Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Get With The Program

A common negotiating tactic by some free agents and their representatives these days is to stake out an extreme position and work backwards. Agent Scott Boras best represents this approach and his poster boy for the current off-season auction is outfielder Carlos Beltran. Boras is seeking a ten-year deal for his client, which means Beltran would be 37 years old at the conclusion of the contract.

Beltran had a monster post-season for the Astros, which followed a good but not great regular half season with Houston, which followed six and a half very good seasons with the Kansas City Royals. You get the picture here. Beltran is good, perhaps very good, but he isn’t the second coming of Willie Mays by a long shot. So, who in his right mind (put your hand down, George) would sign him for 10 years?

The greater likelihood is that someone (you can raise it again, George) would sign Beltran for, say, three years after which he could again become a free agent and start the entire process all over again. This seems to be the pattern these days, the A-Rod signing of last year notwithstanding. (That signing had as much to do with the enmity between New York and Boston as with anything else.) Such a pattern underscores one of baseball’s if not professional sports’ biggest problems. Having freed themselves from indentured servitude professional athletes have become gunslingers, hiring themselves out on an on-going basis to the highest bidder. Pudge Rodriguez played for three teams in the last three seasons. Gary Sheffield is with his seventh team in seventeen years. Fans are left rooting for a uniform, not the players inside them.

So, Scott and Carlos, get with the program. Lower your demands this year; after all, there’s always the year after next.

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