Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mike Schmidt Offers Scathing (But Fair) Criticism of Werth, Nats

The Phillies Hall of Famer, writing for the AP, points out several relevant points ignored by all parties involved in the right fielder's recent signing with the NL East perennial basement dweller:
He’s durable, can run like a deer, play a Gold Glove right field and hit with power. He can be the real deal, but will he? In Philly, the stars were aligned perfectly for him. Should the Nationals have considered this?

This is what puzzles me about this contract. Are the Nationals in a position to wager $126 million that he can do it all? In Philly, Jayson had men on base on a regular basis with proven players Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley stirring it up. He could stumble into 75 RBIs just by playing everyday, but he only drove in 85 last season.

In Washington, the lineup is young and inexperienced, right-handed dominant, and the park is big, so RBIs will not come as easily. RBIs are much tougher when everyone’s counting. Jayson now will be the man, the cleanup hitter with the burden of production, far surpassing anything he has experienced. His name will be first on the opposition’s “don’t let him beat us” list. If the Nationals don’t come up with a legit left-handed bat behind him, he will quickly see what Ryan Howard had to deal with in Philly...

Is it good business to drop $126 million in the lap of a player who is in the growth stage?

The Phillies had the right plan for Jayson, a plan that worked well for Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Both were slowly adjusted upward. Ryan was forced to use arbitration, then a competitive multiyear deal and then, after Rookie of the Year, MVP award and averaging 135 RBIs a season, he got his bonanza. Not a gamble, a lock.

Utley’s path was similar. Up through the Phillies system, slowly climbed the salary ladder, became the best second baseman in the game, will jump to Howard money soon. Again, like buying Apple stock, no risk. This is good management. The Phillies were looking for the same for Jayson. He was one 30-homer/100-RBI year from $100-plus million with Philadelphia, and maybe a couple more championship rings with them. But today the open market is irresistible.

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