war_of_the_worlds_poster.jpgHave you ever heard the story of the 1938 radio broadcast The War of the Worlds? Supposedly, in October of that year, a young Orson Welles (before he became a legend for Citizen Kane) directed a radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells’ novel (before it became a legendary bad movie with Tom Cruise). But he had made the broadcast so realistic that some listeners were unaware that this was a fictional show. They really thought that they were listening to a news bulletin about aliens invading earth and supposedly ran around the streets in a panic. I learned about this fact/urban legend back in grade school and recall thinking at the time, “What dumbasses… Who’d believe a story like that? Aliens? Really?”

Flash forward to this past Friday, when I read via the Dominican sports news website Impacto Deportivo that the Chicago White Sox had signed Octavio Dotel to a two-year, $11m deal. I recall thinking at the time, “What dumbasses… Who’d believe a story like that? Dotel for 2-years and $11 million? Really?” My skepticism was such that I e-mailed the other UmpBump writers with the “news”:

From: Paul Moro

To: UmpBump Staff

I’m not sending this link along because I think it’s true. I’m sending this along because:

1. The advertisement makes it impossible to actually read the damned story

2. It’s funny to think that the White Sox would actually pay $11m for two years of perennially injured Octavio Dotel after signing Scott Linebrink to $19m/4

3. It actually ends the story with the word “Congratulations”. And that makes me smile.

Well, it appears I now have a ham and egg on my face. Thanks, Ken Rosenthal.

kenny-williams.jpgBut in my defense, who actually thought that Octavio Dotel would get a guaranteed multi-year deal for that much money? This is a reliever who has pitched 56 innings combined in the last three seasons. Did you catch that? 56 innings. Total. Last three years. And you know what he did in those 56 innings? He compiled a 5.14 ERA thanks in large part to the fact that he walked 5.5 guys per nine innings pitched. Who gives a guy like him a two-year $11 million deal? Who does this?

Well, Kenny Williams, apparently. And even though I’ve been critical of him before, I’m still left wondering as to whether or not I over-estimated him, or under-estimated his level of delusion. Or maybe I over-under-estimated him.


9 Responses to “The Post Where I Under-Over-Estimate Kenny Williams”

  1. To be fair to Dotel, last season he had a nearly 5 to 1 ratio of strikeouts to unintentional walks and his ERA was 4.11. That was only in 33 appearances but he has actually had a good strikeout to walk ratio in his career. His numbers from 05 and 06 when he was injured should carry less weight than what he did last season. Kenny’s obviously desperate to improve the middle relief which was the team’s biggest weakness last year. I think it’s too much also but Milwaukee is paying Gagne $10 million for one year so obviously the market for broken down relievers has sky-rocketed. It’s a gamble for Williams but if Dotel is healthy it’s not a bad deal. I don’t believe you trashed Doug Melvin to this degree when he signed Gagne and he doesn’t look to have any better chance of success than Dotel.

  2. Sarah Green says:

    I don’t know, we trashed Gagne pretty thoroughly. Rich said he’d only pay him a shiny nickel. You called it “inexplicable” and said it was as if Dotel was “anticipating some kind of divine intervention.” I agreed, calling the deal “preposterous” and lamenting that baseball salaries have become mere “abstractions that have no real reality, like the ideas of the Lithuanian semiotician Greimas, the breasts of Jennifer Love Hewitt, or the square root of one.” We then seemed to agree that the money could have been spent on almost anything other than Eric Gagne, including: a long-term contract for Ryan Braun; truffle oil; clubhouse geishas; 40 marble bath tubs.

    This is all by way of saying…I think the Gagne deal was sufficiently trashed. But I’m down for another go-round of scathing mockery if you think it’s necessary.

  3. Doug Melvin wasn’t called delusional for an equally bad decision and Paul even commended him for off season moves. If you look back at the Gagne talk Paul wasn’t trashing Melvin like he does Kenny Williams. I still think the Gagne deal is inexplicable and I don’t believe I said anything here to contradict that. I would also point out that the White Sox have a larger payroll to work with than do the Brewers. So yes, I think the Gagne deal was worse than this one. I think it’s a bigger gamble to rely on Gagne as a closer than Dotel as a set-up man. I’m just wondering if Paul is judging Kenny more harshly than he did Melvin, it seemed inconsistent to me.

  4. When healthy, Octavio Dotel is a very useful piece of the bullpen puzzle. Although his best days are probably behind him, barring injury, he would still probably put up better than league average numbers. But why would you give a guy who hasn’t been healthy for three straight years a multi-year deal? Why would you commit so much money to a guy who isn’t going to close for a team that wasn’t an “Octavio Dotel-away” from contending? The Chicago White Sox are a team that’s probably headed for a fourth place finish in 2008. I just don’t get it. And I don’t think that the White Sox’s biggest problem was middle relief – it was that no one got on base for them. They cranked a ton of homers but drove in far too few runs to show for it. Also didn’t help that they had to give so many innings to Jose Contreras, Gavin Floyd and John Danks.

    And for the record, I didn’t think that the Gagne deal was horrendous. I wouldn’t have done it, but I’m a big fan of one-year deals. I’d rather overpay in dollars than years.

  5. Melissa, I think a part of where we’re differing in opinion is that you’re far more optimistic about the White Sox’s chances in 2008 than I am. The Brewers have a good shot to take the NL Central. So giving a one-year (albeit very expensive) deal makes more sense to me than giving Dotel a two-year deal (less so, but still expensive).

  6. Sarah Green says:

    Yeah, middle relief is notoriously hard to predict. With a few exceptions, it’s hard to know who’s got the mojo from year to year. As a GM, you’re better off making a series of smaller, cheaper deals and gambling on a couple of those guys panning out by mid-season.

  7. I don’t think the Dotel deal is going to keep the White Sox from finishing 4th even if he is healthy. The Gagne deal is the same money basically but only one year instead of 2. I think Kenny acted out of desperation here and he thought the club’s biggest hole was middle relief, that’s his opinion. Just yesterday he said that he thought most of his hitters had an off year and will return to their career averages this year. I’m not sure he’s right about that. He has also added guys like Cabrera and Swisher because they have a higher on base percentage than the players he already has. I’m not saying that I agree with his view point but I don’t think he’s necessarily delusional.

  8. Paul Moro says:

    The “delusion” part may have been overstated. But I don’t know what else to say about a guy who’s paying so much money for fickle relievers as if they’re the ones who are going to put them over the top. They may be able to finish third, but in my mind, that’s the ceiling. I don’t see them finishing above Cleveland or Detroit. I like Nick Swisher for the most part, but Williams fired all his bullets in the minors to get him. So he has a depleted minor league, committed future dollars to undeserving pitchers and is still making comments like “All (Detroit’s Cabrera-Willis deal) has done is put the Tigers in a better position to compete with us.” He basically went all in with no pairs and jack high. And it’s as if he’s not bluffing. He really thinks he has the best hand. Could he win? It’s possible, but pretty unlikely. And that’s pretty much what I meant when I referred to “delusion”.

    I am curious about this “off year” comment, though. Out of their big bats, the only guy who may have had an off-year really, was Dye, and it wasn’t by much. Thome and Konerko were right at their career norms. Even if Crede becomes a 30HR guy again, HRs were never the problem for the team. What Joe Crede brings to the table is exactly what kept them from maximizing their offense to begin with.

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