I know we dump on Melky Cabrera a lot, and I realize that Melky has his supporters among Yankee fans. We don’t root against Melky Cabrera because of who he is; we feel that Melky’s presence in the lineup doesn’t help the Yankees and in fact makes them a worse team. We would like nothing better than to see Melky mature into a decent-to-good center fielder who can help the Yankees win while playing a demanding defensive position. It hasn’t happened yet.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few numbers — and do keep in mind that I’m using Melky as an example. Last season, Melky Cabrera earned himself 453 plate appearances and put up a 68 OPS+. Only three players with at least 453 PAs put up a worse OPS+, and all of them — Michael Bourn, Willy Taveras, Cesar Izturis — played in the NL. In terms of VORP among ALers with at least 453 PAs, Melky’s -5.4 mark was third-worst in the league.
In other words, Melky had a bad year. If you figure that his job was to get on base and be at least an average Major League player or even a replacement-level player, he didn’t do his job. Basically, he got the equivalent of a terribly negative employee review. If any of us not in the sports world performed down to Melky’s standards, we wouldn’t get a job, and we might not even have a job after that.
So what happens? He made $461,200 last year and somehow managed to lose his starting to job two-thirds of the way through the season. Well, Melky ends up with a $1.4 million contract for 2009. That’s a 300 percent raise for being among the worst everyday players in the game.
Now, I know I’m being unfair to Melky, but I am basically using him to make a point. $1.4 million isn’t a lot, and in fact, it’s around $2 million less than the Major League average. It is, however, hard to convince anyone that baseball economics is suffering when bad players earn 300 percent raises.
In the end, it could be a Yankee thing. The Bombers can afford to toss $1.4 million at Melky with the hopes that he could put it together and have a good year in 2009. But otherwise, it’s just another example of baseball economics disconnect. Even in a bad economy, even when a player is as bad as can be over the course of the season, he can still earn a disproportionate raise. What a business.