Given further time to reflect on the Karsten Whitson situation, I’d like to expand on my initial thoughts. First off, it still stinks that Whitson isn’t a member of the Padres today. I’m sure all of us, with the possible exception of the player and his agent, would agree on that.
According to Corey Brock’s account at Padres.com, the team and player “reached an agreement” on draft day. As the signing deadline approached, despite said agreement, Whitson’s camp balked and so the Padres reportedly sweetened the pot to $2.1 million (up from the original offer, which had been at slot, i.e., $1.953 million). No dice.
Here’s the (literally) money quote from GM Jed Hoyer:
He wanted to get paid like the No. 4 or 5 pick in the country and wouldn’t lower it. I’m shocked. We had a deal with this kid. Somewhere along the line, someone told him he was worth more.
Executive Vice President Paul DePodesta offers a similar assessment:
We had every reason to believe that he would be signing within a few days of the draft (and I mean every reason). Then other people got involved and slowed the process down… When the deadline approached, despite feeling somewhat taken advantage of, we did what every team does in order to get a deal done: we improved our offer to the last dollar.
I wasn’t there at the negotiating table, and neither were you. We have no way of knowing what actually transpired in the time leading up to what Baseball America‘s John Manuel calls “a blow, plain and simple.”
That said, the Padres went well above slot for their third, sixth (John Barbato), and eighth round picks, so I don’t think this was about being cheap (in a post-deadline chat, Baseball America‘s Jim Callis said of Whitson that “San Diego was willing to go over slot to sign him”). From where I sit, it looks like two parties reached an agreement but only one of them chose to honor it.
Padres owner Jeff Moorad, himself a former player agent, calls the situation “a badly orchestrated agent’s game,” continuing with even harsher words:
The kid was bawling his eyes out on the other end. Whitson got caught up in a dangerous game of chicken played by his agent. You get the feeling, with him bawling, he got taken, too. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do things, and it was not handled well on the player’s side. We feel were misled by the agent, and it’s something we won’t forget. Lesson learned.
So, that’s the Padres’ side of the story. Is it possible that they are lying? Anything is possible, although I hardly see how that would benefit them now or in the future (word tends to get around about these things).
I wasn’t trying to blow the Padres out of the water by any means. But it just didn’t work out. I’m very happy with the decision.
And the father:
He was basically able to hold his ground. The two sides just couldn’t get together to get it done. The reality was that, whatever Karsten’s number was, it didn’t matter. Their number was just over ($2 million), and that was not enough to take him away from fulfilling his dream to go to UF and try to help lead them to a national title… His first dream was not to play professional baseball, it was to play college baseball.
Dream big, kid. And hope your arm holds up for three years and/or the draft doesn’t go to a hard slotting system.
The Padres, meanwhile, go about their business (you have noticed they are trying to win this year, no?) without a young pitcher they expected to be developing right about now. They keep driving toward the post-season and after that, gear up for the 11th pick in the 2011 draft they received as compensation for not signing Whitson.
The fans? They aren’t happy, and understandably so. I’ve heard a lot of talk about the disappointments of Padres first-round picks, which is a fair complaint (over the past decade, only Khalil Greene has done anything). I’ve also heard folks lump Whitson in with the rest of them, which isn’t so fair.
We like to form patterns to make sense of the world, but it doesn’t always work that way. Each individual case is different, and I don’t see a connection between Whitson and, say, Jake Gautreau, Matt Bush, or Nick Schmidt. I mean, there is a connection — people feel let down whenever expectations are not met — but beyond that, those past failures have no bearing on the current situation. If anything, I see similarities between this and the Hideki Irabu fiasco (yes, I want to come play for the Padres; wait, no I don’t).
Anywho, I’d better wrap this up before I veer off onto some weird philsophical tangent. To summarize: It stinks that the Padres and Whitson couldn’t get the deal done. That is now behind us, and it’s time to return our focus to this season. Last I checked, the Padres own the best record in the National League and lead their division by 5 games with 44 remaining. I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, that removes a lot of the sting.