Last night, the Pirates signed Russell Martin to a two year contract worth $17 million. I thought it was a good move, for reasons which I plan to detail soon. Dejan Kovacevic of the Tribune-Review disagreed.
That’s fine. Martin’s signing has gotten a lot of attention because his value comes from places where what we know is vague and new. I expect and encourage disagreement. Kovacevic’s response, however, was beyond the pale.
Kovacevic compares the signing of Martin to the Matt Morris trade.
Yes, the Matt Morris trade. The trade where Dave Littlefield traded Rajai Davis for Matt Morris and the $12-15 million dollars left on his two year deal. Kovacevic argues that the Martin signing parallels the Morris trade. That is, both moves were made by general managers afraid of losing their jobs and were a waste of assets. Let’s compare the two moves.
At the time of the trade, Morris made more money per year than Martin will, even before accounting for salary inflation over the last five years, which has been significant. Littlefield also gave away a young player, Davis, who would later be a contributor on Major League teams. From a purely finance and asset based evalutation, this does not remotely approach the Martin signing in terms of the cost of acquisition.
Additionally, Morris had nowhere near the value of Martin as a player prior to their respective acquisitions by the Pirates. In the two years before the trade, Morris had ERA+s of 90 and 91. The year before, he was around average with an ERA+ of 103, but even that was preceded by an ERA+ of 90. He hadn’t finished a year with a WAR of 1 or greater since 2003. He was washed up and over the hill, and everybody knew it.
Martin, on the other hand, has provided value both recently and steadily. He plays catcher, where nobody can hit, and has wRC+s of 90, 100, and 95 the past three seasons. His defense is well-regarded, with his pitch framing being among the best in the league. He is being paid less than $10 million dollars a year, and a win is valued on the market at $5 million per year. He has been worth more than 2 wins each of the past three seasons without taking into account pitch framing.
In essence, the comparison does not fit on any level. That said, every writer releases something that I disagree with on the merits. What really irks me is the tone that Kovacevic has taken with his critics on Twitter.
Kovacevic took a lot of heat for this piece, some of it understandable and some of it rude. His response was ridiculous. I will provide what I think is a representative example of his approach. He posted: “Just got my first “straw man” charge. Do I hear an “ad hominem?” How about a “meh?”. This is an obvious allusion to this exchange, which he is apparently proud of. Saying that an author argued against a straw man is a legitimate criticism of an argument. It’s not really what Kovacevic did, but it would be valid if he had. To compare that to the “ad hominem” and “meh?” arguments, which have no substance, is ridiculous and an attempt to put down his detractors. That is an “ad hominem” argument.
Essentially, Kovacevic made an argument that fails on its merits. Then, when people criticized his argument, he lashed out and was brusque and dismissive. I’m glad that he takes the time to engage his readers. That said I’d rather he not do so at all if he only does it to take potshots at his critics and pump up his supporters. It’s irresponsible; it’s flat out wrong; and it drives me insane.