On my way home last night, I was listening to Mark Mellusis (sp?) on WFAN. He brought up the day’s major baseball news, that Buster Olney had reported, that the Yankees, in a shift of management philosophy would begin to negotiate with A-Rod in season.
His argument against it? That it might piss off Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, who were told in spring training to wait until after the season to negotiate their new contracts.
One of the things he mentioned in support of that argument is that, essentially, Who the Hell is A-Rod; Posada and Mo “have the rings” and Mo’s the “best closer ever.” I can’t argue with the facts (mostly); Posada and Mo are the proud owners of four rings each that symblolize their participation in World Championship teams in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000. And as subjective a statement like “Mo’s the best closer ever” is, I agree with it, so that’s fine.
What bothers me is the application. So the f— what? It is an especially bad business model to give someone a new contract to reward past performance. Even worse if that “performance” is that they won a championship seven years ago. Can we stop with the using of “rings” as the ultimate judge of a person’s abilties? And that seven years ago. Wait, I think that needs bold. Seven years ago!! That’s better. How long do we have to keep old guys around because they once won something? You give a contract anticipating (or trying as best you can) the contributions that person will give you, and the value of those contributions. Sure, there are certain instances where you can have exceptions to that (Clemens, for instance, is being paid more for who he is than what he can actually do, and there were extenuating circumstances at play), but essentially, paying a guy for what he’s done is going to get you in trouble.
And that’s the difference between A-Rod and Posada and Rivera. Let’s put aside for a second that boo-freaking-hoo for Posada, who’s coming off a contract that paid him $11million/year for the last 5 years. It’s not like he suddenly deserves his first big contract. Same for Rivera. So maybe shut the hell up about that. But Rivera, who was (was) the greatest closer in baseball history, isn’t anymore!! He’s not the same pitcher he once was. It’s obvious to everybody. You don’t play baseball based on names. It’s not like (certainly not, as much as I wish it were) Joe Torre can trot out to the umpires at the beginning of the ninth inning and say “we’re pitching Rivera” and the unpire calls the game. He still has to pitch. And his cutter doesn’t cut as much anymore, his location is spotty and his fastball doesn’t have that same giddy-up it used to. At 453 years old (ok, 37) he’s not the same guy. Giving him a huge deal would be a mistake. Because he won’t be the same guy after the contact either. I’m not saying he’s done. And I understand that he may cost more just because he’s earned it (meaning, he won’t sign for what he’s worth, he just won’t) but I also think it’s reasonable, considering that he’s had some elbow trouble in the past, to make him show that he can still do it during the last year of his contract.
Same for Posada, who’s 35, which might as well be 45 in catcher years. The charts for catcher’s stats after age 35 look like Wile E. Coyote after he realizes that the cliff ended a few feet back. Giving Posada, as good a season as he’s having now, a long term extension (especially before he had this season) is going to be a disastrous move. How many more years does he have at a high level behind the plate (not to mention, he was never a good defensive catcher, and those skills, especially, will degrade). His future, like Mike Piazza’s, is as DH. The problem is two-fold. The Yankees don’t have anyone to replace him (and the free-agent/trade market is practically non-existent for a top-level catcher) and the Yankees, with Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui and Jason Giambi don’t have the roster flexibility for another DH. Posada at DH might be the smartest move, to save his legs and keep his switch hitting bat in the lineup. But not as a catcher. And not long-term.
A-Rod is different. Whatever people say about his post-season performance, the man is a once in a lifetime talent. When his career is over, he may end up as the greatest player ever, definitely in the Ruth, Mays, etc. conversation. And he’s 31. Still in his prime. This is not someone that you have to worry about a degradation in stats. He’s going to be the all-time home run king, and he’s in the middle of his outstanding career. So if you’re going to break your ow rules, the one person you would do it for is the greatest player ever in his prime. Yes, that makes perfect sense to me. Especially given the realities of his contract situation, and that if the Yankees extend him and not let him even get to the point of opting-out, they can continue to get money from Texas (like $64million or something) to pay his contract. So yes, A-Rod’s a special situation. Why’s that hard to understand?
If Rivera, Posada, et al don’t understand that, and get offended and insulted, then maybe they aren’t the “classy” “professionals” we once thought they were.