About a week ago, during MLB’s annual Winter Meetings, Jim Bowden and Keith Law argued the worth of free agent 1B Chris Davis — an exceptional power hitter who’s led baseball in home runs two of the last three years, but who also strikes out a lot, and at 30 on Opening Day, can be considered a major question mark moving forward.
Anyway, here is the exchange:
Karl Ravech — How much would you offer in years?
JB — All right, what you have to answer is, you have to look at the market. It’s not what I want to offer. It’s, okay, this is what the market is, what should he get paid? And you have to understand, too, this is a fan favorite. He’s great in the community. He’s one of [the owner’s] favorite players. One of [the manager’s] favorite players…
JB — So, to answer your question, I would go 6 years, $120 million. If that didn’t get it done I would walk away. But I’d also prefer Jason Heyward, Justin Upton or Yoenis Cespedes, because I like people a little more athletic who can play the outfield. But I’d go 6/120. Keith, what would you do?
KL — I’d be out. I’m just way out on this. The guy hit .196 a year ago; he was a replacement-level player in 2014. And we’re talking about giving this guy $25 million a year?
JB — But that was because of the adderall and the suspension.
KL — Oh, come on. That’s an excuse. This guy strikes out all the time. Two years before that he was a two-win player and you wanna give him $20 million? It’s crazy, the amount of money that you give him. You don’t decide what a player is worth because of what the market said. That’s a good way to get fired. You want to decide what a player is worth, you look at the production. You have guys in your office who make projections, who tell you, “this is what this guy is likely to produce,” “here’s what that’s likely to be worth on the field,” and then you can figure out a dollar amount from that. If the market starts offering the player dollar figures that are higher than that, you say, you know what, that’s great. Someone else can overpay for this guy. I am not giving 8 years and $25 million a year to a guy who two years ago probably should have lost his job.
Clearly flustered, Bowden goes on to quote Jim Leyland, and the obligation to overpay to get a player.
This is funny on a couple levels. For one, asking Keith Law to argue economics with a guy like Jim Bowden — formerly a fledgling GM for the Reds and Nationals — is like having Bill Nye debate Sean Hannity about the adverse effects of climate change. It’s the convergence of two diametrically opposed world-views, with only one based in truth. That’s how you end up getting a guy who mentions how well-liked Chris Davis is in the community, and how he’s well-liked by the owner and manager, while Keith goes straight to the production. The facts.
Secondly, ESPN hates when two of its personalities argue. It was only about a year ago when Keith Law got suspended for defending evolution against creationist Curt Schilling. I’m probably jumping the gun a bit to call this one an argument, but it’s hard to deny Law’s dismissive response to a guy who has twice held the title of General Manager. It was brilliant. (Plus, Bowden is kind of a scumbag, after all, so it’s easy to root against him.)
As always, my only loyalty is with the evidence. Bowden represents the anti-intellectual majority of baseball personalities on television, and the fact that he gets to write under the same ESPN Insider umbrella as Keith Law is a fatuous exercise.