You know, I just don't get baseball sometimes.
Over the last 48 hours or so, several things have gnawed at me concerning Sammy Sosa's rather cocky proclamation on Friday that he's willing to play in the majors next year - provided, of course, that a team offers him a contract worth at least $7 million first.
When first glancing at the more "mainstream" statistics that Sammy accumulated during the 2007 season, his contract demands seem fairly reasonable. But not surprisingly, the logic behind this argument breaks down quickly when challenged by more modern, relevant and useful statistics.
Back on October 1st, I wrote the following on Sammy, in response to T.R. Sullivan's assertion that he was the Rangers' MVP:
Yes, in a vacuum, 21 HR and 92 RBI in 412 AB looks pretty nice. In fact, it�s probably on the high end of what we could have expected out of Sammy this season. And yes, by all accounts, he�s been a positive influence on the young guys in the clubhouse this season. I�ve made no secret of my long-standing admiration for Sammy, and I hope he�ll get into the Hall of Fame one day.
He�s also hit .252/.311/.468, with 82.8% of his 454 plate appearances coming at the DH position. Among all American League DHs with at least 300 PA, Sosa�s thoroughly mediocre .259 EqA and 7.0 VORP rank 13th out of 14, with only Mike Piazza coming in beneath him on both counts. And at age 38, he also offers virtually zero defensive value at the corner outfield spots.
All of those points are still more than valid, though there is one item I failed to touch on: in addition to those brutal numbers, Sammy hit an abysmal .222/.267/.410 against RHP in 315 PA. Just to put into perspective how horrible that production is, Jerry Hairston Jr.'s career batting line of .251/.330/.356 in 1776 PA against RHP is actually better. That's replacement-level offense, folks.
Indeed, the extent of Sammy's usefulness at this point begins and ends with his lefty-crushing tendencies, which he pounded to the tune of .328/.410/.613 in 139 PA. But that's not a particularly large sample size, and there are absolutely no guarantees that Sosa, who will be 39 on Opening Day '08, will continue to smash southpaws at this clip.
So in essence, Sammy's the proverbial one trick pony - he can hit lefties very well, but contributes virtually nothing else of value. And, according to Sosa, the cost of obtaining those services is currently set at $7 million for 2008. Even in this era of inflated free agent contracts, that's an absolutely ludicrous figure to be throwing around at this stage.
The other thing that's bothering me about Sammy is the sudden and rather disturbing change in his attitude. On Friday, he made the following comments to the media during his impromptu press conference:
"I feel victorious, and I think I proved that I have what it takes to stay in the major leagues."
Tell me, do you notice a marked change between those comments and the following, which he made back on February 23rd during the first days of spring training?
"I'm ready to do whatever it takes," Sosa said. "I'm coming back because I want to compete. This is not about money or anything else. I just want to come back and compete. Everyone here knows what I'm about."
Apparently, a sub-par offensive season by the standards of the average American League designated hitter has entitled Sammy to proudly proclaim that he has "proven" himself. Yeah, not so much.
Not only that, but Sammy's tune has changed dramatically on the trade deadline decision to appoint Jason Botts as the everyday DH over the final two months of the season:
"It was devastating when manager Ron Washington called me into his office and told me they were going to cut back my playing time," he said. "My reaction was to go home and quit."
Compare that to his remarks back on August 1st, in the wake of his pre-game meeting with Ron Washington and Jon Daniels informing him of the organization's decision:
"They have some young guys they want to see," Sosa said. "I'm very proud of the chance they have given me. I came through like a slugger and proved a lot of people wrong. I feel great about what I've done. But I understand they want to see young kids and they want to see Jason Botts at DH. I have no problem with that."
Was Sammy simply trying to protect Jason when he made his initial comments? Perhaps. But what exactly is he trying to accomplish by coming forward with his true feelings on the situation now? If anything, this makes him come across as incredibly self-important - and the public implication that he considered "going home and quitting" on the Rangers probably does not bode particularly well for his chances of getting that $7 million contract he's seeking, either.
Yep, he's still Sammy.