Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Jeff Bagwell and the Insurance Fiasco of 2006

You can blame all this asinine talk about the Yankees trying to void A-Rod's contract due to continued link to PEDs for this journey back in time. You can also blame Ken Rosenthal's "Hey everyone A-Rod should just commit fraud!" column.

Go ahead, and read it. Rosenthal said that all A-Rod has to do is to:
A-Rod certainly will attempt to go through his rehabilitation, but he may be physically unable to perform. A doctor surely could make such a diagnosis quite plausible, given the weakened condition of Rodriguez’s two hips... A legal fight could ensue, with the insurance companies contending that either A) Rodriguez could still play or B) that his use of PEDs contributed to his physical deterioration. But good luck trying to win either case.

Oh "a doctor surely could make..."? No.

Let's think back to 2005. All of this you already know. The Astros went to the World Series for the first time, getting swept by the White Sox. Jeff Bagwell managed 123 plate appearances in 39 games. Sure, he had been productive in the years prior, but his OPS had declined in every year from 1999 to his last season in 2005. Check it out:

1999: 1.045
2000: 1.039
2001: .966
2002: .919
2003: .897
2004: .842
2005: .738

Of course, we'd think about murdering somebody to have a player "only" post an .842 OPS for the Astros in 2013. But Bagwell was breaking down right before our eyes. 2005 was the final straw. He hit .250/.358/.380 - all of those categories representing the worst of his 15-year career. He played in 24 games to start the season, and then returned in September in mainly a pinch-hitting role, and wasn't particularly good at any point.

Then the post-season came. I'm sure you remember. It was painful just to watch Bagwell get in the batter's box. He played in two games in the NLDS against Atlanta and one game in the NLCS against St. Louis - and totaled 3 PAs. He did get two starts in Games 1&2 of the World Series, and went 1x6 with a strikeout and two HBPs. He got two hit-less pinch-hit appearances in Games 3&4, finishing the post-season with a .490 OPS.

Jeff Bagwell would not pick up a bat in 2006, yet he made at least $17m (or $19,369,019 according to Baseball-Reference). The Astros did everything they could to not pay it.

January 13, 2006: Bagwell is examined by Dr. James Andrews, in Birmingham.

McLane's "childhood friend," Wayne Fisher, of Fisher, Boyd, Brown, Boudreaux and Huguenard (in March 2006):
"One of the things that happened was he was thoroughly examined at Dr. James Andrews' facility. He went through in this laboratory computerized analysis of videotapes that were taken showing how much he could move his shoulder, what the arc was, how fast he threw a ball and how he was throwing — how he would push the ball, as opposed to the normal rotation of the shoulder...He was throwing the ball at 35 mph at what distance he could throw. On Jan. 12, we know total disability began, because Dr. James Andrews, a world-renowned physician, told him. That was the first time any physician had ever said that to Jeff. If Connecticut General Insurance Co. can tell us what person in that insurance company knows more about whether Jeff Bagwell was totally disabled on Jan. 12 than Dr. James Andrews, I'll be very interested in cross-examining him."

January 24 Despite the Astros saying he's hurt, Bagwell plans to attend Spring Training. Agent Barry Axelrod:
"He believes he's going to be ready for the start of the season. That's what we're counting on."

Bagwell is taking the Astros' stance personally: 
"To me more than anything else, it's just amazing how bad they don't want me to play. They just want to collect their money. It's an awkward situation. It probably will never be fixed between me and the Astros."

January 27: Based on Andrews' and Astros team physician David Lintner's findings, the Astros file an insurance claim to recoup $15.6m of his $17m salary (91.8%).

January 31: The Astros' insurance policy expires.

Ty Buthod, a partner at Baker Botts - the law firm hired by Connecticut General:

"The policy terminated on Jan. 31, 2006. The Astros took the position that Mr. Bagwell had become totally disabled sometime between the end of the 2005 season and Jan. 31, 2006. Throughout the process, Mr. Bagwell and the Astros were cooperative, gracious and professional. Connecticut General wishes the club and Mr. Bagwell the best."

February 2: Purpura is getting anxious:
"It's Jeff's position that he's going to report, and there's little if anything a team can do to keep a player from reporting. It's a tough situation all around. It's tough and complex. You don't collect on the claim until he's actually missed time, so he would have to miss time throughout the season for that to actually go through. The big issue right now is the interpretation of whether we lose our rights after spring training starts. I don't know of any club that's had to deal with this kind of situation in this manner, so it's very murky."

February 24: Bagwell wants to give 2006 a shot.
"This is a difficult thing. I understand the business side of baseball. Trust me, I want them [the Astros] to collect as much as they can. But I just want the chance to see if I can play..."I still should have the right to see if I can play."

March 11: Bagwell plays in his first Spring Training game of the season, the first time he has taken the field since May 2005:
"The major focus of this black cloud that's sitting over this locker is that throwing arm. If it starts hurting bad enough where it's affecting my swing, we're going to have another talk."

March 13: Connecticut General Life Insurance Company denies the Astros claim that Bagwell is disabled.

"On March 13, 2006, Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. notified the Houston Astros that it had denied a total disability claim submitted by the Astros relating to Jeff Bagwell," said attorney Ty Buthod, a partner at the Houston law firm of Baker Botts, which is representing Connecticut General. "The company determined that there had been no adverse change in Mr. Bagwell's condition or ability to play baseball between the end of last season, when he was an active member of the roster, and Jan. 31, 2006, the date the policy expired. The company carefully reviewed the claim as submitted by the Astros and determined that the claim did not support a finding of total disability."

March 18: Bagwell plays in back-to-back games at 1B. He makes a throw, but underhanded. Garner:
He hasn’t made a quick, hard throw and we want to see that. It will happen when it happens. Obviously, we’d like to see it before opening day.”

March 25: Bagwell is placed on the DL. 

March 26: Bagwell acknowledges his career may be over.

"I may never play again. It's been 15 years with the Astros. I have to do what's best for me, what's best for the Astros and best for baseball...I came down to spring training to see if I could still make it as a first baseman with the Astros. There were times in the offseason where I felt like I could do this. But with the condition of my shoulder, I'm not going to be able to start the season with the Astros."

March 28: McLane vows to pursue legal recourse against Connecticut General.

"We have not filed (a lawsuit) yet," said Fisher, the former president of the Texas State Bar Association, Texas Trial Lawyers Association and International Academy of Trial Lawyers. "We will ask them to reconsider their decision based on the information Mr. Bagwell has provided. If they continue denying the claim, we will file litigation against Connecticut General. We're going to give them several weeks to reconsider their position." 

April 18: The Astros file suit against Connecticut General Life Insurance Company. Fisher files a 20-page brief with the lawsuit:
"To acquire this disability coverage, the Astros paid $2,409,343 in premiums to CIGNA, The terms of the Policy are relatively straightforward. The Policy provides a schedule of benefits payable to the Astros in the event (a) Mr. Bagwell becomes totally disabled and (b) the terms of and conditions of the Policy are met...In section 2 on page 6 of the Policy, the benefits scheduled for the 2006 regular season that CIGNA, by contract, agreed to pay are $85,748 for each regular season day that Mr. Bagwell misses due to a total disability. Plaintiff has timely presented a claim for these benefits to Defendant. Defendant has denied the claim. Hence, the lawsuit."

December 16: The Astros settle on an undisclosed amount with Connecticut General. Baker Botts' Ty Buthod and McLane's attorney Wayne Fisher released a joint statement that said:
"The Houston Astros and Connecticut General Life Insurance Company have reached an amicable resolution of the lawsuit brought by the club relating to the total disability policy on Jeff Bagwell. The details of the resolution are confidential."

That same day, Bagwell retires:
"Physically, I can not do it anymore. I wish I could. I wish I could continue to play and try to win a World Series in Houston. But I'm just not physically able to do that anymore. ... I feel very blessed to have met all of you, to be part of the Houston Astros for 15, 16 years."

What's the point of all of this? Jeff Bagwell was examined by team doctors AND Dr. James Andrews, was found to be completely disabled, didn't make a single appearance in 2006, and it still took eleven months to come to an undisclosed settlement with the insurance company. Good luck with that claim, Yankees.