Thursday, March 4, 2010

Do Over?

Last winter Mark Teixeira was a, if not the, major topic of conversation on the free agent market. The Yankees blew away the field for Sabathia almost right away, sending a message that they were going to get him if he'd come to New York, which he decided to do early in the offseason. Manny Ramirez was the only other huge money free-agent on the market, and he never really seemed to be on too many teams' radars besides the Dodgers. At least not the Yankees' and the Red Sox, and they along with a few other teams usually drive the free agent market for players they are interested in. Interested they were in Mark Teixeira, as were many other teams, and he seemed to be the most sought after free agent prior to the 2009 season. And with good reason, he's one of the best players in the game.

As is often the case, it quickly became a two team race, Yankees and Red Sox. The Yankees had an opening at first base, were coming off their first playoff-less season in 14 years, were opening a new stadium, and were in search of a running mate for Alex Rodriguez in the middle of the lineup. The Red Sox were interested in a player that fit their mold to an absolute T, high on base skills with power and sound defensively, good in every facet of the game and elite in some, a complete player. With the departure of Manny Ramriez the August prior, having a guaranteed bat in the middle of the order would put their lineup over the top in addition to their great pitching. He was a great fit for both clubs.

Despite a reported final offer of 8/$168 from the Red Sox - that it seemed for a time was going to get done - Teixeira ended up signing with the Yankees for 8/$180. Unlike other recent victories the Yankees enjoyed over the Red Sox in the free agent market, this one worked out. In an absolutely massive way. Teixeira put up a .292/.383/.565/.948 line, tying for the league lead in homers with 39 and leading the league with 122 RBI's, tossing in 103 runs to boot. His defense was amongst the best I've ever seen at his position. He was an All-Star, finished second in MVP voting, won a gold glove, won a silver slugger, played in 156 games, was a leader, and put all of this towards contributing towards a World Series.

It was suggested in a few places - and presented as fact here - that Teixeira was a soft player, a stat-padder, a guy who could not be counted on when it mattered most. I presented a wealth of statistical evidence to the contrary at the time, but was rebuked based on the notion that there were nuances to these things that could not be quantified. Fine, we'll now look at both. From a pure statistical standpoint, he hit .291/.383/.609(!)/.992 in high leverage situations. Yes, he was almost a 1 OPS in the biggest spots. He was slightly better in medium leverage at .999, and was at his worst in low leverage situations, .886. In tie, 1, 2, 3, and 4 or more run game situations, there was not one of them where he batted less than .277 or slugged less than .505. Model consistency. From a more nuanced point of view, he was there every single day, and would often have a huge day when the team was scuffling offensively. In the playoffs he didn't hit for overall numbers, but when he did get them they were massive - the walk-off homer in Game 1 of the ALDS, the bases clearing double in Game 5 of the ALCS, and the homer to break a 0-0 tie in Game 1 of the World Series after dropping Game 1 and with the Yankees having not scored in the first 12 innings of the series. Combined with his defense, he was even better than his overall season numbers suggested, and that came through watching him everyday.

Knowing what we know now, the question I now ask the Red Sox fans on here is this: wherever you were on Mark Teixeira, if given the reasonable opportunity to get him again, would you do it? So for guys like the Gunn who really thought he was a great fit, if the Yankees weren't going to go any higher (hypothetically), would you have gone the extra $2 million per season to 8/$184 to get him? For guys like DV, who thought there was no room for Teixeira despite being a good fit and the best available bat on the market, would you now reconsider and shuffle Lowell for another need and add him? Someone who liked him but didn't feel the team had to have him like Bandi? Jason? Anybody else?

For me, the idea of a player of this quality on the Red Sox is frightening. They won 95 games last year as it was and really struggled offensively at times. You put Teixeira in the middle of that order, and take him away from the Yankees, and the Red Sox are probably winning division. So being that he may have decided the division, and will continue to have an impact and would have done so no matter which team he signed with, I'm interested to hear where you would stand if you had a chance to do it over again.

18 comments:

the gm at work said...

No.

Anonymous said...

PF

I think there's no question that you take Teixeira for the extra money if given a do-over. Of course, that's dismissing the notion that he was going to New York all along and would have played there even had the Sox put the same money out there that the Yankees did (which has been widely reported--and disputed).

Looking at the guy, you can pretty much bet that in this coming age of natural aging because of more stringent testing for PED's, he won't be the player at 36 that he is at 29. But, he'll be very good or great for at least about the first 4-5 years of the deal and will probably be very good all the way through the end. Is he expensive? Of course. But ultimately I don't think anybody out there would say his 2009 wasn't worth it.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

I've already stated that I would overpay for the right player. I guess the real question is would the Red Sox have won the world series if they had Texeira last year?

If, looking back, you think the answer is yes then you obviously should have done it. Giving yourself a good chance of winning in the short term is always worth mortgaging the future for. See the 2008 Celtics. No one in their right mind thinks that was a bad idea. The here and now is what matters in sports.

However, you could certainly make the argument that even with Teixeira the sox still fall short last year and maybe for the next year or two so it would have to be something that was done in accordance with an overall strategy to win now- obviously what put the Yankees over the top was not signing Sabathia or Teixeira, the key was signing both of them. So I think talking about Teixeira in a vacuuum doesn't make sense.

Finally, I would like to reiterate that I couldn't care less about Lars Anderson or any of the other so called prospects that may have been blocked by bringing in Teixeira. You don't make decisions based on who could be good. You win by having the best players.

Patrick said...

gm -

try to be unbiased, and tell me why. see below where i call you out.

gunn -

absolutely have to dismiss that - and all related notions - for this particular conversation and assume that if you offered the money he'd come to boston. i agree with you that the odds are he'll continue to be a premium player at least through his prime, and that he has a good shot to at least be productive for the length of the contract, even if he's not giving the same production he is now (which is likely). and that is where it lies for me. it's wasn't just about 2009 for boston, which is probably why they offered 8 years and over $20 million for him. he helps you now, and he also helps you for the foreseeable future as an elite bat. and that is where i have to call dv out. he praised the lackey signing for that dual benefit. so if you're going to praise signing a 31 year old pitcher who has averaged 169.2 IP the last two years (not that i'm saying you shouldn't praise that signing, lackey's good), you should also praise signing a (at the time) 28 year old first basemen who since his rookie season was averaging 152 games played, 35 homers, and 118 RBI prior to last season, which he only approved upon in 2009. i think that's the kind of guy you don't worry about lars anderson for, or move depth at his or a related position (lowell) to get him. because the chances of lars anderson being as good as teixeira are slim, and if he ends up being really good you can move him for a need elsewhere on the team. ditto lowell. this is why dv's unwillingness to back off his stance - which at the time was definitely more legitimate - now is confusing to me.

bandi -

first, i don't think we're talking about teixeira in a vacuum here. for the yankees, certainly you have to consider other things. but we're talking about the sox. all considered, what impact would he have on the team, and would you want him as a result?

second, i agree you have to evaluate things from the perspective of championships when dealing with the red sox or yankees and making a commitment to a player like this. you don't look at everything in baseball this way for these two teams, but when talking about a game-changer that costs a lot of money you do. but do you really cut it off at one year? i think you are right that an argument could be made both ways whether or not the sox win the world series last year with teixeira, but you can pretty much always say that. i think the key point is that he seriously increases their chances. more importantly, i think he does so every year for at least the next few years. and i think that matters even more than improving their chances for just last year. so i definitely agree with your way of looking at it i would just expand upon it.

also, take a stand and have an opinion one way or another. none of this reasoned analysis stuff.

Ross Kaplan said...

The difference between Youkilis and Teixeira at first base isn't a huge one. Both are very good fielders for the position and maybe Teixeira is a slightly better producer, but Youkilis can just flat out hit whenever he has to.

So in that sense, maybe signing Teixeira to replace Youkilis at 1st base wasn't necessary. But if Boston had determined that they could play Youkilis at 3rd everyday all of a sudden you have an opening for Teixeira on the roster.

Patrick said...

"But if Boston had determined that they could play Youkilis at 3rd everyday all of a sudden you have an opening for Teixeira on the roster."

that's the only angle it would really make sense for them to have signed teixeira, and also one that improves their club immensely.

Anonymous said...

Ross

You're right about Teixeira/Youkilis.
But, Youkilis has shown he can play 3rd and last year he would have been a major upgrade over Lowell defensively and a significant offensive upgrade. That, coupled with Teixeira as an upgrade (to whatever degree) would have made the Sox a better team. Considering they won 95 games last year, that's saying something.

Bandi

Agree with you on the whole "we have Lars Anderson" thing, which is akin to "what would we do with Willie McGee?" You don't worry about where your talented players fit in, you just take the most talented players and figure it out from there. Look at the Portland Trail Blazers--they drafted for position need and roster flexibility and took Greg Oden. Had they taken the best available player, they'd have Kevin Durant. How has that worked out for Portland?

PF

I don't know what happened to the artist formerly known as Jon Bandi, but we're starting to get some really high quality analysis and even a little diplomacy. Let's just say I'm concerned.

--the Gunn

Anonymous said...

Pat,

We've discussed this a number of times on the blog so I'm not sure we need DV to rehash his entire position on this again- He's written enough on the subject to fill a few chapters in a book.

However, one thing that weakens DV's argument (which i bought into for a while but have admitted I was wrong) against Teixeira coming to boston is that we are not going to get anything from Mike Lowell this year and that was essentially one of the tradeoff's we were looking at last year this time. The thought was the uptick in production from Teixeira over Lowell was not worth the money that it would cost (in other words, better to keep Lowell and spend the money elsewhere).

Obviously we couldn't have foreseen what would happen with Lowell this off season, but it was probably dumb to think that an aging Lowell would continue to give us that type of production for the next 2-3 years.

(the second part of the argument involved Lars Anderstain coming up and I've already said what I thought on that)

Ultimately though, you can make the argument DV made before or will continue to make against the idea of Teixeira in Boston. It's not hard to argue that you could take the $180 million and invest it in other areas of the team to greater reward. The problem is the Sox have not done that. There doesn't seem to be a clear strategy between whether or not we want to win now (which should always be the goal over maybe competing in 3 years when our prospects develop and we are free of bad contracts) or punt it as DV has said and look to compete later. Not enough clear strategy/decision making.

jason said...

I was never opposed to getting him in the first place, mainly because if we had got him we kept him off the yankees despite dvs argument that we didnt have a position to fill last year, plus the red sox rip fans off money wise so I don't care if the players rip them a new one by getting a massive contract

the gm at work said...

Look, after the two year punt period, the Red Sox are going to have a good first baseman. It will either be Anderson (good article about him in the Globe today, btw) or Gonzalez.

As someone already noted earlier today, the highly-unlikable 2009 team still made it to the playoffs. I am skeptical whether Mark Teixeira would have made Josh Beckett turn back the clock to 2007 or would have made Papelbon find the plate. Maybe his phony, contrived high-fiving would have made that happen. But probably not.

I think the situation with Lowell was mis-managed hideously by Francona last year, and if he were properly utilized, his production would have been adequate. Adequate enough, even, that he wouldn't have been on the trading block this winter.

On November 6th, using the very same Willie McGee reference Gunn used, I admitted that the team would have been better-prepared to win the 2009 World Series if they had acquired the player. They would also be better-prepared to win the 2010 and 2011 World Series if they had acquired the player. While I am still not 100% convinced that the player is the kind of player to "ask questions later" about, the player would have been a significant upgrade over a mis-managed Lowell.

Another subjective thing, just as the icing on the cake, is that there was a lot of talking and smug douchiness on the 2009 Red Sox. In fact the Red Sox just edged Boston College yesterday in smug, arrogant douchiness thanks to the actions of their general manager. No doubt, Teixeira would have made that a blowout.

jason said...

Plus looking at it from a do over standpoint you definitely do it since the yankees won the division by a large margin and won the world series.. so with that in mind taking him off the yankees not only hurts them but potentially helps the red sox, maybe not quite enough for the sox to win the division but it definitely narrows the gap

Patrick said...

bandi -

i think it is reasonable to ask dv his thoughts again now, despite all the writing he did on it last winter, because we have a year's worth of perspective. he has also been very quiet on this topic since that perspective has been provided, so i find it interesting to revisit with the new information in hand. it doesn't appear that his stance has changed much, and i'm not saying that it should. he makes some valid points about other areas of the team that were weaknesses. however, having his kind of bat in the middle of the order impacts other ares of the game in my opinion: your pitchers don't have to be as good, your defenese doesn't have to be as good, you can afford to make more mistakes. guys like him cover things up. despite the deficiencies in other areas, the red sox won 95 games and got into the playoffs. who knows what happens if those deficiencies are mitigated/covered up by a premium bat. at the very least, as jason says, the yankees don't have him in that instance, and that is a double win for boston. dv mentions that he still has concerns that he's not an ask questions later player, and in my opinion he solidified last year that he was. and to me, that's the kind of guy you just go get if he fits your team, which i think we can all agree from a tools perspective he fits every team, but specifically the red sox on-base/power/defense approach.

i understand that dv doesn't like him, but i am surprised his position hasn't changed after what he watched first hand last season, not just in total but against the red sox. he hit:

.351/.451/.662/1.123 with 6 homers, 5 doubles, 13 rbi, and 15 runs scored in 18 games vs. boston. i know longoria gets the red sox, but after that i can't imagine too many people doing much more work against them. some big numbers for a guy who is soft and a stat-padder.

the gm at work said...

Pat,

I've been quiet, huh? Why don't you take a look at the archives from November 2009. The Yankees won the World Series on November 4th at roughly 11:30 PM. By 9:50 the following evening, I had written the post "Willie McGee, 18 Years Later," the first offseason post with the exception of my Game 6 recap.

Granted, you didn't want to write about your team winning the World Series until four days after it happened, and you probably JD'ed the crap out of the next four days (that means you didn't work) because you were busy getting hammered and commissioning artists to paint yourself as a centaur. But I addressed everything about Teixeira in that post. I might as well have copied and pasted that post and put it as my last comment. But don't say I've been "silent." Go back and read the "McGee" post. And pay better attention.

Ross Kaplan said...

Uh oh, is this trouble in paradise for our two fearless leaders?

I'm just trying to figure out how much and why Teixeira's alleged "douchiness" comes into the equation of DV's refusal to admit that passing on Teixeira was a bad move. There are probably thousands of "douchie" guys in the world of sports, but who the hell cares what kind of person that guy is if he plays well and wins games. New Yorkers hated Randy Johnson because he was not only a giant douche but because he also never pitched well for us in big spots. But if he had somehow won a World Series during his tenure with the Yankees there's no doubt in my mind his douchiness would've been glossed over and he would've been embraced.

Patrick said...

gm -

that's pretty fair. using quiet as a blanket term does not accurately describe you on teixeira this winter. quiet relative to last winter would be more on point. and that's what i was getting at. not that i expect you to talk about a topic that isn't as relevant this winter as it was last, but when you mount a 4-6 month offensive against one player the way you did against him, and a lot of the things you said turn out to be false, i think you have to take your lumps a little bit. again, i don't think this is necessary if you simply take a stance on something. but when you go out of your way to make a point that at times bordered on outrageous because you didn't like a player personally, and they prove you wrong, i'm going to get after you for it a little bit if the guy is on my team, just as i would expect you or anyone to do to me in the same situation. so in that sense my use of the word "quiet" was not even so much in terms of literal words spent on the guy as it is my way of expressing that he shut you up with his play. if teixeira had laid an egg and the yankees hadn't won the world series, i'm sure we'd be hearing from you just as much as we used to on him.

the gm at work said...

Are you expecting me to throw a "DV was wrong?" party? Did the Yankees hold a parade in 2008? The only person in this country who might acknowledge, broadcast, embrace, and celebrate all the mistakes his office has made is Barack Obama. And I am NOT Barack Obama.

Patrick said...

no, just looking for some concrete acknowledgement. i guess you've sort of done that in posts on other topics, but that doesn't mean i'm going to start razzing you about it. a full "i was totally wrong about mark teixeira post" would be very enjoyable for me to read.

ross - that was an excellent comment, and i think you are right on point regarding less than desirable personalities and winning vs. losing.

however it should be noted dv is one of only a handful of people in the world who have a problem with mark teixeira's personality that is separate from frustration from them not joining/staying with their team. dv actually thinks he's a bad guy. and that is just wrong. he's basically everything you could possibly want on a team, both on the field as a player and in the clubhouse as a leader/teammate.

the gm at work said...

Pat,

It's a Thursday afternoon in March. I understand you JD'ing out on Thursday night and Friday after the Yankees win a World Series. Read my comment. It tells you to refer to the archive. So please go back to the archive and read the "Willie McGee, 18 Years Later" post. We have 1,180 posts from the last three-plus years available on the Internet. There's a green box on the right-hand side every time you access HYD Baseball. You click the arrow next to 2009. Then you click the arrow next to November. Then you scroll down and find the hyperlink to "Willie McGee, 18 Years Later." It was 100% about Teixeira. It's your "concrete acknowledgement." I can't believe we're still going over this!