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The Dodgers have a dilemma – to sign Alex Rodriguez or not

10-18-00

The most talented free agent this year has priced himself out of reach for most teams. Alex Rodriguez can do every aspect of baseball well, so most teams would benefit from signing him. However, his demand for $20 million a year for at least ten years has greatly decreased the number of teams who can consider signing him. Rodriguez also is asking for a private jet and a private office for his own marketing staff. The New York Mets, considered Rodriguez’s choice, have dropped out of the bidding war because their general manager, Steve Phillips, believed Rodriguez’s extra demands would cause alienation in the clubhouse. Signing Alex Rodriguez will affect baseball as a whole. The Los Angeles Dodgers would benefit greatly from signing Rodriguez.

At 25 Alex Rodriguez has accomplished more than most baseball players in their entire careers. Considering the shortstop position has been a defensive position traditionally, any offensive production from a team’s shortstop is fantastic. Rodriguez has a lifetime batting average of .309 with 189 home runs, 595 RBI, and an on-base percentage of .374. The last three years he hit a minimum of 41 homers each season. He has stolen 133 bases during his career. Defensively he might not be the greatest shortstop in the game today, but he has been completely adequate. Since 1994 when he came to the major leagues at the age of 18, he has had a fielding percentage of .973 while the league’s average has been .972 during the same period. Most people believe Rodriguez has the best throwing arm on the infield in the American League. Rodriguez does not have the best range for a shortstop in this era, but his range is 4.41 while the American League’s average is 4.17.

Though Alex Rodriguez has succeeded beyond expectations, he has not been in a World Series game in his six-year career. Though one player cannot make a team go to the World Series, the Seattle Mariners with Ken Griffey, Jr., Edgar Martinez, and Jay Buhner have not been that poor a team. Rodriguez has won several Silver Slugger awards, an award for offensive excellence at every position, but he has not won a league’s Most Valuable Player award. Since he has not put the Mariners in the Fall Classic, it may not put his new team in the World Series either.

Rodriguez and his agent Scott Boras believe he is the most talented player in the game today, so they think Rodriguez deserves the highest salary in baseball history. The media has reported that Rodriguez wants $20 to $25 million a year. Although $20 to $25 million a year seems ridiculous for a baseball player, in this era in baseball this salary is possible and probable. This kind of salary keeps most teams from considering signing him. If his new team wants to trade him, his salary will make it hard to find a team who will take him. His high salary produces a high payroll for his team, or it makes his team sign cheaper players who probably will have a lower performance level. Rodriguez’s high salary will continue the escalation of baseball salaries at an alarming rate. This must stop for the survival of baseball, especially the teams in small markets such as the Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. These lucrative contracts are escalating ticket prices making baseball unaffordable for working-class families. Rodriguez needs to stop looking for every penny that he can get and consider what is best for baseball, the game that supposedly he loves to play.

At 25 Rodriguez wants a ten-year or twelve-year contract. No matter a player’s age, no player should have a contract longer than five years. The team and the player can elect to have options that go beyond five years. Injuries are commonplace in baseball, and serious performance-altering injuries are common. With players who have long contracts, teams must eat their contracts if they get seriously injured or their performances decline. Rodriguez already has had knee surgery to repair a torn ligament. Any player can be seriously injured in an automobile accident or have a serious illness that leaves him unable to play ever again. Under current baseball rules, if a team trades a player during his multiyear contract, the player has the right to demand another trade if he does not like his new team. This makes it difficult to trade a player with a multiyear contract. Some players have brilliant performances for a few years, but then their performances decline and never reach the same level again. What motivation does a player get to perform the same or better if he has a long-term contract? This means if a team has financial problems or is not satisfied by a player’s performance, the team is stuck with the player. If Rodriguez dislikes his new team, he is stuck with the bad situation for a long time. Long-term contracts might be good for the players, but they are not good for teams or baseball in general.

As many modern baseball players with long-term lucrative contracts do, Rodriguez wants some niceties, but he is asking for too many and some that are too outlandish to expect any team to provide. When Steve Phillips, the Mets’ general manager, heard what perks that he wanted, the Mets dropped out of the bidding for Rodriguez. Phillips felt Rodriguez was asking for special treatment, and it might cause resentment from his teammates. However, Scott Boras, Rodriguez’s agent, maintains he is only asking for the same treatment that the Mariners gave him. Well, the Mariners spoiled Rodriguez by treating him like a king. It will cause resentment in his new clubhouse if it did not in the Mariners’ clubhouse. No player needs his private jet to fly to road games. Teams need to develop a feeling of togetherness, and traveling together helps to accomplish this. Private jet may be for his family. He is a bachelor, and his family lives in New York City where airports are easy to get to. Rodriguez wants a private office for his own marketing staff. Although this sounds like a ridiculous demand, everybody who watches sports on television sees a commercial with Rodriguez. Almost everybody in America knows who A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez) is. This has provided added publicity for the Mariners. Though most teams cannot give a player his own office, a team can offer to rent him an office at a reasonable price. He wants a luxury suite both at home and away games. If a team can make sure a luxury suite is available for Rodriguez to purchase, that is good enough. Rodriguez wants to have unlimited use of the team’s logo and his uniform. This is workable because it will be good advertising for any team. Rodriguez’s demand to have the most billboards in the city is unrealistic and selfish. Some teams do not have billboards in their cities, and no player should have any more billboards than any other major contributor to the team effort. Some perks that Rodriguez wants are all right while others are simply outlandish.

As many writers for The Los Angeles Times said, the Los Angeles Dodgers need Rodriguez. Rodriguez would solidify the defense and help Adrian Beltre mature into a good defensive third baseman and help their second baseman. After they lost Todd Hundley to free agency, the Dodgers need another power hitter. In 2000 the Dodgers had only Gary Sheffield who played at least 130 games to bat .300 or higher. Despite not being a prototypical lead-off hitter, Rodriguez could fill that glaring gap in the Dodger offensive attack with his high on-base percentage and speed. Because the Dodger minor leagues are depleted, Rodriguez will not be blocking a young promising player.

There are several drawbacks for the Dodgers in signing Rodriguez. They already have $75.7 million committed to fifteen players. Baseball is already mad at the Dodgers for signing Kevin Brown and Shawn Green to long-term lucrative contracts. Signing Rodriguez will increase the pressure on the Dodgers to reach the playoffs, and they do not need this. The Dodgers already have difficulty mixing twenty-five egos into a workable unit, so they do not need another super star who needs special treatment. With their limited available funds the Dodgers need to get starting pitching, better defense, and a lead-off hitter.

Alex Rodriguez is a young talented player, but his salary and personal demands make it nearly impossible for any team to sign him. In an article by Sports Writers Direct Kevin Malone, the Dodger general manager, said, “It sounds like a lot of hurdles to overcome (to sign Rodriguez), and I don’t think we can overcome those hurdles.” Hopefully no team will give in to Rodriguez’s demands. Signing a player is not worth risking the future of Major League Baseball.

© Sarah D. Morris

 

 

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