Saturday, December 20, 2003

It's been a busy week between office holiday parties and getting ready for both Hanukkah and our trip to Florida, so I haven't had much time to post lately. Of course, the Story of the Week has been the Manny Ramirez for Alex Rodriguez deal (oh, there was that thing about some guy living in a hole in Iraq, too). As has been far too well documented in the press, the Red Sox, Rangers and A-Rod had worked out a deal that involved sending Manny, a minor league pitcher and some cash to Texas and Texas would send Rodriguez to Boston. A-Rod had restructured his mammoth $252 million contract to make it possible for the Sox to take it on and still field a competitive team. The unfortunate fallout from all this is that the deal forces the Sox to trade Nomar, reportedly to the Chicago White Sox for Magglio Ordonez. Chicago would have then sent Nomar to the Dodgers in exchange for some pitching.

This would have been a great trade for the Sox. Not only do they get the best player in baseball in A-Rod, but they get an outfielder in Ordonez who could replace most of Manny's production. Of course, the Players Association (I won't call them a union - unions are for people who work for a living) stepped in and screwed up the whole deal. There is apparently a clause in the basic agreement which says that a player can't lose any value in a contract restructuring. Apparently, the PA thinks that A-Rod having the ability to play where he wants for a contending team in one of the most passionate baseball markets in the country isn't worth a reduction of about 11% of his contract. Obviously, A-Rod thought it was worth it, or he wouldn't have agreed to it.

Now, I understand that the PA has to follow it's rules, but here's why I think this decision is wrongheaded.

(1) A-Rod's contract is such an outlier from the rest of baseball that even the reduction makes it by far the biggest contract in baseball history. The second biggest was Manny's, at $160 million. This means that Rodriguez's contract was worth $92 million more! I can't see how an 11% reduction is going to impact the going rate for other players.

(2) The players-owners battle that led to the modern free agency system, the Curt Flood decision, was all about freedom of movement for the players. Flood was traded from St. Louis to Philadelphia and he didn't want to go to the Phillies. It wasn't about money; it was about Curt Flood's right to play baseball where he wanted to. Now the PA has subverted that in A-Rod's case. It's become about the number of $$$ on the table instead of what makes the player happy and fulfilled. I can't believe that it's not worth 11% of Rodriguez's salary for him to play for a team that was five outs from the World Series instead of languishing on a last place team in Arlington, TX. A-Rod will still make more money than he can ever spend. Also, the additional endorsement and merchandising opportunities that potentially could come from being in the public eye 19 times a year against the Yankees, plus post-season exposure could more than make up for the $28 million he's giving up.

According to the papers, this deal still isn't dead. Although Bud Selig has barred the Sox from talking to A-Rod any more, the Rangers are still negotiating with him and the Sox are still negotiating with the Rangers. We'll see what happens in the next few days.


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