Over at the New York Times' Bats blog, Jay Schireiber raises, but doesn't answer, an interesting question. Between Jerome James and Carl Pavano, which New York free agent bust offered less return on the extravagant investment made in their athletic ability?
Pavano made more money, $39.95 million over the last four years, but spent less time in uniform than James. James, whose total take from the Knicks before Thursday's trade equals about $21.9 million, didn't actually sweat much during that time in uniform. He's played 15 minutes in four games over the last two seasons, which is only slightly more than the guy who sells you coffee.
James played 694 minutes all told in his Knicks career, which means he earned more than $31,500 per minute. That's a bargain compared to his $98,206 per point. Just as a frame of reference, if Kobe Bryant were paid on that scale he would have earned just under $6 million for his 61 point effort against the Knicks this season.
Breaking down Pavano's earnings is just as mind-boggling. He made more than $4.4 million for each of his nine victories and $274,250 per inning. His 26 total games means that he was paid more than $1.5 million just for showing up for work, which might make sense if he were some fantastical combination of Bob Gibson, Pedro Martinez and Tom Seaver but seems a bit wasteful for Pavano.
So which deal was worse? James never came off as badly as Pavano during their years in the city. His signing was always seen as an albatross around Isiah Thomas' neck and James himself came off as an affable, if overmatched, guy. Pavano, on the other hand, was dubbed "American Idle" by the press and disliked by his teammates. His injuries and the resulting desperate moves for starters were seen as a big reason for the Yankees postseason failures, while James was just one clown in the oversized Knicks circus.
When it came to their actual production, though, James is a clear loser. If Pavano had been relatively healthy, if he'd turned in four years of the 17 start, 4.77 ERA season he had in 2005 he would have been below average but he'd be in a slightly higher tier of free agent mistakes. If James was healthy for every day of the last three-plus years, he still would have been a fringe player on a bad team that could have used the money in much more useful ways.
Whichever guy is your choice, though, we can all agree that it's nice not to have either one clogging up the payroll in New York any longer.