Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Comfort Zone

Today’s PD addresses the possibility of Westbrook signing a contract extension, including all of the cuddly language that is so prevalent prior to contract negotiations.

Now, Westbrook appears to be a great guy.
In fact, last summer, while having dinner at an outdoor patio at a Crocker Park restaurant, one of my friends recognized Westbrook coming into the restaurant. As he left with his take-out, we commented about how it must be difficult for athletes to go anywhere without being approached by someone who feels that they know them, probably resulting in them rarely being able to eat in a restaurant.
Scintillating dinner conversation, I know.

No sooner had we finished the conversation did we see an older guy stop Westbrook and start bending his ear. Westbrook was obviously very cordial as he nodded quietly, while the guy carried on an animated one-person conversation. Our attention was diverted elsewhere as we discussed the pros and cons of being a pro athlete when our food arrived.

After we finished eating, my buddy noticed that Westbrook was STILL talking to the old guy, some 30 minutes later. Westbrook was still standing there, speaking every so often, but mostly agreeing with whatever ridiculousness was coming out of this guy’s mouth.

Thankfully, the guy’s wife finally came out of a store and, presumably, convinced her husband to leave the nice, young man alone. Westbrook said good-bye and continued to his car, probably a solid 45 minutes after picking up his food at the restaurant, simply by being polite to a fan.

The story is told to show that Westbrook is a very genuinely polite and nice guy who is unlikely to embarrass the Indians with a poor decision.

That being said, the notion that he’s going to stick around in Cleveland because he’s “comfortable” came right out of the Cliché Handbook. And the “nice guy” label doesn’t get you much more punch than the rest of the folks at the party (see Thome, Jim), so these warm and fuzzies floating around in January aren’t going to get the Indians much further than any other prospective team this coming November.

Unfortunately, fans see today’s article – somehow take it as gospel that Westbrook wants to stay in his comfort zone of Cleveland, regardless of price – and file it away in the recesses of their brains as ammunition to ride the Dolans for not ponying up the cash if Jake doesn’t end up in Cleveland.

There’s no doubt that Westbrook will join the Tribe at the negotiating table this Spring Training to discuss extension; but, with the money given to lesser pitchers than Westbrook this off-season, expect Westbrook to go into a contract year attempting to accentuate his value as a Free Agent.

If, for instance, Westbrook wins another 15 games with an ERA around 4.00 in 200+ innings in 2007, he’s in line for a HUGE contract – both in terms of years and guaranteed money.

Unless the Indians completely blow away what Westbrook thinks he can earn on the open market (it would probably take a 5-year deal worth $60M for Jake to even consider eschewing the riches that will be on his table next year) at the Spring Training negotiating table, expect Westbrook to test the waters.

From the other dance partner's persepective, with Miller and Carmona in the pipeline and C.C. and Hafner taking priority over Jake, the Indians are unlikely (and justifiably so) to offer such a deal.

It’s a situation that bears watching as some have suggested that the team trade Westbrook before they lose him to FA – something a team in position to contend simply can’t afford to do without a legitimate replacement already in line.

Maybe Westbrook is that rare bird that puts more stock in comfort of surroundings than financial comfort.
Despite all the best intentions and his comments, I’ll believe that Westbrook is such a person when he’s sitting at a press conference announcing an extension with the Tribe.


t-bone said...

Pronk in SI

t-bone said...

apparently Bill Selby played for the Rangers.