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August 23, 2013

Pebble Hunting

Free Agent Alternate History

by Sam Miller


You know what they say: The key to comedy is timing. Consider the following three jokes:

Joke 1. In December 2011, three men were wandering through the countryside in search of a place to sleep for the night. They came upon a large farm. The farmer said they were welcome to spend the night, so long as they didn’t touch his beautiful daughter. To make a long story short, one of them—the Angels—snuck out and signed Josh Hamilton for five years and $125 million, Hamilton went on to hit 43 home runs (including four in one game!) and drive in 128 for his new team, and he received multiple MVP votes after the season. The last four years didn’t work out as well after that, but that’s how these things go. The Angels, thanks to Hamilton’s contributions, made the postseason in 2012 for the first time in three years. The farmer's wife made pancakes for them all the next morning and the three men went on their way.

Joke 2. Two nuns are walking down the street, in December 2013. One of them sees Josh Hamilton, sitting sadly on a bench. “What is wrong,” one of the nuns asks him. Hamilton looks up and tells them that, on the brink of his free agency, he had the worst season of his career, and cost himself literally many tens of millions of dollars. “Well,” the second nun says, “at least teams will know what they are getting now. Your loss is another's gain, and we are all, after all, made by the same creator.” Hamilton nods. “Thank you, sister, that’s a good point.”

Joke 3. A man walks into a bar. It’s Jerry Dipoto. The bartender asks, “Why the long face?” Dipoto looks up. “Well, a year ago, in December 2012, I signed Josh Hamilton to a very long deal. It immediately went so poorly that somebody is going to lose his job over it. Maybe me, maybe not, but somebody. That’s quite the burden on my heart.” The bartender nods solemnly, knowing that in 75 years or so, everybody in the bar will be dead.

The first two jokes obviously aren’t funny, because the timing is all off. If Josh Hamilton had been a free agent after 2011, or after 2013, his contract would have been somewhere between a run-of-the-mill mistake and a fair reflection of his actual value, but not funny. The third one, on the other hand, is tragic, and you know what they say: Comedy equals Tragedy plus Time. El oh el oh el oh el.

The point is simply that GMs are constantly making moves that turn out terribly, or turn out great, and to a large degree these GMs are victims of timing, of circumstances that are conspiring to deceive us all. The players, too, are the victims (or beneficiaries) of timing’s same dastardly plots. Things change so fast! GMs should really all quit and go dig ditches for a living. You know what's predictable? A ditch. A ditch sucks, every time, all the time. Nobody ever gave $125 million to a ditch.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Raising Aces: The RP-F... (08/23)
<< Previous Column
Pebble Hunting: Apprec... (08/21)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: Five M... (08/26)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Baseball Therapy: Ryan... (08/23)

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