Game Time: Roy Oswalt -- Translating Athlete-Speak 1.0
"It's not like I'm not happy here. This is the only place I know. They've given me a chance to play since '97, and I've always wanted to finish here. But I want to win, too. If you go into spring training knowing you're not going to win the whole thing, there's no sense in playing." -- Roy Oswalt, May 22, 2010
Let me preface what I am about to say by saying that I don't begrudge Roy Oswalt wanting to get the hell out of here. I would imagine once you've tasted magical postseasons like the Astros had in 2004 and 2005 that the buzz of winning and potentially winning it all becomes pretty intoxicating.
Along those same lines, I would imagine consecutive summers (like around four of them now) of revolving-door teammates, meaningless games by August, injuries here and there, Cecil Cooper...well, that probably becomes pretty miserable. Yeah, it's a kid's game and all, and yeah, Roy should be thankful, but he has been professional and productive, so I understand wanting to go somewhere else at this point.
Add the exhilaration of 2004 and 2005 to the abyss of 2007 through...well, now, and I completely understand why Roy Oswalt would want out. And I think he's earned the right ten years in to be able to at least ask the club to dangle their line in the water and see what playoff contending fish might swallow up the third winningest pitcher of this decade.
I just wish he would say what he means.
Every athlete says that they want the best chance to win, that's nothing new. And given that human nature is to love winning and hate losing, I fully believe all of them. But if you read the Roy Oswalt quote from the day his trade request was made public, he makes it sound like the grind of losing, of wallowing as one of the lone actual providers in a clubhouse full of figurative bankrupt, is weighing so heavily on him that he "just wants to win."
"If you go into spring training knowing you're not going to win the whole thing, there's no sense in playing."
Classic words from someone who wants to be perceived as a grinder, a winner, someone who has passed the point where they've earned enough for their grandkids' grandkids and they just want to feel what it's like to hug teammates in the chill of October after the third out in the ninth inning on the biggest stage. Basically, "Why even bother playing if you don't have a chance to win."
All well and good, except that along comes news yesterday that with potential "Roy could be on the move" smoke emanating from Philadelphia, Roy wants whatever team that ends up trading for him to pick up his option in 2012.
If you're keeping score at home, that means someone would be on the hook for $6 million for the rest of this season, $16 million in 2011, and with the option exercised another $16 million in 2012. (When I say "someone," ultimately it would probably be some agreed-to combination of the Astros chipping in a few bucks and Roy's new employer footing most of the bill over the next few seasons.)
We can talk about what this means to a potential Oswalt trade; that won't take long at all. Unless it's the Yankees, it probably kills it, although with the Phillies' nucleus (other than Cole Hamels, who is 26) all being between 30 and 34 years old, I think a case could be made where Philly should just say "Screw it, we'll give him his option in 2012." You go into the next two seasons with that lineup and a front three of Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels, then you're the clear chalk in the National League.
I'm more interested in translating the whole "I just want to win...why even play...blah blah blah bullshit." Well, obviously, you play to win, but you also play because the money is good. And for Roy, maybe not in that order. If we are to believe the story to be true -- and predictably, Roy has played coy on the reports, opting for the tried and true "My agent handles those things," as if Roy is some bean counter in a cubicle at Oswalt, LLC and doesn't steer the ship -- then clearly the acute pain of losing that Roy articulated on May 22 now has a price tag...$16 million, payable in 2012. (Actually, for accuracy's sake, it's really $14 million as the alternative to the '12 option is a $2 million buyout, but you get my point.)
So, Translating Athlete-Speak 1.0 goes like this --
STATEMENT: "I want to win. If you go into spring training knowing you're not going to win the whole thing, there's no sense in playing."
TRANSLATION: "I want to win, but I also want to get paid every possible dollar of my contract, and if I get a chance to leverage my perceived desire to be a champion (PEW PEW PEW -- firing fake six-shooters like Uncle Drayton) into getting the final year of my deal done, I'm going to do it. Otherwise, it's not worth the trouble of moving. I love winning, but I don't hate losing enough to lift demands on getting me paid in 2012. It's just business."
And that's fine, Roy. Just know that we know that if you're demanding your option in two years to be picked up by a trade suitor, you may love winning...and hell, you may even hate losing.
Just not that much.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.