Eighty years ago this week, Yankees’ GM Ed Barrow signed Babe Ruth to a two-year, $160,000 contract. It made Ruth the highest-paid baseball player in history, and was the occasion of the Babe’s famous response to making more money than the President of the United States: “I had a better year than he did.”
Ruth didn’t even supply the most interesting quote about the deal. Barrow predicted that Ruth’s new deal would never be surpassed in baseball.
Nick Blackburn also makes more than the President (insert “having a better year” joke here), but he did even before his recent 4-year, $15.25 million extension. The Twins locked him up for one year beyond his arbitration eligibility with some mixed reviews from the blogosphere.
I always like to glance at a player’s similarity scores at B-R.com. I couldn’t help but notice that number 9 on the list of similar players to Blackburn through age 27 was former Twins Roy Smith. Smith came to the Twins in 1986 after two seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He played sparingly for three years, finally becoming a regular in his breakout season of 1989. Like Blackburn, Smith allowed a high opponents average and didn’t strikeout many batters. Even in his best season, Smith allowed opponents to his .270 and had a 1.80 K/BB ratio. His lifetime numbers: .288 OAVG and 1.58 K/BB. That translated into a 4.60 ERA.
Smith struggled in 1990, and never had a season remotely as good as 1989. Blackburn has already had two such seasons, so perhaps there is potential for the move to pay off for the Twins.