For as long as I can remember, i’ve always loved baseball. I remember when I was a kid, watching the Cubs in the summertime at 1:20 on WGN. I would go to the card shop and spend all my money on baseball cards. In the afternoon, we’d play baseball with about 8 guys and always have to close about 4 positions. I loved baseball. However, throughout that time, one nagging question has always haunted and plagued my mind, causing me to lose sleep time and time again. It haunts me like an awful recurring nightmare that I just can’t seem to shake. The question is a simple one. It’s not “who is the best player to ever play the game?” or “will anyone ever break Dimaggio’s record?”. It’s much simpler, and it eats at the heart of baseball.
Why do all the good free agents get signed last? – I know, that’s not really the question you had in mind, but it’s one that drives me insane. Every year, I get excited and wait in nervous anticipation like a kid the night before Christmas only to be strung along like an ending relationship that just doesn’t seem to break off. I get glossy eyed at the big names on the market and dream of the team that the Tribune could put on the field if a thing called money never existed. Once the World Series ends each year, I think that the signings will come fast and furious as if the teams were starving lions who had just been thrown a pile of T-Bone steaks. Each year I am disappointed. This year is no exception. With names like Beltran, Beltre, Delgado, Pedro, Nomar, Kent, and Magglio on the market, my excitement level was at an all time high. These are some major names on the market. However, as the offseason started and the rumors flew, the signings did not. Hence, the reason for my question.
If you were a team in desperate need for improvement or simply a team in need of a slight tweak, you would think that you would want to go after the best possible fix. With that being said, it should be the big names that are signed quickly, setting the tone for the minor contracts to come afterward. How long can it possibly take to get a deal done? If all the GM’s really have to do is work to trade and sign players, then they should only need about a week to have their rosters set for the next season. If you work the phone for eight hours a day, 40 hours a week, you should have your whole team done. As a result, it should be the big names that go first, because they would be the top priority. Teams would know that if they didn’t get one of those guys, they would have to settle with low tier guys like Tony Womack. Who in the world would be interested in signing Tony Womack?
Maybe i’m just wishful thinking, but if baseball could come up with some way to make the offseason signing period a little shorter, it would certainly make it a lot easier for a lot of people. Fans would be able to see instantly what their team looks like for the next year. Vegas odds makers would certainly have a lot less work recalculating odds each time someone signs, and writers would be eternally grateful for the shortened signings, at least I would. It would let me focus on facts rather than rumors all offseason.
As I sit here now, Beltran, Delgado, and Ordonez are still unsigned. Will it happen this week? I doubt it, but you never know. One thing is certain, my question will always remain.