Blast of Cold Reality before the Hot Stove Season

 

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Mother Nature has done her best in the last day to remind all of us in Florida that Winter is quickly approaching. It’s blustery message was delivered locally by a huge weather trough of icy Artic air that has temperatures in the Tampa Bay region tumbling from the mid 80’s to a blustery 50 degree in the last 24 hours . With that blast of colder air comes the oncoming and anticipated hibernation of most of the Tampa Bay Rays non-baseball related staff as the rest of the Rays front office embraces for a hot and humid Hot Stove season. Does it really seem like it has been 5 days since the members of the San Francisco Giants first thrust the MLB Commissioner’s Trophy high into the Texas sky and signaled the beginning of a well orchestrated off seasonal dance between Major League Baseball players and the upper management of their respective franchises who can take this 120 hour grace period to entertain or separate themselves from players that once could be considered critical to their team’s plans.


Within this ticking of the clock all 30 MLB teams can either play the respective “devil or angel” card by securing their valued players by joyfully acknowledging their acceptance of their players’ exclusive club options, or possibly declining the same said options with an eye to a possible salary reduction and welcome back into their team’s fold as if nothing happened. It is in this time of the year that the player’s agents and representatives can either make or break their clients “bankability” with their clubs, or begin to put feelers out for another opportunity.

It is the time when the gloves come off and the pleasantries can sometimes take a back seat as clubs’ begin to weed and filter out veterans or high risk contract players who’s declining skills or performance potential doesn’t adhere to the club’s style of play or forecasted remolding of the franchise. Within this 5 day period more than few gasps and whispers will be heard when players who were considered “untouchable” almost 4 months ago are given their unconditional walking papers or left dangling within the trade winds as pieces that could be acquired for a few pieces of silver now.

Take what has happened recently to Giants Shortstop Edgar Renteria who in the beginning of this 5-day period was preparing for a huge celebration with the fans of San Francisco, but even before he could step upon the float for a celebration parade was non-tendered his option by the same club that saw him hoist the Most Valuable Player award for the World Series. In less than 120 hours Renteria went from the penthouse to the basement with nothing to break his fall from Giants grace.

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But that is the reality of this 5-day period. It doesn’t matter if a club loved having you on their 2010 roster, or your leadership in the clubhouse. The 120 hours actually will come down to the fit of your skills and salary within their projected 2011 budget and payroll and in most cases is a “business” decision and not a personal attack. And this brief period is the one that frustrates fans all over the MLB. How fast a club can turn from patting you on the back for your great work in the 2010 season, then push you towards the door while leaving it a bit ajar in case you want to come back for a lesser role or salary.

This 5-day fiasco is where your personality and abilities as a player are defined under a stark microscope along with a dollar sign anointed to your forehead and either you gain the fiscal approval, or you are cast into the darkness with one match and candle. It is where the ugly head of business within the MLB has to rear its hideous face and make decisions that are not welcomed or anticipated by either the fan base or the general public. Where even a team fresh off a whirlwind World Series trip has to define their 2011 goals and payroll within the confines of cold reality and monetary limitations that might exclude a key member of the celebration.

Dan Wheeler was one of the first pitchers in the Rays farm system to ascend through the ranks and get to the Major League level back in 1998. He has a long history of his love and involvement with the team having a chance to come back to the team that gave him his start in 2007. But Wheeler’s $ 4million dollar salary is not conducive to the Rays structure of their payroll for 2011 and saw his 2011 club option declined by the Rays. Wheeler will receive a nice $ 1 million consolation prize from the Rays with a hope of extended talks to possibly come to a financial crossroads that can benefit both parties and rejoin the team.

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Within the last 5 days, countless well known MLB players have seen their name mentioned as monetary hindrances for their parent clubs, and seen their names christened throughout the MLB as players and contracts that show the harsh business end of this childhood game. The innocence and joy of this kid’s game is suddenly replaced by the blatant financial realities that each of the 30 MLB clubs have to face in this period of nonexistence of incoming game revenues and future seasonal risk projections.

With this chill felt in Florida today, it instantly reminds me of the brief time period between the final out of the 2010 MLB postseason and the sudden approach of the 2010 Free Agent season. A time when MLB member clubs will see the leaves (players) fall from their roster trees as they begin to shed salary and personnel for the long Winter. 120 hours doesn’t seem like enough time to fully examine and filter out the pros and cons of a currently MLB player before plucking him off your roster….. possibly forever.

As the chilled wind rustles through the trees outside, Winter is approaching and Spring is still just a daydream away. But within the next 24 hours every front office of the 30 MLB clubs will poise to again spring into action the off season fight for Free Agents and begin the hearty task of creating another possible winner who 51 weeks from now will thrust their own MLB Commissioner’s Trophy into the night sky and the process begin all over again.

16 Comments

50 degrees? That’s chilly indeed. The Renteria situation is like that of Matsui the year before – both MVPs of the World Series and both shown the door. Baseball is a business once the games are over, and it’s never more clear than during this period.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Edgar Renteria is turning into last decade’s David Justice. He farts around for half a season, gets dealt/promoted at the deadline, and ends up in the playoffs and usually producing!
http://zkonedog.mlblogs.com/

Jane,
I agree that the World Series MVP seems to be cursed the last few years. Hopefully it will not be a three-peat in 2011.
The business oif baseball rears its ugly head during this period of the post season.
Funny how as soon as February comes around people gain a different insight and prospective of the game.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Zkonedog,
David Justice, there is a name I have not heard in a long time.
Still think his dumbest move was noit leaving the braves, but leaving his sexy wife…(lol)
There has been a long line of those guys who seem to perk their game after the season ends…JUst think Cody Ross or Ian Kinsler in the early rounds of the playoffs this past year.
But that is what I love about the post season, the superstars or ususal suspects take a back seat and let the rest of us meet someone new.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Cliff,
I like your analogy of “the leaves (players) fall from their roster trees” I just pictured bare tree branches ready for the rest of fall and winter.
Wtih players like Renteria, getting to the playoff and performing is much more important. They know it might be their last hurrah, their last chance. I am happy for “Edgar Renteria, the boy from Barranquilla.” That is how Vin Scully refers to him.
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com

Emma,
You know me by now, always trying to turn a phrase or produce a sense of visual prose. (lol)
I like how sometimes guys come out of the woodwork and have great years when people might not expect that burst of production from them/
Might be the same reasoning the Sean Rodriguez actually got some votes for the Fielding Bible Award this year at second base, even in a part-time role.
Someone to keep in your pocket for the 2011 Fantasy DRaft.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I think Edgar is gonna retire… and that cold? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
–Jeff
http://redstatebluestate.mlblogs.com/

Jeff,
Actually hearing through a hemp grapevine that Edgar Renteria will sign again with the G-men for a one season tour in 2011.
Might be more of a present for what he helped bring to San Francisco than for his seaonal stats.
But then again, with the defensive options being a bit bare at the 6-spot throughout the Major Leagues, he might just get a plane ticket and a new home by April with a signed team friendly contract…..

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

It’s really sad sometimes how a player can fall from hero to not wanted in no time. You can be showered with love one day, gone the next.
http://bronx-awesome.mlblogs.com/

Babu,
It is wild just how fast that slide can be after the end of the season. I remember guys who busted their tails for the young Rays back in the early 2000’s who are now out of baseball and doing other things within some eyesight of the game.
Being a professional athlete is a fleeting thing. Most do not every imagine that for every one guy who get to the top level, there are 6-8 who never see the light at the end of the tunnel before they have to switch gears or careers.
Makes you chersih the guys like Edgar Renteria, Cody Ross and even Josh Hamilton who fought the good fight at at least got to play in the Sun with the big boys.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

How very true – and great imagery too, by the way! This time of year is always a harsh reminder that baseball is at least as much a business as a game and can be as coldly “what have you done for me lately” as any large corporation’s executive team. It’s interesting and more than a little sad to see how quickly hot stove turns into cold shoulder for some players in 24 hours flat. Of course, if our teams didn’t maintain the budget sufficiently to be able to keep our ace pitcher or make at least one great trade or free agent signing, I suppose we fans would complain about that too so, while I don’t exactly pity management, I understand that they really are in a largely no win position.

http://blithescribe.mlblogs.com/

Blith,
Funny how the double-edged sword gets more sharpened and deadily this time of year than at the Trade Deadline?
But with the corporate bottm lines and segmented player salaries between the haves (veterans) and the have-nots (rookie salary guys) the difference is huge in more than just $$$.
Starting last night at midnight the rules suddenyl changed, the Rays 40-man roster lost 8 names in a matter of a minute, and added two that would have become minor leaguye Free Agents.
Now is the time where the front office make their game saving plays and Home Run shots….From now until February’s reporting date it is their post season to either shine or be held up as losers.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I hate seeing teams trade players… I know it’s part of building better teams in MLB, but watching Renteria go (possibly) is still hard. Even if he only performed well in the playoffs, he’s still a part of the team, you know? It’s crazy how players can go from being the stars and heros of a team to a pile of stats in just a few days.
Hoping for the best outcome in this off season!

I’ll trade your cool 50’s for my 20’s any day lol so the hot stove begins
-Peter
http://devilabrit.mlblogs.com

WestCoast Girl,
Finding that right chemistry or attitude for your team unfortunately means that pieces of the puzzle have to be traded away or broken from the whole pie.
Nothing frustrates memore than when the team either gives up or trades a piece of our squad that had a firm hold on a future spot, or seemed to be about to peak at his position.
Some say the Rays “gave up” on the Burrell experiment a few months before they should have…but hindsight is a great teacher that sometimes a mistake is just an honest mistake.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Peter,
Nothing personal, but Philly can have those cold temps. Worst Winter I ever spent wasnot the one on the Iraq-Kuwait border, it was the one I spent patrolling Chinatown in South Philly.
Cold weather helps the crime in cities like that….sometimes.
Just stay warm, we need a November WTF Award.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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