Phillies

How many of MLB's $100 million men actually lived up to the contract?

How many of MLB's $100 million men actually lived up to the contract?

What percentage of baseball players who signed a contract of at least $100 million actually lived up to it?

Take a guess and remember the number you picked.

With J.T. Realmuto's arbitration hearing in the rearview mirror, the conversation shifts to his next contract. Barring some cataclysmic development, Realmuto's next deal will exceed $100 million.

Back in September, I predicted five years, $112.5 million.

Realmuto is expected to seek in the neighborhood of $23 million per season, matching Joe Mauer’s record salary for a catcher, over a five- or six-year deal. (Five years at $23 million a pop would be $115 million.)

In general, contracts this large miss more often than they hit. We went back through all the contracts of at least $100 million that were signed through 2017 to put an actual number on it. What is the success rate?

Excluded here are players who signed their contracts in 2018, '19 or '20. Too early to judge. You won't see Bryce Harper or Zack Wheeler below for that reason. The list runs through 2017 and includes 67 players.

A lot of these deals were memorably bad. That's the reality of a gargantuan contract that, for so long in baseball's history, went to a player for past performance more than future projection.

Recall the percentage you picked.

The number is 30%. Yep, 7 out of 10 deals of at least $100 million went south. Some of you might think that sounds high, some low. Here is the full list. A few are arguable.

Yes (20)

Mike Trout (2015-20)
Albert Pujols (2004-10)
Freddie Freeman
Miguel Cabrera (2008-15)
Derek Jeter
Max Scherzer
Clayton Kershaw
Justin Verlander
Felix Hernandez
Todd Helton
Kevin Brown
Buster Posey (?)
CC Sabathia
Carlos Beltran
Matt Holliday
Cole Hamels
Zack Greinke
Jon Lester (?)
Masahiro Tanaka
Manny Ramirez

Posey and Lester underperformed during long portions of their deals but they were also pivotal players on championship teams. Hamels and Holliday are right on the fringe.

No (47)

Kyle Seager
Evan Longoria
Ryan Zimmerman
Ryan Braun
Homer Bailey
Justin Upton
Jose Reyes
Yoenis Cespedes
Dustin Pedroia
Jordan Zimmermann
Ken Griffey Jr.
Cliff Lee
Elvis Andrus
Mike Hampton
CC Sabathia
Josh Hamilton
Ryan Howard
Yu Darvish
Jayson Werth
Vernon Wells
Barry Zito
Matt Cain
Johnny Cueto
Shin-Soo Choo
Alfonso Soriano
Johan Santana
David Wright
Carl Crawford
Eric Hosmer
Jacoby Ellsbury
Adrian Gonzalez
Troy Tulowitzki
Matt Kemp
Chris Davis
Mark Teixeira
Jason Heyward
Joe Mauer
Prince Fielder
David Price
Joey Votto
Jason Giambi
Robinson Cano
Albert Pujols (current deal)
Miguel Cabrera (current deal)
Alex Rodriguez
Giancarlo Stanton
Carlos Lee

Most of these deals were justifiable at the time. Some, like Chris Davis, Homer Bailey, Elvis Andrus and Vernon Wells were viewed immediately with skepticism.

A few — Votto, Teixeira — could go either way. Votto has been productive throughout his Reds career but the power has almost completely disappeared. Would the Reds have paid him $225 million if they knew that he'd miss as many All-Star games as he'd make throughout the deal and that by Year 6 he'd be a .280 singles hitter with a high OBP? He's been really good but this underscores how hard it is to live up to such a deal.

The two catchers above are Posey and Mauer. Posey, by 31, was a shell of himself offensively. This is the risk you run with elite catchers. The wear-and-tear catches up. Mauer didn't deliver either. He played well during his eight-year, $184 million contract but by Year 5, his catching days were over, and a lot of his value was tied to his position.

And as Phillies fans experienced with Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard, unpredictable injuries can ruin the party as well.

The Phillies still have to re-sign Realmuto. They traded their top prospect for him a year ago and he'd be impossible to replace during a win-now period. The Phillies did not trade for Realmuto to have him for two years. They did it to have him for closer to eight years.

Beyond that, Realmuto looks like a solid bet to deliver on his next contract because of his elite defense and an offensive skill set that is among the two or three best at his position. His well-roundedness should make the Phils feel better about the money they have to pay. It's not as if Realmuto's game is all about power, or all about defense, or all about speed, and slippage in one area would sap him of his effectiveness. He is valuable in every phase and that value is only enhanced by his intangibles.

Just don't ignore the precedent above. Three out of 10 is good enough to get you in the Hall of Fame, but it's definitely not a high hit rate when it comes to nine-figure deals.

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Toronto's 3-month shutdown doesn't bode well for any pro sport

Toronto's 3-month shutdown doesn't bode well for any pro sport

The announcement Tuesday that the city of Toronto has banned all public events through June 30 is not a good sign that games in any North American professional sports league will be back by then.

This is the longest-ranged shutdown any city has enacted, a span of three months. What is more likely: That only Toronto makes this decision, or that by the end of April many cities in the U.S. have followed suit?

In Toronto, this pertains to city-permitted events such as festivals and parades, city-led conferences and cultural programs, and major mass participation events organized by external groups at civic centers and squares, parks and public spaces. It's logical that sporting events could follow.

Previously, we knew that MLB's regular season would begin no earlier than late May or early June. That is an optimistic target date. If the season somehow does begin by June, it will likely be in empty stadiums. This is going to be gradual. It's unrealistic to expect 30,000 fans plus hundreds of stadium workers to be carefree and packed into a venue in just a few months.

"If you have municipalities doing that, to me it's tough to open your doors at a ballpark," Jim Salisbury said on our Phillies Talk podcast Tuesday.

"You think, well, OK, play with no fans, but they need personnel in the ballpark just to get the ballpark open. These clubhouses are big complexes, multi-room complexes. You're gonna have an expanded roster of like 30 players, then you'll have guys on the IL, 10-plus man coaching staffs and video staffs and analytics staffs and athletic training staffs and there's even the guys in there nightly who do the drug testing. 

"Your clubhouse complexes are very populated. There's a lot of people in there, and you don't know where people are going in those 10, 11 hours that they're out of the ballpark. You have umpires and TV personnel. To me, those are still gatherings. I don't even know if you can play with nobody in the ballpark. I don't have any idea how this is gonna play out."

The Phillies were supposed to host the Blue Jays in April and visit them in mid-September. Toronto's NBA and NHL teams are both heavily in the playoff mix. The Raptors are the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference and the Maple Leafs are third in the Atlantic. Playoffs in both leagues end in June; how far could they extend this year?

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How Philly-New York trash talk led to the Oakland Athletics elephant mascot

How Philly-New York trash talk led to the Oakland Athletics elephant mascot

The Oakland Athletics were slated to visit Philadelphia in mid-June in 2020 which, for the A's, would have been a return to the franchise's original home.

But the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has Major League Baseball adjusting its 2020 schedule on the fly, so let's take some time to exploring a particularly quirky connection between Philadelphia and the Athletics' whimsical elephant mascot, Stomper.

You know, this guy:

Stomper dates all the way back to 1902, when professional baseball was still finding its footing, according to a neat little video on a slice of baseball from NBC Sports Bay Area.

It was a different time: Philadelphia had a team called the Athletics, and a man named John McGraw was managing the New York Giants. (Yes, the baseball Giants.)

McGraw, during a press conference, said he didn't think the Athletics' decision to buy up expensive star players' contracts was going to pay off, and said they would be left with "a big white elephant on their hands".

Famed Athletics owner and general manager Connie Mack laughed at McGraw's characterization, and decided to make a white elephant the Athletics' unofficial mascot. Eventually it became official, and before the Athletics and Giants faced off in the 1905 World Series, Mack presented McGraw with a white elephant statuette.

What an unreal Philly zinger.

You can watch the video from NBC Sports Bay Area below:

When the Athletics moved to Kansas City, the elephant disappeared (politics) but after the Athletics moved to Oakland, the team made the decision in the late 1980s to have the elephant make a triumphant - tri-unk-phant? - return.

I'm glad it came back, because now we have a reason to remember a sick 115-year-old burn. Connie Mack forever.