This topic is somewhat tired but there’s a new twist being talked about in baseball regarding the issuance of long term contracts to players that gives me pause to ask – huh?
The talk is that owners will ask (read plead) that the Player’s Association join them in “limiting” the length of individual guaranteed contracts when the current bargaining agreement expires in December of this year.
Besides being a non starter, there is a certain irony in this that challenges even our best instincts and sensibility about baseball owners.
Put it this way…….It’s like the child who says, “Mommy, I’ve been good today. Can I have a piece of candy?” And Mom replies, “Sweetie, you have been good”………and hands her the whole bag.
So if you’re the child – or in this case the player – what are you supposed to do?………hand the bag back and say….”That’s okay, I only wanted one piece.”…….????? Not likely.
So, what’s really going on here……..
The first thing that comes to mind is that there is a phenomenal amount of money in baseball. Record setting TV deals (see chart) guarantee for example that teams can pay five or more players $25 million a year and not even touch another source of revenue.
It’s to the point where a franchise like the Red Sox where they print money…..can lose what would be a fortune for most businesses on a player like Pedro Sandoval (below) who is due an average of about $17 million thru the year 2020…….while managing to appear in only 123 games last year…..AND is now out for the entire 2016 season with a shoulder injury. Not to worry though because that ill fated contract is simply absorbed as a loss. And, they move on? Guess so since we don’t hear any of the Red Sox shareholders complaining……..
So, if you are Pedro Sandoval (right) and coming off a once in a lifetime World Series with the Giants two years ago, and you’ve been overweight and out of shape since you came out of the womb…..what are you supposed to say?…….”Uh, maybe I’ll take a two year contract because that’s what I’m really worth.” Don’t think so.
Or how about the LA Angels and their sensibility in signing Albert Pujols (below), he of the .192 batting average this year making $25 million this year…..or Jared Weaver who is owed $20 million this year while the Angels wallow away two games under .500 in a division that is there for the taking. And, this is not to mention , but I will, the contract they “gave” to Josh Hamilton, who is not even on their roster anymore (Rangers) and who they owe the bulk of $54 million even if he never plays another game in the major leagues.
Or, how about Jusrin Verlander who took a 7-3 loss to the Indians last night. Following the game, he inexplicably described the reason for his performance – get this – because he switched to a long sleeve shirt in the middle of the game. But many suspect (and count me in) that this could be because his life is far removed from baseball and is centering more on his other arm “candy” or consideration (Kate Upton) to whom he is now engaged. Nevertheless, he too will be smiling all the way to the bank courtesy of the benevolent Detroit Tigers who have him signed until 2020 and owe him $112 million. Again, aside from that intangible called self pride, do you blame him or the Tigers for setting him up for life with a guaranteed contract…….
Need more to make the point? How about the Yankees who continue to be smothered by ill thought long term contracts awarded……..
years ago. Did the Yankees have to twist the arm of CC Sabathia to sign that mega million dollar deal back in 2009 when the Yankees were literally desperate to end the drought of championships since 2000? Well, got that title and have paid for it ever since. And still, that didn’t stop them from entering the valley of the stupid after that by signing Carlos Beltran (3 years – $45 million), Mark Texieria (8 years – $180 million, Jacoby Ellsbury (7 years – $153 million), and on and on. To add insult to injury, the team is currently in a tailspin and owns one of the worst records in baseball this season.
So, what’s the moral of the story as they say? Well, to begin owners need to take responsibility for their own actions – and they can’t cry about it later.
There’s a reason, for example, Mark Buerle – a innings eater and strike thrower (like Bartolo Colon who does have a job this year on a one year contract) doesn’t have a job this year. But Buerle wanted a two or three year deal. There were no takers so he sits at home. On the other hand, Yeonis Cespedes faced the same scenario and he’s playing on a one year opt out contract with the Mets. It all evens out – if they (owners) let it happen and stop being just plain stupid.
The danger of course is that of collusion amongst the owners. It’s happened before and that’s why Curt Flood gave it up for his colleagues. But that can be handled, if necessary through the courts and arbitration and it doesn’t have to be that polarizing if everyone – players and owners alike – agree that there’s enough money in the game for everyone…..which there clearly is.
Of course that requires a degree of common sense on both sides so it remains to be seen where this all ends. But in the same way that the players are aggressively supporting the penalties for drug use, perhaps they’ll see a bright light on this issue.
Still, the ball remains in the owners court and they shouldn’t count on the benevolence of the players to solve a problem that they created for themselves …..