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Headley's apprenticeship in Portland makes dollars and sense

Discussion in 'All Other Sports' started by wrbanwal, May 28, 2008.

  1. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    Well, this pretty much explains everything I need to know about the Padres management


    http://www3.signonsandiego.com/news/2008/may/27/headleys-prolonged-apprenticeship-portland-makes-d/



    Kevin Towers' official position is that his motivation is not money, that the Padres' reluctance to promote the prolific Chase Headley relates to factors other than finance.

    That claim is pure poppycock, of course, and if it weren't it would indicate inexcusable negligence. There are many ways to rationalize Headley's prolonged apprenticeship in Portland, but the one that makes the most sense is monetary.

    Were the Padres to promote Headley right now, they could incur millions of dollars in unnecessary arbitration expenses come 2011. Millions. To pretend that money is irrelevant is ridiculous; to actually believe it would be irresponsible.

    Yet that's been Towers' stubborn stance as his ball club has bottomed out. The Padres' general manager has repeatedly said dollars have nothing to do with Headley's Triple-A tenure, that it's about acclimating the erstwhile third baseman to left field, about postponing roster decisions on outfielders who have exhausted their minor league options, about applying pressure in small doses, about sparing an impressionable young player the toxic atmosphere of big league lousiness.

    Granted, all of those considerations are worth weighing, but none of them is as persuasive as the cautionary tale of Ryan Howard.

    The Phillies slugger qualified for his February salary arbitration hearing by a difference of five days of credited service.

    The price: $10 million.

    Headley is not Howard, but if he is even half the player the Padres project, he's going to accumulate a lot of leverage and amass a lot of loot during his career. The Padres' strategy -- implicit if not admitted -- is to postpone his big paydays until at least 2012.

    Major league players automatically become eligible for salary arbitration after three seasons of service time -- a major league season being defined as 172 days on the roster -- but up to that point their bargaining power consists almost entirely of the word "Please."

    Yet baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement also provides arbitration eligibility to a small pool of those players with more than two years' standing and less than three, the fortunate fellows who attain "Super Two" status.

    The specific requirements fluctuate from year to year, but "Super Twos" represent the top 17 percent of those players with more than two years of service time and less than three, with the proviso that they log at least 86 days on the roster the previous season.

    Last year's cutoff was two years, 140 days. Howard qualified with two years, 145 days. Yet the historic range is sufficiently broad -- since 1990, it has fallen variously from two years plus 128 days to two years plus 153 days -- that roster decisions become exceedingly delicate this time of year.

    The Cincinnati Reds could afford to promote phenom Jay Bruce Tuesday because he was starting his service clock from scratch. Headley, however, earned 19 days on the Padres' roster last season and could accumulate as many as 142 days of total service by season's end if he were called up Wednesday.

    Much as the Padres could use Headley's bat, due diligence demands that their needs be balanced against their obligations.

    Management is reluctant to own up to this reality because it tends to support the perception that the organization is cutting corners on quality. Still, if you accept the premise that a ball club operates on a finite budget, any extra dollars spent on Chase Headley are dollars that cannot be spent on other needs.

    "If we were winning right now, it might be different," Towers acknowledged before Tuesday night's 4-2 win over the Washington Nationals. "But we're not. And he's not going to turn us around.

    "He's had a good May, not a great May. I'd still like to see him walk a little bit more. He's always been a guy (who's) been very selective at the plate, drawn a lot of walks. His average is up, but his walks are down. To be the complete player we're looking forward to, we'd like to see him be a little more selective."

    Slightly lower on Towers' wish list is that Headley play enough at third base to step in should an injury befall Kevin Kouzmanoff. To that end, Headley has started four games at the position at Portland, two in the past week.

    Given CEO Sandy Alderson's preoccupation with on-base percentage, Kouzmanoff's meager walk totals and the development of Double-A outfielder Chad Huffman, one plausible scenario involves Kouzmanoff getting traded and Headley returning to third base full time.

    That said, maybe we're fast-forwarding a little too far.

    "I don't think you can read anything into it," Portland manager Randy Ready said of Headley's third base cameos. "It's only because if something happened to Kouz, he could up there and maybe fill in at third. He's supposed to be there at least once a week, sometimes twice a week. I'm trying to keep everybody sharp."

    :icon_evil:
     

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