking him to be anything more than a back-of-the-rotation starter; they don’t need him to sit behind Josh Beckett and/or Jon Lester and be the number two guy; all they need from him is to stay healthy, get out on the mound; throw strikes and pitch his six or seven innings and keep the team in the game to let the lineup score some runs and then turn things over to their superlative bullpen. Plus, they’re only paying him a base salary of $5 million, while the Yankees are locked in with Burnett for five years at an average of $16.5 million per.
If I had to make a bet as to which pitcher is going to stay healthy and have a better year, my money would be heavily on Penny. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Penny goes to Boston and wins 18 games, while Burnett wins 10 for the Yankees, finds himself receiving the brunt of the criticism from the New York tabloids and the bloviating of Hank Steinbrenner if his aches and pains act up and prevent him from repeating the excellence he showed in 2008 as he winds up on the disabled list for extended periods with injuries that cannot be pinpointed. Even if their seasons are identical, it’s a better risk for the Red Sox because Penny is going to be motivated to pitch for a long term contract and is so inexpensive.
- A day off from what?!?!
I know I’ve asked this question before, but no one’s given me an adequate answer, so I’ll ask again: What exactly do columnists need a day off from if they’re only asked to provide a one or two columns a week, or just one small posting a day?
Yesterday, I was reading the New York Times and when I got to the Week in Review, I looked for Maureen Dowd’s column for my twice weekly fix of snarky self-congratulations and haughtiness; in small print at the bottom of one of the pages, it said, “Maureen Dowd is off today”.
Off from what? Off from writing 1000 words or whatever the required number is to constitute a column? Off from coming up with something to write from wherever she is and whatever she’s doing? How long would it take to come up with
something to write about even if there’s no obvious storyline to follow? And isn’t this world of submissions via the web making the hassle of writing and getting the column to the appropriate entity in a reasonable time frame a thing of the past?
And I’m not picking on Maureen; I’ve wondered the same thing with sports columnists. What is so hard about coming up with something to post? Sometimes there aren’t the obvious “lead” stories to write about; and sometimes the words don’t flow that easily, but what exactly is the day off for? Are they performing brain surgery? Training to be Navy Seals? Contract killers for the CIA? Decompressing from the difficult job of typing? Nursing carpal tunnel syndrome? Do they need a brain jump-start? What’s the problem? Try getting up in the middle of the night to lift things for a living and I’ll guarantee they’ll find things to write about; it’s called perspective.