Morning lede: The Tigers All-Bad Contract team for the aughts

After the Tigers named their All-Decade team for the aughts earlier this week, the great people here at BYB took it upon themselves to name a couple of more Tigers All-Decade teams.

I sense a meme!

We've had the hilarious All-Suck team, and the unforgettable All-Name team. So I felt it was my duty to keep the meme going, and name an All-Bad Contract team for the last decade.

I did have a couple of rules.

1. Even if the contract was signed before the decade started, or expires after the decade ended, as long as the majority of the contract was paid out during the 00's, it was eligible for inclusion (Making the Damion Easley and Dean Palmer deals fair game, for example).  If the contract was split evenly (say Masao Kida's 2 year deal signed in '99), I allowed it to be included.

2. If a player spent a fair amount of time at a position, even if it wasn't their primary one, I could use the contract. (Making Carlos Guillen eligible as an OF, or Shane Halter as a SS)

With my self-imposed rules out of the way...

The Detroit Tigers All-Bad Contract team for the aughts


OF Bobby Higginson, 2002 - 2005: 4 yrs, $35.4M
OF Gary Sheffield, 2007 - 2008: 2 yrs, $28M
OF Carlos Guillen, 2008 - 2011: 4yrs, $48M
1B Carlos Pena, 2005: 1 yr, $2.575M
2B Damion Easley, 1999 - 2003 : 4 yrs, $26.5M
SS Shane Halter, 2002 - 2003: 2 yrs, $3.65M
3B Dean Palmer, 1998 - 2002: 5 yrs, $35M
DH Craig Pauquette, 2002 - 2003: 2 yrs, $4.75M
C Brandon Inge, 2007 -2010: 4 yrs, $24M
SP Dontrelle Willis, 2008 - 2010: 3 yrs, $29M
SP Nate Robertson, 2008 - 2010: 3yrs, $21.25M
SP Jeremy Bonderman, 2007 - 2010: 4 yrs, $38M
SP Steve Sparks, 2002 - 2003: 2 yrs, $7.5M
SP Jason Johnson, 2004 - 2005: 2 yrs, $7M
RP Masao Kida, 1999 - 2000: 2yrs, $3M
RP Jose "Joe Table" Mesa, 2007: 1 yr, $2.5M
CL Troy Percival, 2005 - 2006: 2 yrs, $12M

We delve deeper into bad contracts and worse memories, after the jump...

Higginson: Higginson, the Tigers All-Decade OF, fan favorite (before he signed what turned into an albatross of a contract) and noted strip club connoisseur, had a career season in 2000 (30 HR, 102 RBI, .915 OPS) The Tigers rewarded him with a monster deal, as GM Randy Smith felt he couldn't let the face of the franchise walk in free agency. But the moment Higginson turned 30, a rapid and irreversible decline took place. It was as if the talent spigot had been closed, never to be reopened.  Higgy went from being the most loved Tiger, to the most despised, in 4 short years.

Sheffield: I placed him in the outfield because it turned out to be Sheff's Waterloo. As you remember, GM Dave Dombrowski felt the Tigers needed a big bat to get them over the top in 2007. Sheffield was available, but in order to get him to agree to leave the Yankees, the Tigers had to extend his contract for an extra 2 seasons, at $14M per. The Tigers got great production from Sheffield through the first half of '07. Then he demanded to play the OF, Jim Leyland caved, Sheff tore up his shoulder, and the rest is history Mike Ilitch is still trying to forget. He still has to gag at the memory of eating the last $14M of Sheffield's contract.

Guillen: Guillen's bat made him a productive, valuable player, and worthy of a big contract...as long as he was a SS and remained healthy. A tall order for the glass bodied Guillen, and neither of which were a sure thing when he received a 4 year extension. The Tigers rolled the dice Guillen would remain both healthy and a SS for the majority of the deal...and they came up snake eyes.

Pena: More than anything, this contract was based on wishful thinking. In 2004, Pena had a fairly decent year, power-wise. But he also had 269 K's the 2 seasons previous, and never hit more than .248 as a regular. Yet the Tigers gave the oft-struggling Pena a $2.2M raise for '05. Pena rewarded the Tigers' faith with a .238 AVE and 95 K's in only 76 games. He was shown the door after the season, and not a soul complained. It's hard to believe this is the same player knocking the cover off the ball in Tampa.

Easley: The Tigers' 2nd baseman had a career season in 1998, going to the All-Star game, competing in the Home Run Derby and winning a Silver Slugger. Randy Smith signed the 28-year-old Easley to a massively expensive, Higginson-esque, deal. And just like Higgy, as soon as Easley hit 30 years of age (a year into the deal), the decline began...and never, ever stopped. By 2002, Easley couldn't hit for power, average or to save his life. The Tigers released Easley after the season, eating a then record amount of $14.3 million. How badly did the Tigers want to rid themselves of Easley? Their 2nd basemen in '03 were the forgettable Warren Morris and the overwhelmed Ramon Santiago.

Halter: Shane Halter was 27-year-old rookie with the Royals in 1997, and bounced around MLB  as a utility man till the Tigers picked him up in 2000. In '01, the Tigers let the human pylon known as Devi Cruz walk (the ONLY time he walked as a Tiger) in free agnecy, and at age 31, Halter became a regular for the first time in his career. He ended up splitting time between  SS and 3B,  putting up utterly below average offensive numbers (12 HR, 65 RBI, .284 AVE, .345 OBP).  Smith lost his mind, and gave Halter a 2 yr, $3.65M contract to be the everyday SS...even though it was obvious Halter's season was an aberration. As expected by everyone but the Tigers, Halter went back to sucking. Just how bad was this contract, and for that matter, the Tigers? In Halter's final season, his OBP was .269...and he still played in 114 games. 

Palmer: Dean Palmer was a good player, a solid citizen, liked by both fans and team alike. Awful luck is what made his contract a bad one. Palmer was brought in as the Tigers' prize free agent in 1998, and had a couple of very good seasons (winning a Silver Slugger in '99). You could chisel his power numbers in stone, 30 HR's and 100 RBI. But Palmer hurt his shoulder during the 2001 season, essentially ending his career...leaving the Tigers on the hook for $16.5M.

Pauquette: In the early 00's, Randy Smith had a fetish for what he called "professional hitters." Pauquette was the "professional hitter" Smith thought the Tigers needed in 2002, giving him a 2 year deal at over $2M a season. Professional hitter my ass. Pauquette hit .194 and .152. And you wonder why the Tigers were dead to many fans during the "Radar Randy"  years.

Inge: Inge is a lousy hitting catcher, a great fielding 3B, and the best athlete on the team (as Rod Allen informs us during EVERY BROADCAST). For some reason, many fans LOVE Inge despite his inadequate bat (career .236 AVE) and tendency to whine loudly when told to play behind the plate. As Inge is in the last year of his contract, a question needs to be answered. Does Inge's range, glove and arm at 3B outweigh his issues at the plate? Remember, Binge turns 33 this season, and is coming off of major surgery on both knees. Millions of dollars ride on the answer...

Willis: Like the rest of you, I'm rooting for the D-Train to recover from what's usually a career ending affliction, Steve Blass Disease. But do I even need to remind you of Willis' God awful contract ? I didn't think so.

Robertson and Bonderman: Both signed market deals when they became free agents. (Yes, league average, inning eating starters such as Robertson were getting $7M a season when he signed) No one saw the injuries coming, especially the oddities Bonderman suffered. You could argue the contracts they signed at the time were fair, but were too long...and you'd have been right.

Sparks: This is another of Randy Smith's "Let's give a career journeyman a multi-year, multi-million dollar jackpot" contract.  Sparks junkballed his way to a 14-9 record in 2001, by far the best season of his career, and obviously an outlier. Yet Smith rewarded the 36-year-old with a 2 year, $7.5M deal. Sparks was 8-22 during the length of the contract, and was released in August of '03.  Again, everyone but the Tigers saw it coming.

Johnson: Johnson was signed when the Tigers were true bottom feeders, and had to overpay to even get lousy pitchers to come to Detroit.  Johnson could do only one thing, and one thing only. Eat innings.He sure as Hell couldn't win games.  And it got him a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract.  The thought of it is as laughable now as it was then. 

Kida: Radar Randy went fishing in Japan for pitching, and could only catch an aging journeyman, Masao Kida. He should have threw him back. Instead, Smith gave Kida 2 years and $3M. The Tigers got 1 win, no saves and a 6,42 ERA. Randy Smith didn't know much, but he sure knew how to find the worst players on the planet.

Joe Table: Back in the crazy days of 2007, when Jose Mesa was literally throwing batting practice on a nightly basis at Comerica Park, I called Joe Table "a gas can who is the 2nd most hated man in Detroit, behind only Matt Millen." Yes, he was that damn bad in his short time in Detroit. Yes, he was even more hated than Jason Grilli. Yes, that's what a 12.34 ERA in 11.2 IP will get you. Yes, Joe Table's time in Detroit was mercifully short.  The Tigers finally figured out what the fans already knew, he was washed up, and released Mesa in June '07.

Percival: Signed for big money to be the Tigers' closer before the '05 season. Percival gave the Tigers 8 SV, a 5.76 ERA, 25 IP and a sore arm. The Tigers gave Percival $12M, an AL Championship ring and a cut of the World Series cash. Not exactly a fair trade.

Dis-Honorable Mention:
1B Sean Casey, 2007: 1yr, $4M. The Mayor was a great guy and had a great '06 World Series. Being good in the clubhouse doesn't make up for having less power than Neifi Perez.
2B Fernando Vina, 2004 - 2005: 2 yrs, $6M. Has anyone made more for doing less? Other than Troy Percival, no.
3B Chris Truby, 2002: Whatever he was paid, it was too much. Far, far too much.  (Yes, the Tigers traded for Truby, he wasn't  given a contract extension or signed as a free agent. But the jaw-dropping awfulness of his one season with the Tigers has been mentioned so often in these All-Decade threads, I had a find a way to include him!)
C Vance Wilson, 2007 - 2008: 2 yrs, $1.9M. Solid backup, earned an extension with a good '06 season. But injuries kept him off the field for most of the contract.
OF Magglio Ordonez, 2005 - 2011: 7 yrs, $105M. Only because of those pesky option years worth $30+M in 2010-11, while Ordonez turned into a singles hitter.
P Kenny Rogers, 2008: 1 yr, $8M. The Gambler used up everything he had in his marvelous 2006. He had nothing left to give, but the Tigers wouldn't let him fold 'em after '07. 

Anyone I miss? Any deals you want to vent your spleen about? Let me know in the comments!

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