Friday, December 17, 2004
I was kind of taken aback by the hyper-negative reaction by M's Blogvania to this signing. I actually like it (full disclosure--I have a major soft spot for big guys who hit big homers). The reasoning behind those who despise the deal makes perfect sense and all, but that doesn't necessarily mean our fellow bloggers are right. I don't think they are. I think this is a case of risk-aversion gone berserk.
First, I'd like to make a case for Sexson the player. He's very good, you know. Whether you think he's being overpaid or not, and whether you think he's a major injury-risk or not, it's simply not accurate to say that he's not, when healthy, one of the elite players at his position. In 2003, his last full season, he finished the year among the top twenty players in baseball in total Win Shares. Among first basemen, he finished with the fifth most win shares in the Major Leagues. Was this an unusually great season for Sexson? No, it was the exact season he'd had in 2001 (okay, slightly better--he walked more), and it was only four win shares better than his 2002 season.
He's not Pujols, and he's not Jason Giambi in his prime (speaking of whom, lankiness has its virtues), but that doesn't make him "mediocre" as some are now labelling him. He is very, very good. There are probably five or six better first basemen (with a half-decent glove) in the world. Except for Mark Teixeira, they all make a lot of money.
Yeah, he popped his shoulder swinging a bat last year. From what I hear, this is an injury that, once surgically repaired, rarely reoccurs. I could eat these words later, but there are very few baseball players past the age of 25 who don't have a preexisting condition of some kind. That's just part of the risk of doing business. The fact that we all know about Sexson's doesn't make it an unacceptable long-term risk. We all have a tendency to believe that the information we have access to gives us an edge in making decisions, no matter how much information we don't have access to. I'll also point out that, not long ago, teams were scared to sign pitchers who had recently had Tommy John surgery. Now they're paying them to rehab.
One last point. Among the lukewarm-to-positive responses to the signing, many (including me) pointed to the Troy Glaus deal and said, "Well, if Glaus got eleven, why not twelve for Richie? You can't say the market's wrong." In response to this, some ranted that you can and, indeed, must say the market's wrong. To quote Dave from USS Mariner (and I don't mean to pick on the best M's blog in the universe, but):
There seems to be a school of thought that MLB is a captialist ideal where each player’s actual value is determined by what the top bidder is willing to pay for his services. The comment “Player X is worth his salary because that’s what the market is.” is idealistic crap.
It's all well and good to say that you think someone is overpaid, but to suggest that your personal opinion is, in general, a better determinant of "value" than an open market is not just idealistic crap, it's madness. No one ever said that baseball is the most efficient market in the world, and few people believe that markets are perfect, but--and this is the really key point--without markets, there is no such thing as value! Richie Sexson doesn't have an absolute value, so you can't say he's overpaid. He might hit 50 homers a year for the next four years, and in that time, player salaries might rise by a factor of three. You just don't know. The market-price school does not say that Richie Sexson is worth exactly what the M's are paying him. It just says that there is no better way to judge his value. And that's a fact.
Anyway, I understand that Dave was not really trying to make an anti-capitalist point, but there's a sense of flabberghasted, negative certainty among the stathead community that's getting out of control. Prices, over time, tend to rise. There's only one Richie Sexson. He's worth a lot of money.