My (Slightly Historical) Take on Huddy Slingin' Muddy and the Concept of "Team Loyalty"

Much has been made about Tim Hudson's line or two disparaging the Braves attempts to resign him, including an article here by Scott Coleman that pretty much sums it up.

I don't want to get into what was said, but instead would like to take a little look back to gain some perspective of how slappy the Braves were to Huddy's facey.

Before I look historically, I first want to get into what was said and say that I have zero problem with how Wren handled the situation, and I have zero problem with Hudson being a bit offended by the Braves lack of interest. If I was Hudson and I had anchored a staff for a number of years, I would want a little love thrown my way (or a little more love thrown my way, as the case may be). I also have a little more compassion for Huddy because he is not the money-grabbing free agent type. He did, after all, take a below market value contract (3-years, $28 million with a 4th year team option of $9 million) to stay with Atlanta and always seemed to love pitching more than the money.

But what it boils down to is money; it's always money. And all but the richest team can no longer afford to take a high-priced gamble on an older player in order to show "loyalty." Wren was right to offer some amount of money (that I speculate was in the neighborhood of Floyd's contract) first to Huddy, and my guess is Wren would have loved to have Hudson back to finish his career with the Braves, both because Wren is likely not the monster some of his critics make him out to be, and because it would be good for business. Hudson was a popular player, after all.

But "team loyalty" is a concept that now only is a grumbling heard by spited players (and yes, spited teams), but no longer seems to have much footing in reality if you are not the Yankees, who give glorious farewell contracts to their aging warriors to make them Yankee lifers. Loyalty is now a secondary concern to the 8- or 9-figure contracts players are signing without a grumble.

It turns out that Hudson is a great player to use as an example of how these ridiculously large contracts have all but killed the idea of players remaining with a team for life (or even the majority of their career and finishing with the team as is the case with Hudson). As an aside, I also worry this hurts the game itself as fans are more reserved about latching onto a player (and his merchandise) as he might be playing for a rival in a few years (Et Tu McCann?).

Let's take a quick tour of the Braves best starters and their contracts (from Baseball Reference) through the post-war generations for comparison's sake:

Warren Spahn - pitched for the Braves from 1946-64

The only contract information is from later in his career (when he was still made of awesome). In 1957 he made $50,000. That year, at 36 years old, he won the Cy Young (the award started in 1956). He had even better years earlier and later. He hadn't even thrown one of his two no-hitters yet. He finished with 363 wins, 6th most in baseball history. You just wonder what he would have done if he had not served his country for three years during WW II, winning perhaps his most prestigious award - a Purple Heart. As I said, Made. Of. Awesome. But I digress. Oddly enough, he did not finish his career with the Braves, but was sold to the Mets as a pitcher/coach and finished the year being claimed off waivers from the Giants.

He made $65,000 in 1958 and in 1959. Good money in the '50s. From my figurin', that seems to be about $520,000 today.

Phil Neikro - pitched for the Braves from 1964 to 1983

Again, the only contract info is from later in his career. He made a little over a million dollars each year from 1980 to 1982, with the high being $1.325 in 1981. Going into the 1980 season, he was 41 years old, but had just come off of three straight seasons of 330 innings pitched or more (and he won over 100 games after 40, being a knuckle "balla" and all). Talk about bang for your buck! He wasn't as good as Spahn, but he made the most of that knuckleball and did very, very well for himself. I mean 318 wins ain't nothin'. He did actually finish his career in Atlanta, pitching three innings at 48 years old. But he pitched for three other teams during the four years prior (including two years with the Evil Empire).

His highest recorded year salary of $1.325 million in 1981 would be worth about $3.1 million today. That should be enough to get a person through the Cold War.

Greg Maddux - pitched for the Braves from 1993 to 2003

For full disclosure, I think Glavine would be the better fit for this comparison because he started with Atlanta and pitched 16 high quality years with the Braves before signing with the cartoon version of the Evil Empire (i.e the Mets), but in Greg Maddux's defense, he is Greg Maddux.

Mad Dog initially signed a 5-year, $28 million contract to come to the Braves after a Cy Young winning year with the Cubs. Then you know what he did? He went and won three more Cy Young's in a row (including 1995 when he finished 3rd in the MVP vote, won a GG, was an All-Star, and won the coveted Geek of the Year Award, what a blessed year). In 1997, he signed a 5-year extension for $57.5 million, making him the highest paid player in baseball for a blink or two. Not including the surprise acceptance of the $14.75 million qualifying offer in 2003, he made $87.7 million across 10 years (AAV $8.77 million).

His highest single year salary of $13.1 million in 2002 would be worth roughly $17 million today.

Tim Hudson - pitched for the Braves from 2005 to 2013

A very solid pitcher in Atlanta who I think the metrics underrate due to his lower strikeout, higher ground ball pitching philosophy, but even factoring in some underrating, he is not nearly on the same level as those named above. Over nine years, he made $88.5 million (AAV $9.83). At the height of the contract, he made $31 million across two years in which he pitched a total of 184 innings (due to TJS in 2008). After throwing a few good "I'm healthy" starts to wrap up the 2009 season, he signed a team friendly 3-year, $28 million contract with a 4th year option for $9 million. He rewarded the Braves over the life of that contract plus made up for a few dollars from the high cost/low output years of 2008-09.

His highest single year salary of $15.5 million in 2009 would be worth about $16.8 million today.

His contract with the Giants for 2015 is $12 million.

So here's the point. To be loyal to the team's best pitcher, it would cost the Braves:

  • 1959 - $520,000
  • 1981 - $3.1 million
  • 2002 - $17 million
  • 2008 - $16.8 million (for a lesser pitcher)

This isn't an exact science, and I'm sure someone could say, "Yea, but." But there is no doubt that being loyal to an aging pitcher becomes more and more cost prohibitive as the years go on, and in the last decade, it has only gotten crazier.

If there is one addition I would like to see to this article, it would be to look at the team salaries compared to the team revenue to see how the proportion has changed over the decades, but I have rambled on long enough.

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.

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