Sunday, November 26, 2006

November 26th, 1997

Blue Jays Sign Randy Myers

As it turned out, this move was a disaster for the Blue Jays, but one that they remarkably managed--to paraphrase Mr. Burns--to turn a potential Chernobyl into a mere Three Mile Island. Of course, when they signed Myers, a disaster was the last thing the Jays thought they were getting. Having signed Roger Clemens the year before, Myers would take over the closers role for the Jays. To be fair, the role did need filling (as much as it ever does) with six pitchers recording saves for the Jays in '97, but none with more than fourteen. Myers meanwhile had recorded forty-five saves for the Orioles in 1997 with a sparkling 1.51 ERA. So good was Myers that he finished fourth in both the MVP and Cy Young award voting.

With expectations that the one-time Nasty Boy would continue to dominate despite being thirty-five years old, the Jays gave Myers a three year contract for eighteen million. Almost from the start, the contract was a bad decision; on June 1st Myers had an ERA over four and just thirteen saves. It appeared the Blue Jays had bought themselves an anchor, but thanks to a bizarre series of circumstances they would soon be rid of him.

While Myers was stinking up the AL East, the Braves and Padres were battling for both the best record in the NL and with the assumption that they would soon meet in the NLCS for the chance to take on the presumptive AL champions, the buzzsaw '98 Yankees. As the trade deadline approached, the Padres became concerned that the Braves would attempt to acquire Myers either to shore up their left handed relief or perhaps to slot in as closer in place of the seemingly ruined Mark Wholers. When the Blue Jays placed Myers on waivers, the Padres thought it was in anticipation of sending him to the rivals and therefore filed a claim, confident the Jays would be unwilling to lose their new signing for nothing.

As it turned out, they were wrong, and quite dramatically. All too happy to let their anchor weigh down another ship, the Jays let Myers go in exchange for a minor league catcher. San Diego now had both a mediocre left handed reliever for which they had no real need and the privilege of paying him nearly fifteen million dollars over the next two and a half seasons. (The Jays' contract had been heavily backloaded, so nearly seventy-five percent of the contract came in the final two years.) Myers was even worse in San Diego than he had been in Toronto--6.28 in fourteen and a third innings--and then performed equally badly in the playoffs.

Compounding matters, Myers suffered shoulder problems after the '98 season and would never pitch in the Majors again. The Padres spent several years in court with Lloyd's of London arguing over who exactly should have to pay Myers' wages during that period--they reached a settlement in early 2003 for around eight million. In the end the Myers contract was spread around three equally suffering parties--Toronto, San Diego and Lloyd's--but the Blue Jays, the ones most responsible, managed to get away paying the least. That's some damn fine weasling out from under a problem.

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