Nationals Baseball: Fine. Here's your CHuBOUVs. Happy?

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Fine. Here's your CHuBOUVs. Happy?

You know I’ve often thought of doing additional things to go along with this little blog. A podcast is the most common thing I’ve bandied about, but live chats, presentations-type videos, back and forth page long discussions, have all been considered and re-considered. The problem with all of them is the same thing. Baseball is a daily game. It demands daily coverage (ok ignore the past week - I’m literally barely home right now). Who wants to listen to a podcast that’s a day old, talking about a guy who you say is cold, who just went 3 for 4? Given the short shelf life and the effort involved, well, let’s just say any of this is unlikely to happen anytime soon. 

What’s this got to do with Werth and his CHuBOUVs? Well what felt like a fine idea 7+ days ago now to me is old and stale. For god sakes the team is crashing and burning like pretty much everything in San Andreas (my review : if you think you’d like it - you will. if you think you wouldn’t like it - you won’t). So let’s quickly run through Jayson Werth’s 

Commonly Held Beliefs Of Uncertain Veracity

and get to more relevant and timely stuff.  These things come up anytime Werth hits the news and dammit if I always love talking about them. Mainly because these aren’t things I can say for certain are one way or another. Certain things aren’t always fun to discuss. These are things that are. 

The Nats needed to overpay to get Jayson Werth, hence the 7/126 million dollar deal

Honestly I think I’ve put more time into going over the articles and reporting on contracts during this time than anyone and every time I’ve looked at it I come to the same conclusion. The Nats overpaid in years and dollars per year. They outbid themselves. It’s true bad teams sometimes can’t just give the biggest contract. (though sometimes, I'd argue usually, they can) Sometimes there has to be clear separation.  But from what I’ve seen it’s years or dollars, not years and dollars. 

Now is it possible I’m wrong? Totally.  Hence “Commonly Held Beliefs Of Uncertain Veracity” rather than “Commonly Held Beliefs That Are Totally And Completely Wrong” I don’t know exactly what was going on behind the scenes. Neither do you. Only Rizzo, Boras and a few others really do. But when guys in the know are putting out Jason Bay deals (4/66) as floors, when someone who hit pretty much the same as Werth over the two pre-contract years while stealing a ton of bases, fielding much better, and being two years younger, only got a couple million more for the same amount of years… it should tell you the Nats overpaid. They probably could have gotten Werth for 7/102 or 6/108. 

Jayson Werth changed the perception of the team, making them winners

This one is a hard one to wrap around because it did and it didn’t, but it didn’t in the way people talk about most. It didn’t really change the perception for free agents looking to sign with the Nats. How do we know? Because no free agents came to the Nats after Werth was signed. Derek Lee balked. Zach Grienke thought the team couldn’t win. Carl Pavano wouldn’t lower his price. Brandon Webb didn’t jump at the chance. Willie Harris wouldn’t come back. And that was just that same offseason! 

No the players who came to the Nats did so either because it was the best deal offered (LaRoche - possibly the Nats 3rd choice) or after the Nats started to clearly get better. Werth alone changed nothing for no one in the game outside of GMs thinking “OK these guys might sign someone else now” Now again I don’t know but “Uh oh, look out for these guys who signed one guy one time on the FA market!” doesn’t seem a likely scenario. In fact they wouldn’t make a big FA splash again for four years. 

Outside of the game though it changed the media perception of the Nats, making a nice story for reporters looking to hang their hat on something after a couple years of terrible play. He was also a way to market the team and frankly he still is because it did change the fans perception of the Nats. That’s not being dismissive. Getting the fans interested and following it up with an improving team? That’s worth something. 

So is this commonly held belief true? Depends on how you look at it. 

Despite the cost at the time, Jayson Werth has been worth his contract

This was a clear no, that amazingly became a maybe yes, that is now dropping back to clear no. His first 18 months as a Nat was practically worthless and you could see the 2020 stories written on the worst contracts in baseball history including this one near the top. Then something amazing happened. An injured mid 30s player not only got healthy, he hit at his peak for two more seasons. That just doesn’t happen. This miracle now made it possible that the Nats would get value back if he could pull off a couple of good years and he just had a very good one so they could even “win the contract” so to speak. But alas and alack he got injured again as old players do and he’s far less likely to pull of two good years in the time he has left. 

What about the playoffs? What about them? Outside of one HR that won a non-deciding game the guy has been non-existant. 4 for 23 in 2012 with 2R and no RBI, 1 for 20 with 0 and 0 last year. He’s a one swing pony, which can be fine if that one swing ends up mattering. Outside of some fun photoshops it didn’t.

Of course this is being a bit harsh. The Nats won’t “win” the contract but given what he’s done so far - two more usable years, or one good one, makes it a soft loss. The HR might have been eventually meaningless but it was a lot of fun. So it’s not like he’s been worth nothing. Could things like leadership and entertainment and the perception I mentioned earlier put it over the top? Depends on what you think and feel. I can tell you purely on the field it’ll be a loser barring a second miracle. As a troll-doll selling package? Maybe not.

None of these things are provable to the point there can be no dissent, but that really isn’t what I’m trying to argue. In fact what I’m trying to argue is that these things are arguable but as commonly held beliefs they are often trotted out there as facts when they are far from it. I don’t like that. 

Tomorrow we talk about the crashing offense or maybe the Nats win and we find something positive to talk about 


Gr8day4Bsbll said...

Well that was FAR less fun than some of the CHuBOUVs definitions we've all been offering up for a couple of weeks, Harper... Anyway, what's with the stray "u" after the "H"? That's of course what threw us all off -- no doubt part of your diabolical plan to keep us coming back here every day (as if we wouldn't anyway...).

That said, I agree with the "uncertain veracity" part of the equation. Just looking at this season so far, it bears some notice that this latest tanking by the Nats coincided with the announcement that Werth may be out until August -- but taking a guy out of the lineup that only has a line of .208/.294/.581 shouldn't matter that much, should it? So it's hard to know, this season and any season, whether there's any real cause/effect relationship with Werth or anyone else for that matter. Is it "leadership in the clubhouse"? I find that hard to believe too -- although he's on the DL, Wert is IN the clubhouse for most games, particularly the home games where the tank has been on full display in all aspects of the Nats' game.

I guess we should just use the MW mantra of "well, that's just baseball" and make ourselves feel better. This latest tanking isn't due to Werth being in or out of the lineup, nor his contract, nor the fact that Zim'n can't hit, nor the fact that Stras is hurt (or isn't), nor the fact that the team still hasn't found a third OF who can both field and hit... It's ALL of those things, and NONE of those things... Thus -- CHBOUVs. (I fixed it for you...).

Harper said...

the little u meant is didn't actually stand for a word. Was in the acronym for pronunciation purposes.

cass said...

I feel like Werth didn't change the fan perception very much until the home run. He was a disappointment and an embodiment of everything wrong with the Nats and a symbol of their losing status in baseball. The fans booed and heckled him. There is nothing fans seem to hate more than a player that was supposed to be good that turns out to be not so good - I don't understand it and I never hated him for anything other than his Citizens Bank Park South comments when he was with the Phillies, but it was what it was. Didn't seem very marketable.

The home run changed everything. Everything. He had been a good player for part of a season before that but as an unconventional on-base leadoff hitter, which isn't how a guy like him will get popular. And the next year he had an amazing season which would have earned him the MVP if he had been healthy all year but has been largely been forgotten because the Nats didn't make the playoffs. That did help keep up his aura as a fan-favorite but his fan favorite status was born of one swing (well, actually, twelve taken or fouled-off pitches and then one swing) and one swing only.

And it was, hands-down, the greatest moment in Nationals history. It wasn't just one home run that prolonged the season for but a single day. It was hope. The 2012 season had felt like a miracle even though the Nats were a good team. But after so many years of losing, it was something we hadn't experienced before and none of us wanted it to end that night. He gave the fans hope and another game and although it all ended in horrible fashion the next night, nothing will dim the awe we all felt at seeing that ball leave the park. Easily the greatest baseball moment of my adult life and I have a feeling thousands of other Nats fans feel the same way.

I do, perhaps, have more invested in Werth than many others just because I happen to look like him and I'd rather be compared to a good player who the fans love than a disappointing has-been. So that's a nice perk. But, really, yes, it really is all about that one home run when it comes down to it. And that's okay.

Harper said...

cass - you look like him and didn't take the rap for his speeding? You call yourself a fan?

"But, really, yes, it really is all about that one home run when it comes down to it. And that's okay."

It is! For a fan love him for a HR. love him for a beard. Love him for speeding (if you are also a speeding jerk). Fans don't need to explain reasons. John Lannan 4eva!

JE34 said...

The other unmeasurable is Werth's impact on the younger players. Do Harper or Rendon credit Werth with helping them develop? I don't recall seeing it in print.

cass said...

Harper credited Werth quite a lot, at least in the early years. He credited Werth with the idea of stealing home off Hamels, for example, and, more generally, I remember him frequently saying Werth taught him a lot about the game. Maybe not in print as much anymore this year, but it was in years past.

Werth and Harper were kinda BFF's for awhile there.

He did his time for speeding. No hard feelings about that.

And I'm not a clone or anything. We just have similar hair and beards and we're both tall though I think he's taller. I'm just 6'2, which seems to be average by MLB standards. I'm about one year younger I think?

All I know is that I frequently get told I look like Jayson Werth when I'm at games.

Kenny B. said...

*learns what "CHuBOUV means; audible sigh of relief*
That's a useful acronym. I don't know if anyone on the Nats has more of these than Stephen Strasburg. We have discussed them at length here. I'm surprised a post about him didn't coin the acronym. Bryce had a number of CHuBOUVs until last month, when he began his apotheosis of baseball existence.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for not giving the "Go Yankees" spiel again. :)

Especially since we're in big trouble now that the Yankees are playing well and the Nationals are playing terribly.

WiredHK said...

I'm with Cass - even though this is unknown and not measurable, I feel pretty certain Werth has had a very large impact on Harper's development and general increase in baseball acumen. Just watching them in dugout shots are celebrating after HRs together, etc, you get a distinct sense they have a big bro/little bro relationship. I think that's a big benefit on the side.

What's truly unfortunate is that his injury this year really isn't age-specific. He got drilled by a fastball on his hand. Could have been anyone (ahem, Rendon is like half his age and gets just as injured, right?).

Anyway, rough times right now having lost all of these games to injury from key players. Need to weather the storm and brace for a second half run...

Robot said...

@cass - Disagree with your statement about when the perception changed. For me, and I think it was for a lot of people, it was toward the end of 2011 when he completely disrupted the Presidents' Race. From that moment forward, it was clear that he was there to win over the fans. He also helped gin up excitement on our end toward the rivalry against Philly

It certainly helped that the following year, he actually played really solid baseball, and the homer in Game 4 is, in my mind, the greatest moment in Nats history (SO FAR!).

I agree, though, that he brought a lot of intangible benefits both to the younger players and to the fans. Those can't really be measured in the same way as on-field performance can, but in the view of this fan (since 2008), the fun and excitement he brought, combined with sometimes very good performance, makes the contract absolutely worth it.

Of course, I'm not the one paying it, so there's that...

Anthony Rendon said...

I don't think there is any Nats fan who won't say the Werth deal was a good deal considering that it was laughed at by the MLB immediately afterward.

This isn't factual, but I blame Werth for BRYCE's plate discipline now.

WiredHK I'm not that injury prone.

WiredHK said...

Anthony - I think injury issues are actually your ONLY issues. Sorry my man, but I still love ya. But I do agree fully about the plate discipline piece, I think that has been a major influence from Werth to Bryce (though why it doesn't spread to guys like Desmond is beyond me).

Pescado said...

Werth has put up about 13 WAR since joining the Nats, and with the market rate for a win hovering in the neighborhood of $5-7MM, the $81MM we’ll have paid him by season’s end seems roughly fair. Unfortunately he’s still got two years and $42MM on his contract and looked absolutely atrocious in his 120 plate appearances this season. My concern is that baseball clubs don’t seem to understand the economic concept of sunk cost, so if Werth comes back and continues to struggle it’s gonna have to get really ugly before they bench him. But then again, it seems like a lot of you guys on this thread seem to attribute a lot of value to his batting advice. So if you want to pay him $42MM to ride the bench and hang with Bryce between innings that’s fine by me. Not my money.

Donald said...

I'm not convinced Bryce's plate discipline comes from Werth. I've heard more stories recently about Bryce getting hitting advice from Matt Williams and for whatever reason, it seems like those two have gotten closer.

One perception that the Werth signing clearly influenced is that of the Lerners. Up to that point, they were universally considered to be cheapskates. After, while there was still some skepticism they'd really open up their wallets, they started to get the benefit of the doubt. While it's hard to say if that had any impact on the club as a whole, it was probably worth something to the Lerners.

Froggy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Froggy said...

I have no defensive CHBOUV (sorry Harper your lowercase u doesn't make sense) about Desmond. He is simply a bad fielding SS period.

However, his batting with runners on base is CHBOUV-esqly terrible.

Robot said...

I can't believe i'm actually typing this, but when the Nats should consider benching Desi for Espinosa. **shudders** Ugh, I have to go shower off...