Earlier this year someone made the comment on AM 830 that the amount of money Texas shelled out for Vlad Guerrero was a lot like the middle class couple who buys a million dollar home in a sketchy economy with the thought that they’re just going to declare bankruptcy anyway so it’s not like they’ll have to keep making the large payments on an investment that could go either way. (I wish I could remember who said it, because this made me crack up on my morning commute and I like to give credit where credit is due, but I can’t remember.) And, ignoring the disparaging overtones, I think this is an apt comparison in many ways. With so much talent already on the team, no post season titles to their credit and a frightening financial future, Texas had nothing to lose this year betting big on Vlad. The Angels thought they had too much to lose to offer even more money to someone who appeared to be winding down.
I know that claiming “I knew Vlad was going to come back and have a great season in 2010” was a popular Angels fan pastime this year online and on the radio, but complaining about Vlad’s performance was an equally popular pastime in 2009, so I can’t help but think that a lot of these people are indulging in a little revisionist history. Both the Angels’ and Rangers’ decisions made sense to me at the time. As it turned out, Texas’ bet was a smart one and Vlad had one hell of a great season. I like Vlad a lot. He’s had an amazing career and was one of the all time great Angels. I was really happy for him, watching him come back from last season and put together such great season (except for occasional at bats where he destroyed the Angels, natch). But I do not believe he would have had the same season if the Angels had offered more money and resigned him. Having something to prove is an extremely powerful motivator, even to the already talented and motivated.
Cut to the end of 2010, and suddenly the now financially sound American League Champion Texas Rangers have a lot more to lose. (And I am happy for them, by the way.) Now they are in a similar position to the one the Angels were in last year. Vlad had a great season but it was lopsided towards the first half. He was certainly winding down towards the end and, in the post season, really showed that his aging damaged knees are a defensive liability. In light of today’s changed circumstances, exercising a $9 million option for next season no longer looks like a great decision. Poof, free agent. Texas may still sign Vlad, but they don’t want to pay $9 million to keep him and aren’t afraid to risk losing him to avoid that.
I understand where Texas’ management is coming but I would be lying if I said I’m not amused that, after Texas fans scoffed at the Angels for not offering Vlad as much money as they could to keep him, the Rangers are in essence doing the same thing. It’s more than a little vindicating. Of course, if Vlad does go to another team, and finds that above and beyond motivation again, I fully expect to see a similar post to this one on a Rangers blog about this time next year. Whatever happens, I wish Vlad all the best and hope he can scratch out a few more great seasons on a team that makes him happy.