By In Baseball

What can Cano do for you?

Joe Morgan is unquestionably one of the greatest second basemen in baseball history. Bill James ranks him No. 1, others put him behind Rogers Hornsby and maybe Eddie Collins, I’ve seen him on lists behind Nap Lajoie too. But everyone would agree he’s one of the best ever.

After Joe Morgan’s 30-year-old season, he had 5,939 plate appearances.

Robinson Cano, who just finished his 30-year-old season, has 5,791 plate appearances.

How do they rate against each other so far? Morgan was better. Not a lot better. But better. The numbers are difficult to compare because they played in very different eras. But Morgan created a few more runs (922 to 905) even though he played in a significantly lower scoring time and played his early years in Houston, when the Astrodome was the monster who ate offense. Morgan got on base more often, which is the main thing. Morgan also stole 378 bases, Cano 38. The defensive numbers seem to give Cano an edge in defense which makes some sense, but Morgan was a good fielder too.

Like I say, it’s pretty close. But Morgan had 54.2 WAR after 30, Cano is at 45.2 WAR. I think Morgan was a bit better..

But what happened to Morgan after age 30? And what can that tell us about Cano? The Mariners just gave Cano a 10-year-deal worth, if I heard correctly, 473 billionshmillionzillionvillion dollars. I don’t want to go over all the failed long term deals to 30-something players again. I don’t want to write that the deal will unquestionably backfire on the Mariner.

No, instead, I wonder: What if Cano follows the Joe Morgan path?

Year 1 of the deal: At 31, Joe Morgan had one of the greatest seasons ever for a second baseman. He hit .327, led the league with .466 on-base percentage, had 50 extra base hits (and a .508 slugging percentage), stole 67 bases and was caught just 10 times, scored 107 runs, drove in 94 runs, won the Gold Glove and was the best player on what I still believe was the best eight-man team ever to take the field (the pitching … not so much). He had an insane 11.0 WAR — worth something like $55 million on the open market by Fangraphs calculator.

So, let’s say that Cano does this — has a season for the ages.

His contract is really worth $240 million. Subtract $55 million. We’re down to $185 million already.

Year 2 of the deal: Ugh, I miscounted this the first time — thank you BR Devin — so I have to rework all the numbers. Blah! But here we go:

Morgan was, in some ways, even better than in 1975. He led the league in on-base percentage again (.444), but this time led the league in slugging too (.576). He tacked on 13 doubles and 10 homers to his insane 1975 season, scored 113 runs, drove in 111 runs, stole 60 bases and was caught just nine times, won another Gold Glove and was, once again, the best player on what I still believe was the best eight-man team ever to take the field.

Because his OBP was down a little and because runs were a bit and his defense wasn’t rated as well, his WAR dropped to a merely awesome 9.5. That’s roughly $47.5 million in value. The money is just pouring off.

Should Cano match this, his contract is now down to $137.5 million. This might turn out being a bargain!

Year 3 of the deal: Morgan was still good at 33. He was not nearly as good as the previous two seasons. But he was good. He posted a .417 OBP, stole 49 bases, had 49 extra base hits, scored 113 runs. But his defense did fall off some more and he was beginning to show his age. Still a 5.8 WAR season is awfully good — there are plenty of MVPs who did not have a 5.8 WAR.

So that’s worth 29 million — more than Cano is getting per year.

The contract is down to $108.5 million.

Year 4 of the deal: Uh oh. Something happened to Joe Morgan. It might have had something to do with turning 34, but suddenly his line was .236/.347/.385. No Gold Glove … people are realizing that he’s definitely falling off defensively. He stole 19 bases. Injuries popped up — he only played 132 games. It was the first time in 10 years he didn’t play at least 140.

His WAR was 1.8. That’s going to knock off about nine million.

The contract is down to $99.5 million. Hey, we’re below 100 million!

Year 5 of the deal: A rebound year. He only hit .250, but Morgan’s ability to walk gave him a stout .379 on-base percentage. His power was gone, but he did steal 28 bases, and his defense was a bit better. His WAR was 2.6. That’s $13 million off the contract.

We’re down to $86.5 million with five years to pay it off. We can do it!

Year 6 of the deal: Morgan left the Reds and signed a deal with the Houston Astros. It’s sad — all the great players on the Big Red Machine except for Johnny Bench and Dave Concepcion left Cincinnati under somewhat bitter circumstances. Morgan really had a nice year for a 36-year-old second baseman. He led the league with 93 walks, stole 24 bases, hit 11 home runs and seemed to have a better defensive year. But he hit only .243 so the Astros released him.

Anyway, his WAR was 4.0, a nice number. That’s knocking $20 million off the contract.

And we’re down to $66.5 million.

Year 7 of the deal: After the Astros released Morgan, he signed with the San Francisco Giants. He only played 90 games though because of injury — it was a solid 90 games, a lot like the season before. He posted a .371 OBP and scored 47 runs in roughly half a season.

His WAR — 2.3. That knocks $11.5 million off the contract.

And we’re down to $55 million. That’s the size of the Kansas City Royals Gil Meche contract.

Year 8 of the deal: And here it is: The renaissance year from a great player. In 1982, playing for a feisty Giants team, Morgan hit .289/.400/.438 with 14 homers and 24 stolen bases and decent defense. Fangraphs is giving him a 5.2 WAR for that season. Fantastic!

So 5.2 WAR is roughly $26 million off the contract.

Here we go: Two years to shave $29 million off. Can he do it?

Year 9 of the deal: The Giants traded Morgan to Philadelphia — they got MIke Krukow in the deal and he’s STILL with the Giants. Morgan could not quite repeat his magical season at age 39. He hit just .230 for the Phillies. But he still walked a lot, still stole bases at a very high success rate (18 out of 20), still played a professional second base and he posted a 3.5 WAR.

So, that’s $17.5 million off the contract!

We need $11.5 million in the last year to make it happen. That’s a 2.3 WAR season. Can the 40-year-old Morgan do it?

Year 10 of the deal: No. A creaky 40-year-old Joe Morgan finished his career with Oakland. He was more or less shot. He did have a respectable .356 on-base percentage, but with no punch, little speed, and his defense went South to retirement. He posted a 1.3 WAR and called it a career.

BUT … 1.3 WAR is worth $6.5 million.

That means … yes, I got it wrong the first time. Morgan did not make it. I originally thought he did, but because of subtraction errors … well, in the end, even Joe Morgan fell $5 million short.

But, if you look at it in a deeper way, Morgan really did make it. I placed the value of 1 WAR at $5 million — it’s already more than that because of the huge contracts given out this offseason. By the end of 10 years, if teams keep making these huge offers (and they undoubtedly will) the price of 1win above replacement might be $10 million. Anyway, I’m sure that’s what the Mariners were betting on.

If Cano has a Joe Morgan like second half — two of the greatest seasons in baseball history, two or three other very good seasons and offers some value even in his off years by doing something extra — I think it will be a good deal. Does Cano have that in him? That’s an entirely different question.

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45 Responses to What can Cano do for you?

  1. Which hunt? says:

    Any other second basemen with that kind of value after 30? Sandberg? Biggio? Rajah?

  2. Excelsior says:

    Bill James is wrong: Rogers Hornsby was the greatest 2B of all-time. Joe Morgan is number 2, but Hornsby is pretty clearly the better player.

    • Jason Linden says:

      But what about competition? Hornsby had a much easier league, It’s a tough call, but I don’t see how you can claim it’s so cut and dried.

      • Herb Smith says:

        Good point, except…are you saying that Pujols is better than Babe Ruth? That Roy Halladay is superior to Walter Johnson? Because those guys played at the same time as Hornsby. In fact, the Rajah’s career overlapped the Babe’s almost exactly.

        So why do we always deeply penalize Hornsby for the “timeline” thing (even Bill James does!) but never Ruth?

        • ingres77 says:

          Because Babe Ruth was the best hitter of his era, and he was also a very good pitcher early in his career. That ups his value.

          Babe Ruth WAR: 183.8
          Barry Bonds: 162.5

          Rogers Hornsby: 127.0
          Joe Morgan: 100.4

          But Babe Ruth’s WAR as a position player was 163.2 – that’s less than a single win over an entire career than the next highest position player. You could easily argue a rounding error, and make the decision on other factors. But, again, Ruth was a pitcher. And a good one. So that counts.

          The 27 WAR career difference between Hornsby and Morgan isn’t so great when you count for all the changes in the game between the 1920s and 1970s.

          Personally, I’m comfortable with either being called the greatest. But it’s far from a simple decision.

          • tom says:

            Sorry, but you cannot compare Babe Ruth’s WAR to Barry Bonds’s WAR if for no other reason than that in Ruth’s time players, let alone replacement level players, couldn’t be black. Not sure if it means for our purposes Bonds has a 0 WAR or Ruth does, but you cannot compare the two on that basis.

          • ingres77 says:

            @Tom. You missed the point.

            You actually can compare the WAR of the two players. Just as I can compare the flavors of a glass of wine and a can of soda. Their differences don’t make it impossible so long as everything is accounted for.

            My point was that Babe Ruth isn’t “penalized” in the same way that Rogers Hornsby is because of his multi-faceted skill levels. He was a great hitter (arguably the best ever) and a very good pitcher. So even if you drop players of his era down for playing before integration (a fair thing to do) and some of the more modern advancements, he has further to drop before his legacy suffers.

            Unlike Rogers Hornsby.

            My point wasn’t to say that Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds were equitable players – because I don’t think they were. That he (and others of the era) played prior to integration obviously benefited their raw numbers.

            Statistics can’t be looked at in a vacuum. I never claimed otherwise. Take my words at face value, please.

          • tom says:

            @ingress you can compare the flavor of wine and soda, but what if you were prohibited from ever drinking wine? would the comparisons make any sense? You can compare Bonds and Ruth on stats that virtually never change (a HR is a HR is a HR; a RBI is an RBI is a RBI; but the entire notion of “replacement level” changed when black people could start playing, so whether or not Ruth should be penalized (in my mind he should be diminished if not penalized), the WAR statistic does not make sense across that generational line.

          • ingres77 says:

            That prohibition makes no sense, Tom. There is no one-to-one correlation between the numbers of Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds, just as there is no one-to-one correlation between wine and soda. That’s where my analogy comes from. But I am just as capable of tasting both liquids as I am of looking at the statistics of both players.

            What exactly constitutes a “replacement level” player changes from year to year. The numbers a “replacement level” player in 1980 would put up are different from a “replacement level” player in 2013. 7 wins above replacement is the same in both of those years, however, because the number is weighted to the seasonal data. That’s how Joe Morgan, Barry Bonds, and Mike Trout all put up 10+ WAR seasons despite vast differences in the seasonal norms of 1975, 2001, and 2012.

            In other words, it’s a sliding scale. There isn’t a universal “replacement level” cross-generationally. Whatever “replacement level” you’re talking about is specific to the seasonal data. So, in that sense, Bonds was 163 wins above replacement for his era, and Ruth was 164 wins above replacement for his.

            Your basic notion that a HR is a HR is a HR stands in stark contrast to the fundamental insight advanced metrics give us; namely, that the numbers don’t remain constant. Every number has a context. Advanced metrics (WAR included) attempt to account for the vagaries in our data.

            The issue is that we don’t know what Ruth’s WAR would have been had the leagues been integrated then. Just as we don’t know what Bonds WAR would’ve been if he had to contend with 450′ outfield fences, lack of body armor, a different strike zone, and greater familiarity brought by the smaller number of teams.

            Each era has it’s positives and negatives. I don’t think we’re in disagreement has to whether or not segregation was a *huge* negative, however.

          • tom says:

            @ingres does the prohibition really not make sense? Let me be very straightforward: If Barry Bonds was alive at the time of Babe Ruth his WAR would have been 0.0 because he would have been prohibited from playing in the major leagues. Here’s a thought experiment: What is Josh Gibson’s WAR?

            Again, compare the home run totals between Bonds and Ruth, but not WAR. The comparison literally doesn’t make sense.

          • ingres77 says:

            Tom, that was pretty straight forward. I guess I’ll reply in kind: you don’t understand things.

            It’s that simple. This isn’t an attack on your ability to understand, nor is it an attack on your intelligence. I don’t mean to attack you at all. Factually speaking, you do not understand how WAR is set up. Reasonable people can disagree reasonably. Maybe you and I disagree on how much pre-integration should count against Ruth.

            But you aren’t “disagreeing reasonably.” You are wrong. About WAR, specifically.

            It’s very purpose is to be a comprehensive representation of someone’s value as a player, across the board and independent of all league, era, and park effects. If someone has a 10 WAR season in 1930, and another has a 10 WAR season in 2000, those are (for the most part) equally good seasons. Not so if someone hits 30 HR in 1930 or 2000.

            Is it perfect? No. No stat is. But it – far more than “HR” or any other traditional stat – is capable of giving you a good representation of how well someone performed relative the lowest common denominator out there. Traditional stats aren’t useless, but we simply understand the game better, and have more advanced ways of measuring performance.

            It is not impossible to compare Bonds and Ruth via WAR. You are simply wrong about this. We’ve seemed to have reached an impasse in this discussion. If you want to continue it, I recommend you do your research first, because at this point you do not know what you are talking about.

          • tom says:

            @ingress Fair enough. Your point is well taken. But please tell me two things: 1) What is Josh Gibson’s WAR? 2) When was Josh Gibson inducted into the Hall of Fame?

          • ingres77 says:

            There is no WAR available for Josh Gibson, as I assume you already know. Seeing that he was deprived of playing in the Majors, we are, in turn, deprived of having enough information on him to calculate it.

            He was elected in 1972.

          • Guest says:

            @ingres curious thing, we roughly know how many HR he hit. He was elected on that rough estimate, not WAR. Somehow we cannot compare Ruth and Gibson — roughly contemporaries — on WAR, but can Ruth and Bonds? We don’t know Ichiro’s lifetime WAR, but we know his career hit total. Blindlessly worshipping at the altar of stats is the same thing as being ignorant of their limitations. Stated another wsy , the stats might be more “advanced” but most people’s understanding of stats and their limitations remain less than advanced.

          • ingres77 says:

            I don’t know if you’re “tom” and forget to sign in under your previous name, or are another person.

            Either way – you have no idea what WAR is, or how it’s calculated. There is no WAR for Josh Gibson because we don’t have information on the parks and leagues he played in, and seasonal data is sporadic at best. Further, no we don’t “know how many home runs he hit.” There are plenty of stories about Josh Gibson, but there are few facts. Here’s what can be confirmed:


            Less than 2,000 plate appearances over 16 years, and 107 HR (for a .624 SLG).

            That’s a far cry from being able to do a comparison between Ruth and Gibson.

            We can compare Ruth and Bonds because we have reasonably extensive statistical data on both players, on the leagues they played in, on the parks they played in, on the teams and players they played against. We have comprehensive data by which we can compare them against. We can understand the context in which those players put up their numbers, and this context allows us to move them on a scale that fairly weighs their numbers. WAR has this “weighing” built into the calculation.

            There are numerous primers out there on what WAR is, how it’s calculated, and what the methodology is behind it. I suggest giving them a glance before you so easily dismiss them. It may be hard for you to believe, but it might be that people understand these things better than you, and have put a lot of time and effort into developing tools for the rest of us. Maybe that’s not true. You’ll never know so long as you haven’t done the research.

            “Stated another wsy , the stats might be more “advanced” but most people’s understanding of stats and their limitations remain less than advanced.”

            Your limitations don’t concern me. It’s not my responsibility to make sure you know what things mean. The problems you’ve raised with WAR, and with comparing Bonds and Ruth aren’t actually problems. They are an indication that you lack knowledge. While you are certainly free to disdain understanding, and can choose to be willfully ignorant of advancements in our understanding, don’t expect to win too many arguments.

    • On pure hitting numbers, sure (although Hornsby was playing in the go-go 20’s and 30’s while Morgan was playing in the second deadball era). But Hornsby was bad on the basepaths, bad in the field (although B-R disagrees) and was a horrible teammate and manager. I’m reminded of what Bill James said about the Ted Williams-Stan Musial comparison. I’d take Little Joe on the bases, Joe in the field, Joe in the clubhouse. And Joe could hit a little too.

  3. Donald A. Coffin says:

    Thought I’d look at three players who did pretty well after age 30. Hornsby had 36.5 WAR after age 30; Jeff Kent did slightly better, 37.7. And Biggio amassed 32.0 So if Cano has the second half of their careers, he’ll be worth it.

    BBRef has his 10 best comps through age 30 (in order) as David Wright, Joe Torre, George Brett, Bobby Doerr, Ryne Sandberg, Ivan Rodriguez, Vern Stephens, Travis Fryman, Aramis Ramirez, and Tony Lazzeri–and the highest similarity score is 888. Of the 2B on that list, Doerr was done at age 33 (with 11.7 WAR after age 30); Sandberg scores 24 WAR, Lazzeri tailed off badly, playing very little after age 33 (8.9 WAR). So his comps may not make one optimistic. (Brett? 30.5 WAR.)

  4. Geoff Buchan says:

    Fun analysis!
    It looks like you’re keeping $/WAR constant through the life of the deal. If there’s any inflation, then the deal, paying Cano fixed dollars each year, would work out even better for the Mariners. Or, conversely, Cano doesn’t need to play as well, especially late in the deal, to make it look good for them.

  5. MRH says:

    Sounds about right. He needs to perform like a HoFer, but unlike Morgan, he needs to do it for the same team for a decade, instead of bouncing around 4 or 5 teams during his later years. That’s more of a rarity these days.

  6. Charlie says:

    Recently on Fangraphs, it seems the writers have been using $6 million/WAR. Add in inflation, and this contract could actually just fine for the Mariners. Jonah Keri seems to think so.

  7. Bill White says:

    From the Mariners standpoint it’s hard to see what Canot can do for them. They are a mid- market team without a lot of money to spend. So let’s say Canot is everything they could hope him to be. Won’t they then be like they were with Ichiro, a mediocre team with one star, hoping to play break even ball? With Canot’s money wouldn’t they have been wiser to get 2 (maybe even 3) decent pitchers?

    • Liam says:

      Actually, the Mariners have a ton of money to spend. They just inked a new tv deal with the regional sports network (that they own) and only have one major multi-year contract besides Cano (Felix). You’re assuming that they’re done signing players – every major news source says the opposite – they’re supposedly in on Choo, Kemp and Price. Put a few more pieces around Cano and they could make it interesting.

  8. Devin Ensing says:

    Unfortunately in year 2 you knocked off another $55 million instead of the $47.5 million mentioned. Given that $7.5 million difference, it looks like instead of a surplus of $2.5 million the Mariners lose $5 million. However as others have said, with inflation built in and the $/WAR probably higher than $5/WAR and certainly climbing higher, the Mariners might end up alright.

  9. Ericanadian says:

    Even beyond inflationary impacts, time value of money is also something to consider here. If they’re getting $55 million in value in year one while only paying $24 million, They’re making a surplus of $31 million which could be invested to provide additional value.

    That said, this is all dependant on Cano having a Joe Morgan like career from here on out and not falling off a cliff due to injury, etc.

  10. Mark Strode says:

    So, basically, for the deal to make sense Cano has to have “two of the best seasons in baseball history”…..seem perfectly reasonable.

  11. The math is close enough to make this interesting on the Morgan side, but there’s a giant whiff comparing him with Cano. Morgan continued to post 4-5 WAR seasons in the back end of his deal because he still had elite speed and tremendous OBP skills.

    Cano has neither of those things. He doesn’t walk much, and without looking, I think Prince Fielder has more career SB. Cano’s value is going to hinge on whether he can continue to approach .300 and scorch a lot of doubles if not home runs.

  12. Jesse Taylor says:

    As a Seattle M’s fan I’m thrilled. Can Cano match Morgan’s career? Who knows. But after watching almost gold glover Brendan Ryan hit worse than a pitcher, and prospects almost pan out, I can’t wait to see a bona fide ballplayer in an M’s uniform. But Safeco is where sluggers go to die they say. If you look a Beltre’s stats, there was a slight dip in production, I’m not concerned about Cano not hitting in Safeco. A slight dip we can handle. We won’t know until the the season begins, but at least there is a little baseball buzz in Seattle. Feels good to vent a little.

  13. John Leavy says:

    Why do people assume that the presence of black players in the major leagues would have HURT old-time players?

    Mightn’t Babe Ruth have had MORE ribbies if the Yankees had a Rickey Henderson getting on base for him?

    Mightn’t Ty Cobb have scored MORE runs if the Tigers had a Henry Aaron batting third?

    Mightn’t Walter Johnson have had MORE wins if the Senators had an Ozzie Smith scooping up everything hit to the left side?

    Remember, segregation was NOT an unmixed blessing for white players. Sure, they benefitted by not facing quality black rivals, but they also suffered by not having quality black teammates.

    • ingres77 says:

      The overall quality of play would have improved, because the pool from which these players were coming would have been larger, thus allowing inferior players to be kept out of the game.

      To give an extreme example, say you have two teams. One is building its roster from 1,000 players, and the other is building its roster from 1,000,000 people, the second team is more likely to field the better team. The best 9 players out of a million or more likely to be better than the best 9 players out of a thousand.

      Similarly, the 1927 Yankees could only fill its roster with white players, but the 1961 Yankees were able to bring in black players. But the 2001 Yankees were able to bring in international players.

      Does that automatically mean the 2001 Yankees were better than the 1927 team? No. Just as lack of integration doesn’t automatically mean Barry Bonds was better than Babe Ruth. But, generally speaking, being able to draw from a larger pool allows for inferior talent to be weeded out.

      It’s true that Babe Ruth might have had more RBI if Rickey Henderson somehow time traveled and hit in front of him. But that’s one of the many reasons why advanced metrics discount team-dependent stats like RBI. Even something like OBP (which can be effected by the lineup around a player) is largely independent of the team. Barry Bonds was an on base machine, whether he had Steve Buechel hitting behind him or Jeff Kent. Getting on base is a skill, driving in runs is not (necessarily).

      Had Babe Ruth been able to face Pedro Martinez instead of Sloppy Thurston his numbers might look different. That’s the overall point.

      • John Leavy says:

        Okay… well then consider this: in 1943, when there were no black players in MLB and even the best white players were in the armed forces, the best hitter in the National League was Stan Musial. Did Stan’s numbers plummet when the white stars came back from the war? Nope. Did they plummet when black pitchers started entering the major leagues? Nope. Stan adapted and continued to perform as if nothing had changed.

        So did Ted Williams. So did Warren Spahn. I can’t think of a single star whose game went straight to Hell when black players entered the game.

        If Stan, Ted and Warren could adapt, there’s no compelling reason to think the Babe wouldn’t have.

        • ingres77 says:

          Are you honestly going to argue that a single instance proves that a smaller talent pool in no way effects how well someone performs?

          In any case, he actually performed considerably better in 1943 and 44 than 22 and 23 year olds typically do. Maybe that has something to do with the diminished talent in the league. Maybe not.

          And “by the time black players started entering the league” Musial was on the downside of his career. Real integration didn’t happen until the 1950s at the earliest. One or two black players doesn’t constitute elevating the talent pool. 1952 was the last year Musial posted a WAR of 8 or higher, and he was still only 31 at the time.He was still a great player after that (he would go on to earn another 46 WAR for the rest of his career), he was never quite the same player. Is that because of integration or aging? It’s impossible to say.

          So Musial doesn’t really prove your point. Two of his very best seasons came in the war years (when he was very young), and after integration became fully ensconced in the game, he never again posted an absurdly high WAR season.

          Ted Williams dominated the AL in virtually every significant offensive category from his rookie season in 1939 until the Korean War, making him unquestionably the best player in the game. After the Korean War, however, 1957 was pretty much the only season in which he was historically great. He missed a lot of time in his 30s, however, so I’m not sure how much can be inferred from this.

          Warren Spahn, too, had his last historically great season in 1953 at the age of 32. While he would have a long, celebrated career, he never had another 6 WAR season.

          No one is arguing their game should have gone “straight to hell”. No one is necessarily even arguing their game would’ve been seriously diminished. What is being argued, however, is that integration raised the level of play throughout the league. This doesn’t mean the best players would’ve been worse (though, they very well may have had their peaks blunted somewhat), but it does mean the floor would’ve likely been raised.

          We don’t know what *would* have happened. But it certainly seems plausible that Babe Ruth might have put up, say, 160 WAR over his career instead of 164. Or 140. Or anything in between. We don’t know. What we *do* know is that he didn’t have to face the best players of his era, he only had to face the best white players.

  14. TWolf says:

    The Astrodome may have been a monster that ate offense, but Joe Morgan, except for 1971, hit better in the Astrodome than on the road. This is against the conventional wisdom.

  15. Since integration, Joe Morgan has the most pre-31 fWAR as well as the most post-30 fWAR. Expecting Cano to match him is a bit crazy.

    As an aside, I wrote an article at SB Nation’s Pinstripe Alley comparing Cano to Morgan and other great second basemen since integration in order to gauge an appropriate contract value for him. I came up with somewhere between 7 years at $160 million and 10 years at $222 million. Pretty close in the long run.

  16. Mark Daniel says:

    Is 4.0 WAR worth $20 million? Or $24 million as Charlie above said?
    If you go by these numbers, Cano needs 48 WAR, or 40 WAR, respectively, in the next 10 years. The former is nearly impossible, the latter is extremely difficult.

  17. Bob Lince says:

    What is seen, and what is not seen.

    Everybody talks about the minority athlete being added to the pool of baseball players, but nobody talks about the “majority” athlete being subtracted from the pool.

    What is seen is that pre-WWII pro baseball did not include any minority ball players.

    What is not seen is that post-WWII baseball did not include many good to great white ball players.

    Where did THEY go? They went into the other now economically burgeoning professional sports: football, basketball, hockey, golf, tennis, bowling, snow boarding, skateboarding, bike riding, x-gaming….

    A kid who, had he been born 100 years before, could very well have grown up to be another Christy Mathewson or Lou Gehrig, instead becomes a Tom Brady or Phil Mickelson.

    Even in 1940, how many 5-year-old white kids were dragged by their fathers everyday to a driving range, passing the sandlot, because of the prospect of making a nice living in the golf world. From lowly club pro making 100+K/year (how many of those are there today in this country alone?) to lofty Masters winner (Top of the world, Ma!). My guess is very few if any.

    Yes, Babe Ruth never had to face a Bob Gibson, but then Barry Bonds never had to face a Bret Favre.

    So I wonder if the question of the quality of the pool of ballplayers pre- and post-integration isn’t a bit more complicated than some would have it.

    • ingres77 says:

      I think that’s a pretty absurd stance to take. Not an absurd question to ask, mind, there are a number of issues with what you’re saying.

      First, there’s no reason to assume that the skills necessary to excel in basketball, or football, or another sport entirely don’t necessarily translate to the diamond. Michael Jordan and Deion Sanders found that out. Even Bo Jackson – All Star MVP that he was – struggled with the switch, and really only had one good season (and another that was average). The Oakland A’s, in the 1970s, attempted to enlist the skills of a world class sprinter as a “pinch runner”. In 105 games (in which he had no AB, and never played defense), he stole 31 bases and was caught 17 times (an atrocious percentage). Why? Because even something as straight forward was running the bases requires more than just speed.

      Brett Favre could no doubt throw a mean fastball, and probably do so with accuracy. Maybe. But could he throw a curveball? Or a splitter?

      Another problem with your stance is that the inability of minority players to play in the majors gets attention because they were denied the chance by the racist elite of the time. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you can agree that segregation was wrong and against the very foundations of our country, and that your post isn’t some veiled support of the separation.

      In stark contrast to this denial of fair competition, the diffusion of athletic talent to other sports opened up more opportunity to players of all colors. Players were able to pursue whatever sport they excelled at most, or enjoyed more. The proliferation of other athletic pursuits gave more opportunity to players, not less.

      That’s why people don’t care about the poor “great white ball players.”

      It’s not an equitable claim, in any case. Black Americans make up, what, 15% of the population? 20%? Post-integration MLB saw the number of black ballplayers reach as high as 30% of roster spots, I believe. Were the number of “Brett Favres” MLB lost 30% of the “lost players”? No. Of course they weren’t.

      In any case, if someone with that level of skill was playing baseball, he would’ve advanced through the system. I’m unaware of a single white player denied a spot because of integration. The number of black players denied spots because of segregation, however? Literally more than anyone can count.

      That’s the difference.

    • Reade King says:

      You could maybe make that assertion for the period from about 1955-1961 when the number teams remained at 16. Then there were a series of expansions. In practical terms, the first one added 100 more player positions (assuming 25-man rosters were a constant throughout). Thus, even in an era of much more pronounced heterogeneity in the game, there were likely more opportunities for white players from 1962 on.

  18. SWL says:

    My first reaction, whenever a contract like this is given, is that it is a dumb move.

    However, I wonder, when teams sign players to contracts like this, if the motivation is something other than wins/losses. Maybe the are motivated by other things: team marketing, fans in seats, TV deals/increased viewership…etc.

    Joe attempts to define whether or not this is a good decision based on expected WAR. Maybe that is not exactly accurate. Maybe it is a business decision based on dollars out vs. expected dollars in.

    While it seems like a dumb move to me, the people making this decision are businessmen, making a business decision.

  19. […] player type that he is it's not unlikely that he'll have a few late career spikes. Joe Posnanski wrote this about it. He isn't sure about Cano having it in him to live up to the deal, but I think he does. The […]

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