Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wednesday What Happened - The Jeff Suppan Debacle

For the second straight season Mark Attanasio (the Brewers owner) signed a $10 million check to buy-out a horrible Doug Melvin (the Brewers general manager) contact. Last year, Attanasio paid the rest of Bill Hall's contract so he could play for another team. This year, Attanasio did the same thing just to make Jeff Suppan go away.

Unfortunately we are going to have to get in Doc Brown's time machine again and head back to October of 2006 to fully understand the Jeff Suppan Debacle. Suppan pitched for the NL Central rival St. Louis Cardinals in the 2006 NLCS. The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the New York Mets in the 2006 NLCS thanks in large part to Suppan's performance: 1-0 over 2 starts with a 0.60 ERA which earned Suppan the 2006 NLCS MVP.

Suppan also started Game 4 of the 2006 World Series, taking a no decision, that resulted in a St. Louis win over the Detroit Tigers. St. Louis went on to win the 2006 World Series over the Detroit Tigers in 5 games, their first World Series title since 1982 when they defeated...wait for it...the Milwaukee Brewers...oh dang.

Suppan's 2006 post-season performance capped off the best three year stretch (all for the St. Louis Cardinals) of his entire career. From 2004-06, Suppan went 44-26 with a 3.95 ERA in the regular season and 3-3 with a 3.0 ERA in the post-season.

Despite Suppan's stellar performance, the Cardinals did not make a push to resign Suppan in the off-season...that should have been hint #1 to Mark Attanasio and Doug Melvin to stay away.

Attanasio became the Brewers owner in 2005 and was looking to make a free agent splash. Despite Suppan's reputation for being a nibbler, the Brewers offered him the richest pitching contract in franchise history: 4 years, $42 millions (and club option for 2011 with $2 million buy-out).

What did Mark Attanasio get for $42 million (actually $44 million because he had to pay the $2 million buy-out)? Suppan went 29-36 in 97 starts (110 appearances) with a 5.08 ERA over 578 innings. Just to drive home how much Suppan underperformed for $44 million, here is the year-by-year breakdown:

2007: 12-12 in 34 starts with a 4.62 ERA over 206.2 innings.

2008: 10-10 in 31 starts with a 4.96 ERA over 177.2 innings.*

2009: 7-12 in 30 starts with a 5.29 ERA over 161.2 innings.**

2010: 0-2 in 2 starts (15 appearances) with a 7.84 ERA over 31 innings.

Since taking over as owner of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005, Mark Attanasio has drastically increased payroll:
- 2004: $27,528,500
- 2005: $39,934,833
- 2006: $57,568,333
- 2007: $70,986,500
- 2008: $80,937,499
- 2009: $80,182,502
- 2010: $90,408,000

That said, Attanasio has signed off on some horrible decisions by Doug Melvin..think Eric Gagne, Bill Hall, and Jeff Suppan. Of all the big money contracts the Brewers have handed out on Attanasio's watch, the only one that makes sense is Ryan Braun's contract who is grossly underpaid.

The combo of Attanasio and Melvin are responsible for two of the four contracts on the Mount Rushmore of worst contracts in Milwaukee Brewers history***:

George Washington = Teddy Higuera:
Higuera is Washington because he is the first one to get a horrible contract...a trailblazer if you will. After tearing up the American League in the mid to late 1980's, Higuera experienced injury problems the next few seasons. Despite knowing that, in 1991 the Brewers offered Higuera a 4-year, $13.1 million deal. In today's terms that doesn't seem like a lot (by MLB standards) but that was a ton of money at the time, especially for a player coming off some big injury problems.

Thomas Jefferson = Jeffrey Hammonds:
Hammonds parlayed a rarified Denver air aided All-Star season in 2000 into a 3-year, $21 million deal. Hammonds became Exhibit A for how much Denver can inflate a player's statistics because he never came close to making an All-Star team while in Milwaukee.

Theodore Roosevelt = Bill Hall:
As crazy as it sounds, 4-years, $24 millon seems cheap for Bill Hall (2007-10) compared to Hammonds getting 3-years, $21 million (2001-03). I have written positive and negative things about Bill Hall in the last year so hopefully this is the last time I have to bring up his name.

Abraham Lincoln = Jeff Suppan:
As a guy who currently lives in the Land of Lincoln, I feel bad comparing Lincoln to Suppan but Suppan is a dead ringer right down to the beard. You know the $44 million reasons why the Suppan deal gets included on Mount Rushmore by now...shoot.

* Part of the reason the Brewers signed Suppan was his impressive 2006 playoff performance. Unfortunately, Suppan's 2008 playoff performance was nothing like his 2006 playoff performance. After a 26-year playoff absence, the Brewers finally made it back to the postseason on the back of C.C. Sabathia, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun. On the verge of elimination, the Brewers sent Suppan to the mound to start Game 4 of the National League Division Series against Philadelphia at Miller Park. Suppan's stat line for the day: 3 innings, 6 hits (3 HRs), and 5 runs allowed. The Brewers went on to lose Game 4 and were eliminated from the playoffs. Thanks for the playoff heroics Sup.

** The Brewers allowed Suppan to start on the final day of the season against St. Louis so he could extend his streak of making 30 starts to 11 seasons. Classy move I guess by the Brewers but with how horribly Suppan performed since signing the mega-deal, did they really have to do that?

*** Attanasio and Melvin would be responsible for three of the four worst contracts in Milwaukee Brewers history if they offered Eric Gagne a multi-year deal. On December 9, 2007 Attanasio and Melvin offered Gagne a one-year, $10 million contract. Gagne was ecstatic to sign the deal and laughed all the way to the bank because only four days later (you read that correctly), Gagne was named in the Mitchell Report for using performance enhancing drugs.

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