Monday, December 11, 2006

Hope Springs Eternal

"Love. She's a motherfucker." waiter, Old School At the moment, I'm try to decide why, exactly, are the Twins are "Hopeful" to keep Lew Ford? At this point in the offseason which has turned into a Roman orgy of money for most General Managers, the Minnesota Twins would be damn lucky retain a Lew Ford. Obviously the hope that Lew stays in Minnesota is not inspired by his steady decline over the two previous season, dropping offensively from a solid .827 OPS to a respectable .715 to a mortal .599 this past season. The hope would be that he can somehow reclaim that 2004 swing. His price tag, if offered arbitration by the Twins, should qualify him for a raise from $425,000 to $850,000 for next year and considering the astronomical increase for the cost of moderate outfielders, the Twins might be getting a bargain. Consider Gary Matthews Jr. who received what many would call a farce of a contract from the Angels this past offseason. After a "breakout" season at the age of 31, Gary cashed in for 5-years/$50 million. Here is the stat line that buys you $50 million dollar contracts: 31 - 19 HRs 79 RBIs .313/.371/.495 (.866 OPS) After Lew Ford's "breakout" campaign of 2004 when his was a youthful 27 Lew produced these numbers: 27 - 15 HRs 72 RBIs .299/.381/.446 (.827 OPS) For a season, it appeared that the Twins had once again pillaged another team's farm system. Of course we already know that Lew Ford regressed back down to earth. Lew started being Lew again. Had Lew compiled those numbers this past season, Lew might have found himself being a valued commodity. Instead, he's waiting next to his phone to hear (hopefully) an offer from the Minnesota Twins for, perhaps, less than a million dollars for one season. Baseball's time-line has a funny way of messing with its players. Almost Shakespearean. For instance Cool Papa Bell was labeled by Bill Veeck as one of the greatest players he had ever seen, drawing comparisons to Honus Wagner, even though most agreed that that was a unfair comparison. Cool Papa was much superior because he was in his 40s when Veeck saw him play. Because he was born before Jackie Robinson and was long past his prime when the color barrier was broke, he never was able to obtain the dividends that the Major Leaguers were entitled to. Cool Papa grew old in the slums of North St. Louis and spent many nights as a 72 year old with a shotgun on his lap because of the crime and grit of the neighborhood. He died penniless. Had he been born 15 years later, he might have played along side Robinson, Aaron and others. Naturally this story is heavy in contrast to the Matthews/Ford debate. I'm not suggesting that Lew Ford is Cool Papa either (although that nomenclature would fit Lew). Look again at the offensive numbers of Matthews and Ford. Lew Ford will be playing next season with the constant dread in the back of his mind that he might be sent on a one-way flight to Rochester or worse, Kansas City. Matthews might be seen next on Cribz or the OC. Some reap the rewards; others become Lew Ford and Cool Papa. Timing in this game is everything. Baseball. She's a motherfucker.