Ask Gary: What’s the price of delusion in baseball?

by Gary Shelton on May 14, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays

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Saturday, 6 a.m.

Stephen Strasburg has just signed a seven-year, $175 million contract with the Washington Nationals, making him the 20th MLB starting pitcher to get a contract of $100 million or greater.  For the 61 completed seasons across all of these contracts (there are 71 seasons still to be played), the average season of these pitchers reads as follows:

10 wins, 8 losses, 25 games started, 157 innings pitched.

This looks like maybe a respectable line for a number 4 or 5 starter of an MLB team. When are the MLB owners going to figure out that these high-priced, long-term contracts are terrible investments?

Scott Myers

They could have caught on several million dollars ago. I can never figure out if I should be more surprised that stars are making a mint, or that reserve infielders you've never heard of make $8 million a year.

Joe Maddon used to say the great equalizer in baseball was when steroids were run out of the game. That eliminated the need to throw millions upon millions at big named sluggers who were juicing.

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Given that, you'd figure that more teams would impose a financial ceiling. Why go as high as $31 million for David Price. Why not bow out at $20 million? Why chase Albert Pujols? The Angels can be average without him. And so on.

So many teams are chasing dreams. And they're spending fortunes to get there.

I liked your column on the Lightning Ring of Honor.  Do you know if the team is considering the idea?

Jim Willson

If you think it's a good idea and I think it's a good idea, why wouldn't they?
Seriously, I would imagine that, eventually, the team is going to see it's an idea with no downside. Fans love to applaud their heroes. Heck, you could sell jerseys and bobbleheads and autographed pucks.
Are you telling me you wouldn't cheer for Andreychuk one more time. Look, Marty is done, and Vinny and Dan Boyle are on his heels. Let's celebrate those moments while you can.
Wait'll Vinik hears about this. He makes a lot of great decisions. This might be the next one.
In all of your interviews over the years, who surprised you the most -- either through one of their responses -- or the fact that they were totally different from what you expected?
 
Jim Willson
I think I've told you before, but it was Al Joyner, the old Olympic triple-jumper. We were chatting about his career, about his late wife Flo-Jo, about the Olympics. He choked up when he was talking about his ex-wife, how he kept her laundry in plastic to preserve her smell, how he wouldn't cancel her cell phone so that when he called it,  he could hear her on her voice message. It was moving, raw and unrehearsed.
I got a lot of unexpected answers from Warren Sapp, good and bad.
I was at an interview with Amy van Dyken, the Olympic swimmer, who was talking about how awkward she was growing up. I asked if she would dedicate this win to the other awkward swimmers out there. "This one," she said, "is for all the nerds."
I asked Roy Foster, the old Dolphins guard, once if he had done steroids. Yes, he said. He thought there was a time he had to look like Hercules. So he dabbled. A refreshing bit of honesty.
I always thought Bobby Bowden was an interesting guy. He was a terrific interview, folksy and homespun. But inside of Bowden, there was something competitive, a fire that made him outlast so many other coaches.
Simeon Rice wasn't an ordinary defensive end. He was from Neptune. He was the strangest human ever. He didn't take anything seriously except that he was ever going to get enough Hall of Fame votes.
Who was different than you would expect? I'll tell  you. Sam Wyche was. I used to say that one of Sam's 17 personalities was a good guy, but you couldn't count on that guy. It's funny because Wyche and I are good friends now.
How crucial were the sportswriters (esp. McEwen and Mizell) in landing pro teams in Tampa Bay?   Will anyone have that clout in these internet days?
 
Jim Willson

Jim, this is just my opinion, because I wasn't here. And I know Tom, in particular, spent a lot of hours lobbying. That said, I've never bought that it was a sportswriter that convinced NFL owners to come to Tampa. What? Couldn't those guys read a map?

I think the league came to Tampa because it could see the potential in this market. I think it's stayed for the same reason.

From the moment the NFL decided to expand, to the time it gave the franchise to Tom McCloskey (no, Hugh Culverhouse was not the original owner) it was with a plan in mind. A lobbying sportswtiter got a lot of credit, but I'm a little skeptical.

No, in this internet day, no one is going to have the same pull. Nor should they. Making the news is not a reporter's job; breaking the news is.

The Olympics may have a huge zika issue, but in my mind they have another huge issue - a complete lack of buzz, in the US anyway. Heard anyone talking track and field? Swimming? Gymnastics? 3 months out and the only Olympic thing carried in sports pages or the news is zika. How does this play out?

Cecil DeBald

Cecil, I've always thought the Olympics drew a late buzz except for the superstars. I think this one has a chance to be good if the zika doesn't get in the way. I've always liked the Olympics when they're in a good time zone, Europe over China/Australia for instance.

I think the buzz will hit when TV starts telling the stories, the kid who was one of the Lost Boys, the girl who was raised by hippies, etc. Of course, Michael Phelps will draw us all in. Golf will be popular. Basketball. Gymnastics.

I think this is part of the problem, too. A lot of Olympians are good for two sets of Games. I think London ended a lot of Olympic careers.

If we go back, how much buzz was there three months before Barcelona. Before London. Before Greece. The Olympics invites great stories. That won't change.

It's the Bolts and the Pens! What will be the keys for a Bolt victory and another Eastern Conference Championship?

Cecil DeBald

I think it's whether the Bolts' defense can stand up to the Pittsburgh offense, which is pretty terrific. Obviously, Anton Stralman's return would be big. But there can be a lot of pressure put on Ben Bishop. He has to steal two games. The Bolts have to win one on the penalty kill and one on the power play.

I'll say this: This Lightning team knows how to win. That should be a help. They get big-game performances from little-game guys, guys like Brian Boyle and Alex Killorn. Just a hunch: It needs to be a big series for Ryan Callahan.

Excluding current Tampa Bay owners, who was the owner you most enjoyed dealing with and, of course, why?

Cecil DeBald

To most Tampa Bay owners, I was pain in the butt. I was always admonishing them for being cheap, for raising ticket prices, for missing playoffs. So I don't think I've ever been invited to Sunday dinner by any of them.

Think of the owners. Hugh Culverhouse and Takashi Okobu and Vince Naimoli and Art Williams and Bill Davidson and Oren Koules and Len Barry. Davidson was a decent owner as far as money, but he didn't know how many intermissions there were in a hockey game.

I did get along well with George Steinbrenner, who was very good to me. Not as good as he was to Tom McEwen, of course, but he was very nice. He'd stop for me in the clubhouse. He'd slug me on the shoulder outside of his barn at the Derby.

Eddie DeBartolo has been terrific to me. Like Steinbrenner, he owned a team out of town, but you didn't specify.

Vince Naimoli and I got along fairly well. He called me once to tell me his team hadn't stepped on any toes in town. I almost drove into a ditch. I mentioned Dillard's. He said he was trying to make up with Dillard's but they wouldn't return his calls. What does that tell you, Vince? But I sat with him a game or two in the stands, and I was in his private box on the final night he owned the team. I think Naimoli wanted to be a good guy, he just didn't know how.

I get along great with Stu Sternberg. We always fall into talking about music, in particular Springsteen. But the guy loves music.

It is important to Jeff Vinik to be well thought of. He has the perfect balance between caring and meddling. He loves his team. He loves his fans. And he's hit every right note.

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