I was reading a lot of the things RAJ has been saying lately about Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels and contracts and what not. In the comments of all these articles, the conversation generally shifts to how Ryan Howard isn't as good as his contract would indicate, and generally devolves into how Ryan Howard isn't actually that good for a first baseman. While I don't necessarily agree or disagree with all that I find it odd that he has become such a lightning rod for that type of criticism. I understand that it mainly stems from the amount of money he is about to be paid. Money like that should reflect a certain set of skills and talents, and in the current market, Ryan Howard doesn't possess them when compared to other first baseman. His value is derived almost entirely in his power now and reputation. His walk rates are fine, but his average pulls down his overall OBP (still above average for all players, but nothing special for first baseman). He doesn't run the bases well, and has never stolen more than 1 base in a year save for 2009 (8). His defense is average at the very best and pretty bad if you were to consult the numbers and ask most folks. His power is still good, but not nearly what is used to be and is looking like it is still in decline. His last three years slugging percentages are: .571, .505, and last year's .488. His ISOs generally follow that trend except his 2010 was .229 and his 2011 was slightly higher (.235) a far cry from his average season of .285 or his peak of .346. He hits a decent amount of homeruns and drives in a metric TON of runs every year. Because he does those things, and because he received the contract he did, it has caused a rift within the Philly fanbase as well as the general MLB fanbase. Most SABR friendly people would say that he is vastly overrated and it's easy to see. He is getting old, he is declining, and he hasn't been one of the 5 best first basemen (let alone player) in the majors yet he is about to be paid like one. Others would say he is the pre-eminent power hitter of our generation (patent pending) and a run producer so it's ok to pay him like that. The point of this little essay is not to determine Howard's value, or his ratedness (whether over, under, or just right), but to discuss the nature of this hot button issue (It's February after the Super Bowl, what else am I to do?). Harballtalk has put out quite a few articles as of late mentioning the Phillies or Amaro or both or neither and the comments sections invariably revert to a dissection of Ryan Howard and how he isn't worth the money.
This got me thinking.
Isn't there another well paid first baseman who is in a similar spot to Howard right now? Allow me to lay out some numbers to make it easier to visualize:
2010 .256/.365/.481 .367 wOBA 126 wRC+
2011 .248/.341/.494 .361 wOBA 124 wRC+
Avg .252/.353/.488 .364 wOBA 125 wRC+
2010 .276/.353/.505 .367 wOBA 126 wRC+
2011 .253/.346/.488 .354 wOBA 123 wRC+
Avg .265/.350/.497 .361 wOBA 125 wRC+
Player A and Player B are virtually identical hitters. There really isn't much difference between the two as laid out in the triple slash stats as well as the advanced ones. A .364 wOBA vs. a .361 wOBA is negligible and the wRC+ numbers are identical over the 2 year average (obviously rounded up for player B by .5 RC). Both are first baseman. Both were signed to large contracts. Both have 5 years left on said contracts. Player A is Mark Teixeira and Player B is the man himself, Ryan Howard. Teixeira has 5 years and 112.5 million left on his contract, Howard has, obviously, 5 years and 125 million left on his contract. Now, I concede to the fact that Teixeira is a superior defender. I grant that to him 100%, but you won't find people arguing that if RyHo were a good defender he would justify the contract. People are up in arms about his hitting (and rightfully so to a degree). But no one that I have heard, is complaining about the remaining 112.5 million left on Teixeira's deal. The difference between the two is 2.5 mil a year. So I guess what I'm asking (and don't worry, I'm not actually looking for an answer, maybe just points of discussion/your perception of the situation) isn't why all the Howard hate, but rather, why no hate for Teixeira? What makes Howard such a polarizing figure and not Tex? I mean he plays in NY for chrissakes and no one is really talking about it.
I've bandied this idea to some friends and what generally comes back is the nature of the New York Yankees. They have such a multitude of large sum contracts that Teixeira is probably just lost in the shuffle (Thank you A.J. Burnett).
Another possible reason is that I am completely wrong and there are plenty of people out there who are outraged by the Teixeira deal, I just don't hear them. This may be true, but, at my own peril, I listen to the major sports talk radio shows in the greater NY area (where I live) every morning and I can't recall this being an issue (again, thanks A.J. Burnett).
Finally, the reason may be that Teixeira is simply closer in value to reaching his salary each year (due mostly to his defensive contributions)and it's simply not worth making a big deal out of. Again, I'm not trying to determine their relative value (Fangraphs does that better than I could), but the perception of their value relative to the fans. So when Mark Teixeira is worth 3.2 fWAR in 2010 and 4.2 fWAR in 2011, while Howard was worth 1.4 and 1.6 respectively with almost identical offensive numbers, I understand where the difference in actual value comes from.
I have other thoughts on possible reason but I'd like to hear from the mouths of babes, and also from you guys.
So after all that, what do you think? Am I crazy? Stupid? Both? Neither? Annoying? All of the above?