SweetSpot: Gary Matthews

While the '68 Dodgers have the greatest draft haul ever, they aren't the only team to stock up in a single draft. Not including drafts that resulted in one superstar (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, etc.), here are six other great drafts.

Detroit Tigers, 1976: I believe no team has ever selected two future Hall of Famers in one draft (even if a player went unsigned). The Tigers have a chance, with second-rounder Alan Trammell and fifth-rounder Jack Morris both future Veterans Committee candidates if the writers don't elect them. But the draft didn't end there: the Tigers also got Steve Kemp (130 career home runs) and Dan Petry (125 wins). Plus, get this: They drafted Ozzie Smith in the seventh round but didn't sign him.

Kansas City A's, 1965: In the first round, the A's built the foundation for their three World Series champions of the '70s by selecting Arizona State teammates Rick Monday (first overall pick) and Sal Bando (sixth round) and Gene Tenace (20th round). Monday would later be flipped to the Cubs for Ken Holtzman, who joined Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue in the rotation. (Reggie Jackson and Blue were drafted in 1966 and '67. Hunter, Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers were all signed in 1964 in the pre-draft era.)

San Francisco Giants, 1968: The Giants drafted an All-Star outfield in one draft: Garry Maddox and George Foster in the January regular phase, and then Gary Matthews with their first pick in June. Trouble is: They didn't know what to do with all these guys. Foster was traded to the Reds in 1971 for Frank Duffy and Vern Geishert, and there's a reason you haven't heard of those two. Foster ended up winning an MVP Award and leading the NL three seasons in a row in RBIs.

When Maddox -- "Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, the other one-third is covered by Garry Maddox" -- reached the majors in 1972, the Giants already had Bobby Bonds and Ken Henderson (a good player) plus an aging Willie Mays and rookie Dave Kingman, who couldn't really play anywhere so they plunked him in left field sometimes. Anyway, they cleared space by trading Mays to the Mets but would eventually trade Maddox a few years later to the Phillies for Willie Montanez. For some reason, teams kept trading for Montanez. (He'd hit 30 home runs as a rookie, but only reached 20 one other time and never walked.) Anyway, the Giants quickly realized Montanez wasn't that good and would trade him to the Braves for Darrell Evans, who was at least a productive player.

Matthews played four seasons for the Giants before signing with the Braves as a free agent. The Giants of the '70s and '80s were churning out ballplayers left and right but kept doing stupid things like trading Maddox for Montanez or Bob Knepper for Enos Cabell or Jack Clark for a pile of landfill or playing Johnnie LeMaster at shortstop year and they never won anything.

Boston Red Sox, 1976: Bruce Hurst was the team's first-rounder in June while Wade Boggs lasted until the seventh. John Tudor came in the January secondary phase. Mike Smithson would win 76 major league games.

New York Mets, 1982: All told, the Mets would draft 17 players who would reach the major leagues, including Dwight Gooden, Roger McDowell and Randy Myers. Unsigned, however: eighth-round pick Rafael Palmeiro. (The year before, the Mets had drafted but failed to sign Roger Clemens out of junior college.)

New York Yankees, 1990: First-rounder Carl Everett never played for the Yankees as he was lost to the Marlins in the expansion draft, but two late-rounders turned out pretty well: Andy Pettitte (22nd round) and Jorge Posada (24th). They also signed a skinny 20-year-old Panamanian pitcher as an amateur free agent that year: You've probably heard of him ... Mariano Rivera.

Honorable mention: Montreal Expos, 1977 (Tim Rainers, Bill Gullickson, Scott Sanderson); Cincinnati Reds, 1983 (Chris Sabo, Rob Dibble, Kurt Stillwell, Jeff Montgomery, Joe Oliver, Lenny Harris); Minnesota Twins, 1989 (Chuck Knoblauch, Denny Neagle, Scott Erickson, Marty Cordova, Mike Trombley); Boston Red Sox, 1989 (Mo Vaughn, Jeff Bagwell, Paul Quantrill). As for more recent drafts, the Red Sox selected Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie in 2005; and the Braves' 2007 draft could be a good one: Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel (and Brandon Belt went unsigned).

Anyway, I'm sure I missed some good drafts in there. Add to the list if I did!

Fisking an odd and frightening report

March, 5, 2010
Here's the way it works sometimes: one of ESPN.com's writers fires off a Tweet, which is picked up by some random blogger, and then I join the fray. Got all that?
    According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (via Twitter), the Reds are interested in acquiring outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. if he fails to beat out Angel Pagan for the Mets' month-long centerfield opening.

    Matthews Jr. posted a lousy 697 OPS in 316 at-bats for the Angels last season and was shipped to New York this winter for reliever Brian Stokes. If he makes the Mets' final squad, and trumps Pagan, he will man the centerfield position until Carlos Beltran (knee) returns to the field in May. If not, Matthews should be able to find ample playing time in Cincinnati.

Here's a prediction: any team with which Gary Matthews finds "ample playing time" is a non-contender.

As I've written before, the last thing the Reds need is another (relatively) impotent outfielder. They've already got Jonny Gomes, Chris Dickerson, Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce, Wladimir Balentien, and Chris Heisey ... all of whom are younger -- and generally speaking, better -- than Matthews.

If the Reds pick up Matthews, they might as well issue a press release: "Today, because we didn't trust our manager to figure out which of our young marginal outfielders to play, we've acquired an old marginal outfielder, to whom our manager has already promised ample playing time."

Seriously. Just yesterday, when a radio host asked me about the Reds, I said this: "The Reds have the roster to win 85-90 games. I'm not sure if they have the manager."

Which was a) before the bit about Little Sarge, and b) not completely fair to the manager, as he's not the one making the trades and signing the free agents.

But if the Reds do get Matthews and he does play amply, someone will have to be mocked. Severely.

Mets pick up vital fifth outfielder

January, 22, 2010
Hey, good news for the Angels! For three years of Gary Matthews Jr. and now Brian Stokes for a spell, they had to spend just $48 million! (Well, $48 million plus Brian Stokes' salary, but who's counting?)

It's all here in the deal that's sending Matthews and a great deal of cash to the Mets in exchange for Stokes. Which leaves Matthew Cerrone wondering ...
    In the team’s view, the Mets could have signed a free-agent outfielder for, say, $2 million per season, or they could have traded for Matthews Jr., who will only cost them $1.25 million per season. They apparently were not satisfied with the current crop of free-agent outfielders, and so they chose to make the trade instead.

    To me, I don’t understand how that, plus giving up a pitcher, is better than, say, re-signing a guy like Jeremy Reed, who just signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays.

    I mean, this is not to say I am disappointed or angry about getting Matthews Jr., because it’s only a fourth outfielder we’re talking about… in some ways, this move will probably prove to be very inconsequential. It’s just, I don’t understand why they needed to trade a pitcher to do it.

I don't understand, either.

Purely in terms of value, the Mets have given up something for nothing.

Brian Stokes is nobody's idea of a star, but he's cheap and he's got a 3.82 ERA in the National League.

Gary Matthews essentially forced Bill James to invent Loss Shares.

Yes, that's a joke. Bill started thinking about Loss Shares long before Matthews signed his $50 million contract with the Angels. But according to Wins Above Replacement, in the first three years of that five-year deal, Matthews has been worth negative $5.2 million.

Perhaps I was too kind. One might argue that the Mets just gave up something for less than nothing.*

* No, I don't enjoy writing such things. I hope that neither Matthews nor anyone related to Matthews nor anyone with the same last name as Matthews reads this. But I can't ignore the facts as I see them, however unflattering they might seem.

Yeah, I would rather have re-signed Jeremy Reed, who at least would have the virtue of a contract that roughly matched his playing time. This one's just a head-scratcher. But then, the Mets do lead the league in that category.

Matthews healthier, happier ... and better?

May, 7, 2009
You have to lose cause-and-effect. The made-up kind, I mean. Mike DiGiovanna on Gary Matthews' comeback:
    Matthews, who underwent surgery to repair the patella tendon in his left knee last October, is getting an opportunity, thanks in part to a torn pectoral muscle that sent Vladimir Guerrero to the disabled list on April 18.

    If the switch-hitter hasn't made the most of it, he is making something of it. Matthews has started 15 of the team's 26 games and entered Wednesday batting .288 with 12 runs batted in. He has as many RBIs in 59 at-bats as Bobby Abreu has in 96 at-bats.

    "It's a good start," Matthews said. "The knee is good. It has responded very well, and my hard work over the winter has paid off. It's nice to be healthy and not have to take anti-inflammatory medication and pain-killers."


    "Foundation is everything -- I couldn't stay on my back side, I didn't have the strength, and when you don't have your base, you have nothing," Matthews said. "It's hard enough to play this game when you're healthy, let alone having a significant tear in your knee. I'm glad we did the surgery."

If he's feeling good, I'm happy for him. Honestly.

Is it churlish, though, to point out that Matthews's .270/.314/.349 is even worse than last year's .242/.319/.357? Is it overly negative to mention that Matthews is making $10 million this season, and that the Angels are on the hook for another $23 million over the next two seasons? Is it terribly crass to suggest that Matthews' contract looked ridiculous when he signed it, still looks ridiculous, and might wind up being one of the silliest deals ever?

Perhaps. Maybe the knee's feeling better and the performance will follow, eventually. But it's way, way, way too early to start throwing MVP parties and talking about the wonderful benefits of the medical profession.

(H/T: BTF's Newsstand)