Over time, it seems, everyone has become somewhat immune to the huge dollars spent in sports. Sure, people may gripe about it — do gripe about it all the time — but the numbers themselves are somewhat surreal. They are just cartoon bags filled with money.
For instance, when we talk about Josh Hamilton’s 5-year, $125 million deal with the Angels, we might think about it as being a ridiculous deal or a serious overpay or we might think about it being the deal that could make the Angels World Series contenders. But I would say that while we certainly know how much $125 million is, we don’t really think about it that way. We don’t think about what it could buy you in Washington lobbying or what extraordinary lengths people would go to to make — or save — that kind of money.
I bring this up because — and everyone’s talking about it — the New York Yankees still owe Alex Rodriguez $114 million for the next five years. You also know the New York Yankees would do just about anything to get rid of Alex Rodriguez. They don’t even think he’s a good player anymore. They would give Alex Rodriguez and his contract to any team in baseball for nothing. That’s a given. More than that, they would unquestionably pay a lot of that contract just to get rid of him. Maybe they’d pay $25 million (not enough). Maybe $55 million (still not enough). At this point, essentially, they see Alex Rodriguez as a negative asset — like owning a diseased tree. And so does everyone else.
For a while now, everyone saw A-Rod’s contract being a burden — but he could still play, at least a little bit, and it just seemed like the Yankees were doomed to ride it out, get as much as possible out of A-Rod and keep paying the bill.
But — here’s the thing: While $114 million sounds like a lot of money, it is, in actuality, A LOT OF MONEY. All capital letters. Corporations will do all sorts of amazingly awful, horrendous things to save $114 million — you read about those things all the time.
So when the Miami New Times broke the huge story about a Miami clinic that allegedly supplied drugs to athletes, and A-Rod was smack dab in the middle of it, it was obvious what was coming. Well, I thought three things were obvious:
- A bunch of the named athletes were going to go to their Twitter accounts to deny any knowledge. Check.
- A bunch of people were going to go to their Twitter accounts to pile on A-Rod because it’s fun. Check.
- The Yankees were going to try to figure out if this could help them get out of the A-Rod deal.
Look, the Yankees will not be able to void A-Rod’s deal — not over PEDs and notes in a clinic. There is no precedent for it and no mechanism for it. The Yankees at one point explored voiding Jason Giambi’s contract for PED use — heck, he ADMITTED it — and it never even got past the exploration stage because, even though millions were at stake, the Yankees didn’t see a way to win. They paid the money because they couldn’t figure out how to get out of it.
But, well, this is MORE money. Like I say: $114 million is A LOT OF MONEY. I have to believe that the Yankees will look under every rock, behind every lamp post, in between every line in the contract to save money. Voiding the deal won’t work. One prominent theory is they will try to use A-Rod’s injury as a chance to have insurance pay him … sort of a baseball version of the film noir classic Double Indemnity.
But even beyond the, “Hey, let’s try a little insurance fraud” scheme … the basic rule still applies: $114 million is A LOT OF MONEY. Insurance companies — I’m pretty sure of this — are more skilled and more determined than the New York Yankees are at not making big payments. Insurance companies never would have given A-Rod that deal in the first place.
So what else is possible? Well, the Yankees are not without options — and because of that I think they quietly will try to settle with A-Rod in some way. Yes, I have no doubt that if A-Rod wants to go to the mat to collect every penny of that $114 million, he can legally do it. But the Yankees could make his life all sorts of miserable in his effort to collect. He’s hurt. He’s diminished. Fans hate him. His teammates don’t seem too crazy about him either. These things will only get worse over time. I don’t know what the contract allows the Yankees to do, but like I say — it won’t be pleasant in any way for Alex Rodriguez the next five years.
Of course, you and I might say that we could endure pretty much anything for that much money — we certainly could endure booing and spiteful teammates and embarrassing performances — but A-Rod (you would suspect) already has enough money to live whatever life he wants to live. How much misery is he really willing to endure? He turns 38 this year. If he gets healthy, he might have a couple of years left with some value as a player. Maybe. Then, it will really get ugly. I have to think A-Rod has some pride, and some unwillingness to deal with what will follow. And with this new PED mess swirling around, I just think he has some motivation to work out a deal with the Yankees.
Then again, maybe not. Jose Canseco and Pete Rose would scrounge for every penny.
Think for a moment about Alex Rodriguez in 2000. He was barely 25 years old, he was a Seattle hero, he had a .315 lifetime batting average, a batting title, he was a dazzling shortstop with three consecutive 40 homer years, he was the essence of baseball cool, he was a free agent about to get paid the largest contract in baseball history. There had never been a player quite like him. He was limitless.
And now? Well, he was a seminal baseball player. He has 647 career home runs, three MVP awards, five home run crowns, two shortstop Gold Gloves, more Wins Above Replacement than Lou Gehrig or Mickey Mantle or Frank Robinson or Mike Schmidt. He has had some major postseason disappointments … and some big postseason series. He has been as dominant as anyone in recent memory. Even so, the story will have a lousy ending. We just don’t know how lousy.