On baseball road trips in college, we'd always bring a PlayStation 2, and, most crucially, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005. My buddy and I were playing one night in the hotel room, and when he got up to use the bathroom, I snatched his controller and took a shot for him. When he saw what I'd done, he punched me hard in the shoulder, like, C'mon, man! Moments later, I heard whimpering, and when I looked over, he was massaging his wrist -- he had injured it that day during our game, and aggravated it here, in the hotel room, over a tense game of Tiger Woods.
"Shouldn't have done that," he said, through the pain.
Probably there are general managers all across the country grimacing in hotel rooms right now, shaking their heads, saying under their breath, "Shouldn't have done that." One of these general managers is Texas Rangers head man Jon Daniels. And the man he shouldn't have punched on the shoulder with a broken wrist is outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. And by "punched on the shoulder with a broken wrist," I mean, "paid $130 million over seven years."
Jon Daniels, you shouldn't have done that.
It's easy to pile on the Rangers right now, as they languish with the league's worst record, half their squad on the disabled list, and with 60 (!) players used on the roster this season. Daniels can't be blamed for the injuries, of course, so we'll give him, and the entire organization, a hall pass for the 2014 season. But what do we do about the 2015 season, and 2016, 2017, '18, '19, and '20? Those are all the seasons in which Daniels is paying Choo several million dollars to play baseball.
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This season, the first of Choo's seven-year deal, is his worst since becoming a full-time player in 2008 (even his injury-plagued 2011 had a better slash line). Before elbow surgery ended his season in late August, Choo was hitting .242/.340/.374, each of those numbers a Tiger Woods drive away from his career averages (.282/.383/.453). Choo stole just 3 bases -- he had swiped at least 20 in every one of his previous full seasons -- perhaps due to his hurrying back from an April ankle injury.
So should we just chalk up Choo's lost 2014 as a contagion of the Rangers' injury bug? Perhaps. But then there's the contract: a deal that makes Choo a Ranger until 2020, when he's 38, an age when power abandons and speed just up and leaves. Choo's deal escalates with the years, too, meaning he'll cash his biggest checks ($21 million/year) over the final two years of the contract. When healthy, Choo is a legitimate threat in the heart of an order. When injured, or fighting injury, or climbing the age-ladder into his late thirties, Choo is just any other guy.
It's enough to make a GM shake his head and mumble, "Shouldn't have done that."