Yesterday, news broke that Fernando Tatis Jr. signed a monster extension with the Padres. Specifically a 14 year, 340 Million dollar extension, and good for him, he’s quite possibly the most electric young player in baseball.
Many people of course started to talk about how impossible it would be for the Pirates to sign anyone to a contract like that and baseball is broken, and Machado, and Hosmer, and…, well you get the picture.
All of that is true, all of that has a place, but that’s not what struck me yesterday talking with people about this signing.
No what really caught me were thoughts like, Man, 14 years is a long time, I’d be shocked if he was good after year 10. Should have waited to have him do it in a normal season first. Boy, I hope his back issues don’t follow him through his career or the Padres are screwed.
And so many more.
These all seem like completely logical observations. None of them were about disliking him for flipping his bat or anything silly like that.
What this is though is what I call a Pirates State of Mind.
We’ve been programmed to see things like this as crazy, risky, even scary. The biggest such extension the Pirates have ever inked is still the Andrew McCutchen 6 year 51.5 million dollar extension back in the Spring of 2012. Maybe they believed the Mayans and never thought they’d have to pay it.
It got me thinking about Ke’Bryan Hayes. He had a tremendous rookie campaign, if you can consider a month as a campaign.
If Bob Nutting got into the good brownies and gave Ben the ability to do so, and the Pirates extended Hayes right now for 12 years at 250 Million one would think that would be met with excitement, but I’m willing to bet, it would come with a healthy dose of second guessing too.
There would be fans who thought it was too early. There would be fans who would freak out because we’ve been trained that we might get one extension but we won’t get two, so they better be right.
Imagine if after 2019 the Pirates ponied up for Brian Reynolds. Imagine he then came out and had that 2020. As it stands everyone believes he’ll be fine, he’s hit at every level of baseball he’s ever played including MLB, so of course he’ll bounce back. Even the coach says that, I believe that firmly, I’m sure most of you do too. But if the Pirates were locked in for the next 12 years at 18 Mil a year, I do wonder how the narrative would change.
We’ve been programmed to think contracts like this are crazy. We are directed to Detroit to see how Miggy has declined as a cautionary tale. Somehow we’ve been recruited to help protect the wallet of someone we truly loathe.
Part of that is we legitimately understand they simply don’t have that kind of revenue coming in. OK, we strongly assume because not spending is a tradition here in Pittsburgh since the players gained free agency. And spare me the Parker story, I know he got paid but you know what we’re talking about here.
We don’t even consider it most of the time.
If they did extend Hayes, in our minds that would be a death nail in the possibility of ever doing the same for Priester, or Malone, or name your prospect du jour, because surely we can’t have more than one making that kind of money.
Blame baseball. Blame Nutting. That’s not really the point as much as how we mentally approach things like this. Other teams in the Pirates spending slot have done it. Baltimore made a huge mistake with Chris Davis, but they tried. The Mariners made a big mistake with Robinson Cano, but they tried.
This is what it costs to keep superstar talent. This is the risk of keeping said talent. This is a game some teams like the Rays have played at an expert level. They extend and front load so the contracts are affordable to move and restock.
Regardless of how the game is played, you can’t win if you don’t play. And why play if you’ve convinced your most loyal of fans that it just can’t happen? They don’t even need to explain it to us anymore, we all have it mapped out before they even need to address it. If they don’t extend Hayes within the next two seasons, we’ll all start projecting when he get’s traded.
We hold out hope that he’ll sign a “Pirates extension” where they buy out his arbitration and a couple extra seasons and we’ll convince ourselves we wouldn’t want him after that because decline, or something to that effect.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this about all of you and acting like I’m above it. These thoughts creep in for me all the time.
If baseball changes it’s economic system, I’ll be honest, it will still be something I fight for a while. 40 years of programming tends to stick.
The other side of the story is the fact I can’t think of a player aside from Cutch that warranted such a discussion. Maybe that’s where we should start. Let’s get to the point where we have more we’d like to see extended in an expensive and meaningful way, and then focus on changing a culture that is starting to feel more like a cult.
The Spend Nutting crowd isn’t annoying because they’re wrong, they’re annoying because they’d use it as an answer on every question in the SAT.
This is a franchise that needs to recover. On the field of course, but in the hearts and minds of the fans they’ve created over four decades of being so far removed from conversations like this they seem foreign at this point.
Travis Williams and Ben Cherington took incredibly difficult jobs, and I bet even they don’t understand the depths to which our psyches have been damaged.
Part of their job is now absolutely changing what defines the Pirates State of Mind.