Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Friday, January 23, 2004
Boras pushing the peddle for Pudge

By Rob Neyer
ESPN.com

News Item: The Detroit Tigers have offered free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez a four-year contract worth $40 million. Today, Rodriguez's agent will submit a counter-proposal to the Tigers.

Wait a minute ... The Tigers have apparently offered more money (and perhaps far more money) than any other team has offered ... and Scott Boras (Rodriguez's agent) is coming back to ask for more? I can hear the conversation now ...

"Hey guys, Pudge would love to play in Detroit, but I'm afraid we've got another offer on the table, $40 million for four years, and if you want him you'll have to beat that."

Pudge Rodriguez
Pudge Rodriguez was the MVP in the NLCS last season.

"But that's our offer. We offered him the $40 million."

"Sorry guys, but I don't make the rules. I'm just acting in the best interest of my client, and if you want him you'll have to beat that other offer."

This might seem absurd, if it hadn't worked before. When Boras got $252 million for Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers, do you know who the Rangers were bidding against?

Nobody but themselves.

After Rodriguez signed, there were a lot of stories suggesting that he signed because Rangers owner Tom Hicks made him feel so "welcome" in the Metroplex.

Well, yeah. Hicks welcomed Rodriguez with far more money than any mere baseball player had ever seen on one contract. More to the point, Hicks welcomed Rodriguez with far more money than any other team was willing to offer.

And that's the essence of Boras's genius. Most agents will say, "Team A, if you want Player B then you'll have to pay him X+1, because Team C is willing to pay X."

Not Boras. Instead, he says, "Team A, your offer of X is interesting and Player B is excited about the opportunity to play in your fine city, but we still need X+1."

See, he didn't even bother with Team B. He understands that letting Team B into the discussion puts the number in somebody else's hands. Boras' genius rests in his ability to center the conversation around his number rather than somebody else's. Does it always work? No. Maybe this time it won't. But you know, $40 million still isn't a bad number.

News Item: Astros manager Jimy Williams announced that Tim Redding, and not Jeriome Robertson, would be the team's No. 5 starter in 2004.

Well, duh. Last season, Redding posted a 3.68 ERA, Robertson 5.10 ERA. Redding also struck out more batters per nine innings, and walked fewer. Then again -- and this is probably what led to some confusion -- Redding's record (10-14) wasn't nearly as good as Robertson's (15-9).

Tim Redding
Starting pitcher
Houston Astros
Profile
2003 SEASON STATISTICS
G IP W-L BB SO ERA
33 176.0 10-14 65 116 3.68

But as the Associated Press story pointed out (and isn't this a wonderful thing to see in a mainstream news story?), the Astros "averaged 5.5 runs in Robertson's 32 starts and 3.8 runs in Redding's 33 starts."

There are still, I suppose, a few Neanderthals who think that run support is due to something other than blind luck. What's really amusing -- and I can document this -- is that when a great pitcher gets good run support, it's attributed to his teammates being relaxed ... and when a great pitcher gets lousy run support, it's attributed to his teammates being too relaxed.

It's all bunk, of course. A pitcher's record depends primarily on how well he pitches, and secondarily on how well his teammates hit. And how well they hit doesn't have anything to do with how well he pitches.

So how well can Tim Redding pitch? Should he be the third or fourth pitcher this winter anointed by yours truly as "the best fifth starter in the majors"? Honestly, I don't have any idea. In 2001, I thought he might be nearly as good as Roy Oswalt. That season, Redding started in Double-A and wound up in the majors, in the process 1) going 17-4, and 2) striking out 208 hitters in 184 innings.

That's impressive, obviously. But Redding struggled some in 2002 (though his strikeout rate remained impressive), and last year his ERA was solid but his strikeout rate fell significantly, to just five K's per nine innings.

So how good is he? Hard to say. But we do know that he's better than Jeriome Robertson, and we do know that he's the best No. 5 starter in the National League. Or not.

Senior writer Rob Neyer writes three columns per week during baseball's offseason. Next spring, Fireside will publish Rob's next book, "The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers" (co-authored with Bill James); for more information, visit Rob's Web site. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.