Thursday, March 26, 2015

Brady Aiken has Tommy John surgery

Unsigned 2014 1-1 pick Brady Aiken wrote today in the Player's Tribune that he had Tommy John surgery yesterday.

Aiken made his 2015 debut for the IMG Academy last week, and left his start after 12 pitches (maybe 14, I can't remember exactly. It wasn't a lot.)

...Over the last nine months, I didn't dwell too much on what happened over the summer...I just put my total focus into preparing for the 2015 Draft. My workouts were the best they had ever been. I was throwing better and harder than I had ever before. And then...I threw a pitch and something felt a little wrong.

As you likely recall, Aiken and the Astros couldn't come to an agreement after the Astros found an irregularity in his post-draft/pre-signing physical and offered Aiken/Casey Close the minimum amount they possibly could and still receive compensation for not signing Aiken. More on that in a minute. As the deadline drew to a close, the Astros tried a last-ditch offer for the amount to which they had previously agreed, and They wouldn't pick up the phone. 

Think about that for a second. The Astros couldn't convince a 17-year old or his family to take $6.5m. 

Aiken actually addresses that:
I can honestly say I don't regret not signing. It was a very difficult decision, but it also was an informed decision based on circumstances only a few people know the truth about...We weighed the pros and cons, talked with friends and mentors and doctors whose opinions we value and discussed it over a number of family dinners...

Now your money quote:
The money wasn't the only factor to consider. I wanted to play somewhere I felt comfortable, with a support system I felt would lay the groundwork for a successful and long career. Making sure I had that in place was worth the frustration of not being able to get on with my career sooner.

Alright, I'll stop before I make clicking the link not worth the time. But there are some things to chew on here.

1. Brady Aiken does not regret not taking $6.5m from the Astros (UPDATE: Or $5.1m or whatever). This is hard to fathom for regular people. You likely know I teach high school. Brady Aiken turned down an amount equal to what I will make in 151 years (Adjust based on UPDATE). That, by its very nature, disqualifies me from being "impartial." But everybody's circumstances are different. But it does mean that...

2. Brady Aiken & Posse would rather not take the Astros' millions of dollars than pitch in the Astros' system. Aiken says he wanted to "play somewhere I felt comfortable, with a support system I felt would lay the groundwork for a successful and long career." Simply by not signing with the Astros, the implication is that the Aikens didn't feel like the Astros would lay the groundwork for his "successful and long career." 

3. This is becoming a habit with the Astros. They did the same thing with Ryan Vogelsong, lowering their offer after he took a physical. Vogelsong told KNBR:
Everything that's happened to me this offseason - and one of these days I'll tell you guys all about it, when we're all sitting around having a couple beers 10 years from now when I'm done playing - and you'll go, 'There's no way that happened,' and I'll say, 'Yup,' and you'll understand what I'm talking about.

Vogelsong's agent tried to clarify that the Astros didn't give him the willies, but Twice is a pattern. What is said pattern? Physicals are not a rubber stamp. They will come to a verbal agreement and, depending on what the medical stuff shows, have no problem adjusting their financials based on the medical information provided for them. We can make jokes about Brady Aiken's tiny UCL all day long, but the Bidness Side of the Astros - as always - give zero craps about what you think, what The Media thinks, what the MLBPA thinks, and what the player and/or his agent thinks. 

Is this worthwhile? In the short-term, yes. Like speculating on whether or not Carlos Correa would have broken his leg had the Astros promoted him to Corpus earlier, this is a hard concept on which to get a handle, because you're dealing with alternate histories. Would Brady Aiken be 24 hours removed from Tommy John surgery were he already in the Astros' system? Apparently the Astros thought that it was enough of a risk (though, to me, anyone who throws harder than 64mph is a full-body cast waiting to happen) to destroy what little favorable outsider-perception they still enjoyed. But that has always been their M.O., a "screw your opinion, we're here to win some some point" philosophy. Regardless, the Astros didn't give $6-ish million to a player who won't pitch until 2016. 

But that long play, though...that's trickier. If you thought that Base Ball had gotten past its Good Ol' Boy days, you're quite wrong. You can see there is a visceral reaction to the Astros, or at least Jeff Luhnow. Maybe it's the Sports Illustrated 2017 World Series Champs cover. Maybe, though, it's the perception that Luhnow doesn't care about human feelings. You and I kick the coffee table, we fall to the ground and weep. Jeff Luhnow kicks the coffee table and it splinters like a bullet hitting an Ikea bookshelf. You and I need coffee in the morning. Jeff Luhnow needs compressed air and some castor oil. You get my point. 

The problem is that the perception can impact the long-term health of the team to which we have chosen to be loyal (or at least mildly follow while we crack another beer). Casey Close represents some of the biggest names in baseball, and if he is at the point where he won't - or even would rather not - deal with the Astros, that's Not Good. You better believe that if 37-year old Ryan Vogelsong basically says that the Astros gave him the shakyballs, other players are listening. 

Let's say the Astros are ready to step up and spend more than $12m/year on a player (provided his MRI is like looking at Clark Kent's MRI), if the perception is - thanks to the comments made by Casey Close, Brady Aiken, and Ryan Vogelsong just in the last eight months - the Astros give no craps about the overall well-being of a player, that's a Bad Thing. Every time Peter Gammons can think to get his butt cheeks off the keyboard to his phone to tweet something mean about the Astros, players, agents, and media are paying attention. 

There's a very good chance that I'm over-thinking this, in my respite from my self- (and work-) imposed blogging hiatus. Maybe everything is fine. Maybe Giancarlo Stanton will opt-out in 25 minutes because he likes those clean unis and join the Astros. But I'm guessing that it won't happen. Players the Astros will want to sign are going to have some questions about the organization. So the $3m the Astros "saved" by not signing Aiken and the $4m they "saved" by not signing Vogelsong are going to cost more than $7m in the long-run. A lot more. 

Are the Astros validated with the news that a teenager needed Tommy John surgery? If that makes you feel good, then whatever. The Astros guessed correctly that a 17-year old who threw 98mph might need to have major surgery. Congratulations. I, for one, am not going to cheer the fact that it'll be another year and a half before we get to see Brady Aiken pitch, for anybody (it sure as hell isn't going to be for the Astros). To me, the Astros didn't "win" the Brady Aiken news. Nobody did.


Shameless click-bait from July 20, 2014: Be sure to Choose Your Own Rageventure on the Brady Aiken decision.