THE IMPORTANCE OF INTANGIBLES

By: Holly Horning

Since late July, Tigers fans have been debating whether the perceived value of Yoenis Cespedes would match the price he was asking. And since the World Series ended, the universal question was about where he would play in 2016.

Figures have been thrown out, stats have been analyzed every which way but Sunday and his performances with both Detroit and NY have been used as proof of why he should return to Detroit.

But none, I mean absolutely zero, discussions have focused on the intangibles. The factors that often drive an individual and keep him on track. The factors that often make us notice how players such as JD Martinez can pull themselves together and maximize their talent to everyone’s amazement and why other players with immense skill sets often disappoint us by no longer meeting reasonable expectations.

Many in the media, as well as fans, wondered why Yoenis hadn’t been signed yet. They wondered more as the available free agent class of outfielders dwindled. Tiger fans in particular were perplexed as to why Al Avila had yet to sign him despite his performance this past year.

And then Justin Upton came onboard. Who saw that coming? Well, probably the Tigers’ Front Office did.

Those who work directly with someone know all their strengths and weaknesses. They probably had a realistic concern about what Cespedes’ long-term impact might have been which is why they went in another direction. Or, at least a major factor in tipping the scale in favor of Upton.

Don’t get me wrong. Cespedes is a fine player and one who is particularly well-suited for the fan masses. He is often an explosive player, a “sexy” athlete who plays and hits in dramatic fashion. He can make the game very fun. And players like that can blind a fan to all the other factors that come into play.

For all the great memories of Cespedes we have, there are other memories of botched fielding, disinterest and yawning in the outfield, and days where he seemed on and other days where his mind seemed elsewhere. Consistent, he was not. A concern that makes any Front Office wonder why it should be happening.

But over the years, the rumors have followed. Oakland trading away their best player. Stories about his difficulties with following coaching direction and refusing to join his teammates in taking batting and fielding practice in Boston.

And now we’re hearing about the issues he had last year with the Mets involving his refusal to take batting practice, issues with a perceived lack of hustle and his chain-smoking habit that disrupted work with teammates and coaches, both in-game and in the clubhouse.

Add to this the controversy surrounding Cespedes playing 18 holes of walking golf just before Game #4 of the NLCS – and having to leave the game in the second inning with shoulder soreness.

Ken Rosenthal described him as a man “who marches to his own drumbeat” while others in the media have said their connections often used the term “diva.” Whatever term you may use, it all indicates a concern about placing a priority on your own desires over those of the team.

An MLB analyst last week revealed that sources indicated that it was not so much the contract that was holding him back, but the extra perks he was demanding. Perks consistent with what the very top players in the game are receiving. He went on to describe it as a dangerous precedent because it disrupted the expected hierarchy and understanding among players about who received what perks. Even more dangerous if the recipient cannot maintain his expected level of performance.

But for everything a player brings to the game, this is why we also need to look at the total package. It gives the most accurate picture of a player’s effectiveness both short and long-term.

In Yoenis’ case, he played for 4 teams in 5 years. Despite his immense talent, each of those teams was willing to part with him. Even if we exclude the Tigers and their reason, we still need to ask why.

Undoubtedly, there were many teams who were interested in Yoenis. He could have strengthened each of those organizations. But for how long? And for what price? Those are the questions each GM was asking himself this off-season. A player who did not trigger those questions would have been signed much more quickly and not have been the last man standing.

In the end, it was a very good move for everyone involved. The Mets were smart in offering only a 3-year contract and adding incentives to this year’s performance. Cespedes makes out extremely well with a paycheck of $25 – $27.5 million for this year.

There is an opt-out clause after one year which should keep Cespedes focused and motivated. A win-win-win situation for him, the Mets and their fans.

Now the only thing left for the Tigers and their fans to see is how well the Justin Upton contract plays out.

9 thoughts on “THE IMPORTANCE OF INTANGIBLES

  1. Fantastic analysis Holly! You discussed many factors about Yoenis that greatly impacted the Tiger’s decision to choose Upton. One of the biggest triggers against signing Yoenis was his chain smoking. Over time, this will greatly impact his running skills as well as his overall health. I can envision the Tigers of old not doing all of their due diligence and signing Cespedes!

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  2. I don’t see the differences between Cespedes and Upton as “intangible”. There’s a couple of years age advantage with Upton. Cespedes is costing at least a couple million more a year. Finally, he’s a professional athlete yet he chain smokes ? I’m going with Upton for these very tangible reasons.

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    • Hi, Randall – Intangibles can be secondary factors that we do see as well as ones which are more hidden and harder to uncover. In baseball, intanglbles are non-stats so in this case, yes, age, money and smoking are considered to be among the category, albeit some of the more easily-recognizable. Great discussion and something that keeps us chewing on the topic – thanks! – Holly

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  3. Cespedes lost me as a fan when he was slow out of the box and then realized he could beat it out. He picked it up and was out by half a step. We don’t need that type of effort.

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  4. Hi, BG – Thanks so much for the kinds words. As to your question about Brad and managing the BP, we’ve selected it as our question of the week and will answer it in Thursday’s blog. Thanks for your contribution! – Holly

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  5. Great article Holly. Most of us would probably not known any of this without you pointing it out to us. I had my suspicions about the guy, now I’m even happier we did not sign him.

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  6. Based on a 27 million dollar a year salary and at 70 bucks each, Yoenis can buy roughly almost 386,000 cartons of cigarettes. Smoke up! The Mets can have him….

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  7. Holly, ditto to it being a great article! How much time a week do you spend researching this stuff? Are you a speed reader? Keep up the good work.

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    • Hi, John – Thanks so much. I am a fast reader and love to read as much as I can. I don’t spend a lot of time each week doing research – it’s more like small bits every day. Some of it is based upon my background in sports economics and some of it is pure interest so I follow along and make my notes. There are certain topics that pique my interest so I follow them until fruition and often assemble the facts and do bits of research as I go along, waiting for the right moment to publish. Re Cespedes, I found him fascinating ever since the Tigers acquired him and started collecting info as soon as he became a FA. Thanks for reading – this is what makes it all worthwile for us! – Holly

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