Originally published June 3, 2010.
In his second consecutive column about Oliver Perez, Mike Lupica tells us not to get “overly worked up” about Oliver Perez. But that’s, well, whatever. That’s not what disgusted me about the column. Check out this part:
And we can all go ’round and ’round the mulberry bush about how [Perez's contract] is the worst Mets contract this side of Beltran’s.
Excuse me? All due respect, sir, but what the f@#$ are you talking about? Did you really just suggest that the three-year, $36 million contract handed to Oliver Perez — a guy who has posted a 6.62 ERA since inking the deal — is not as bad as the hefty one the Mets gave Carlos Beltran before the 2005 season? Is that what you’re saying? Because it really sounds like that’s what you’re saying.
And that’s ridiculous.
Look: I know everyone wants to get in their potshots at Scott Boras, because god forbid an agent be excellent at getting his players tons of money. And since Beltran’s hurt now it’s not as if his contract is a steal. But did you somehow forget the production he provided the team from 2006-2008, when he was one of the very best players in the Major Leagues on both sides of the ball?
Even if you’re on Team Phillips, that galumphing horde of ingrates unappreciative of greatness, you must recognize the difference between paying $12 million a year for Ollie Perez, a guy actively hurting his team, and paying even up to $18.5 million a year for Beltran, a guy actively hurting, but a guy who has only helped the Mets when healthy.
Wait, hold on, we have stats for this. Spreadsheets from our nerdery. Fangraphs converts WAR to a dollar scale to evaluate what a player should make in free agency. Over the course of his contract, even with his injuries, Beltran has already been worth $101.5 million to the Mets. That’s not including any value he might provide this year if and when he returns, or next year when he’s still under contract. So the Mets have already gotten nearly a full return on the $119 million they committed to Beltran before 2005, at least according to that stat.
Perez has been worth -$5.5 million since the start of 2009. Negative 5.5 million. Oliver Perez has been costing the Mets wins since they signed that deal. He cost them wins by pitching terribly, and now he is costing them wins by occupying a roster spot he doesn’t deserve. Oliver Perez should be paying the Mets for the right to pitch awfully, like some sort of absurd and masochistic vanity pursuit — the type you can afford when you’re earning $12 million a year for no reason in particular.
Whatever. Whatever. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love watching Carlos Beltran play baseball, and so I am, as always, hopelessly biased. Maybe Mike Lupica falls in line with the Joe Benignos of the world, those that are sure Beltran hates baseball, and that he’s a lousy player who hasn’t brought the Mets championships and struck out looking one time to end an NLCS in which he hit three home runs.
Here’s what I know: I remember standing in the scrum of reporters around Beltran on the last Friday night of the 2007 season, after Beltran homered but the Mets lost to the Marlins and the team finally fell out of first place. Beltran faced the crowd and said all the right things, a bunch of words that couldn’t in any way convey the shock and horror on his face. With apologies to Tom Glavine, the dude looked devastated.
And I remember a night late in the 2008 season, when the Mets’ bullpen tried to blow Pedro Martinez’s last start with the team but Beltran wouldn’t let them, lining a walkoff single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Before that game, Beltran had told reporters that he learned to stay measured during the ups and downs of that strange season, but that his wife took the late-season losses hard. Then after the game, someone asked him how the missus would feel about the win. He paused for a moment, then burst into a mile-wide smile.
“It’s gonna be a good night,” he said.
You can tell me Beltran isn’t a winner, doesn’t care about baseball and isn’t worth is salary, but I just won’t believe you. And you can bombard me with conspiracy theories about his knee surgery and slow recovery, but I’ll remain skeptical. I have no idea what went down this winter in the he-said, they-said drama, but at this point, based on empirical evidence, I trust Beltran’s baseball instincts more than I do those of the Mets’ front office.
And if he’s only in it for himself and slowly working to come back so he can play for his contract, answer me this: Why the hell did he come back last September, with the team out of the race, with his bone-on-bone knee issue and everything else? I don’t know, but I think maybe Carlos Beltran really, really likes baseball. Or maybe it seizes him in some way I could never understand without being that good at something.
The Flaming Lips:
Tell everybody waiting for Superman
That they should try to hold on as best they can.
He hasn’t dropped them, forgot them or anything
It’s just too heavy for Superman too lift.