Sunday, November 04, 2007

A-Rod: The High Price of Admission

Well, as I guess you've already heard by now, there were about one hundred and nineteen million reasons why Alex Rodriguez should be treated differently than Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. That's allegedly how far apart the two sides were when they were attempting to hook up for a meeting to keep Alex in pinstripes.

I don't know that I've ever heard of two parties starting off that far apart in a salary negotiation. Then again, there's only been one negotiation like this one in baseball history, and that happened the last time Rodriguez hit the free agent market.

However, I probably wouldn't be thrilled to see the Yanks make that kind of commitment to any player, under any circumstances, so I guess I'm not as torn up about the Yanks being unable to negotiate Alex under the circumstances he's created as I would have been otherwise.

Part of me would like for this to be the last time we talk about Rodriguez, but I have to be practical--I'll be doing team grades and tallying up the Player of the Week/Month awards, so obviously he'll figure highly in that, plus the MVP award, plus the hoo-ha that will come down the pike if he signs with one of the Yanks' many rivals.

But here's another practical consideration I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere: how long did it take for the Texas Rangers to grow fatigued of A-Rod's last contract? Let's say that Rodriguez does get his 10 years and $350 MM from some ballclub. How many teams will be able to sustain that level of expenditure throughout the life of the deal? Isn't it likely that three or four years down the line, someone will be looking to get out from under the crushing burden of the next Rodriguez contract, or Alex himself will be seeking a trade to get out from under a losing team?

And when that happens, who're they going to call? Which teams would be able to absorb $35 or more million per year in salary? It's a small list, and it's headed by the Yankees.

So while some media members and fans rush to burn those bridges and close the book on the A-Rod Era (and I'm sure that in the months to come they'll be joined by team execs and former teammates), I wouldn't be quite so fast on the trigger. While I doubt that A-Rod will don the pinstripes in 2008 or 2009, I wouldn't bet that he's forever done playing for the home team in the Bronx.


I'd forgotten that before the same World Series game when A-Rod made such a big splash by having his agent announce to the world that he was opting out of his contract, he'd snubbed the ceremony in which he was to receive the American League Hank Aaron Award from Hammerin' Hank himself. Now Alex (well, Boras) wants to make it clear that Alex is really sad that he was too busy to come to Game 4 (but not too busy to upstage baseball's premier event) and that he meant no offense to Aaron. Since Aaron's a pretty classy guy, he'll probably accept Rodriguez's half-assed non-apology and vague family commitment excuse.


The reported shake-up of the coaching staff for the Girardi era gives some interesting clues about the direction the team is taking. Where the last coaching staff was full of star power--guys with management experience coaching first (Tony Peña), third (Larry Bowa), and the bullpen (Joe Kerrigan); Yankee icons as bench (Don Mattingly) and pitching (Ron Guidry) coach--the rumored coaching squad is a bunch of no-names. The only returning members are hitting coach Kevin Long--who's reportedly getting a huge-for-a-coach three-year $1 million contract--and Peña. They'll be joined by a pair of ex-Yankees who scuffled in the majors--Bobby Meacham at third base and Dave Eiland at pitching coach--an organizational soldier sitting next to Girardi on the bench ("field coordinator" and advance guy Rob Thomson) and ex-Cub pitcher (and former Girardi associate) Mike Harkey in the bullpen.

This no-frills approach indicates a partnership between Girardi and Cashman, promoting some guys from within but also bringing in a few guys who coached for Girardi in Florida. It's hard to believe that anyone named "Steinbrenner" would have selected a staff with this little name recognition. The biggest announcement of this bunch is Eiland, who will be charged with the Yanks' pitchers of the future--Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and the like. Eiland has been a pitching coach for the Yanks in the minors (AAA last year) and his selection is hailed because he worked with the Yanks' blue-chippers on the farm. But methodical analysis by the always-insightful Cliff Corcoran indicates that Eiland's influence may be a bit overstated--for example, Kennedy and Chamberlain breezed past AAA this season, . Still, with once-coveted pitching coach Leo Mazzone available on the market, going with Eiland at this crucial juncture is a big statement about dealing with known quantities rather than big names from outside the organization.

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