There's something about thinking that you're worth a lot of money if you're a player. I know that it's the Karl Marx school of labor negotiations, but at the end of the day, all things sell for what someone will pay for them.
Nomar Garciaparra in the offeseason before 2004 was a perfect example. Turning down 4 years at $15million per wasn't a wise business move. He was already the victim of losing nearly ALL of 2001 to injuries and his rejection of solid money contributed a lot to the multi-team deal that took him to the Cubs at the trade deadline and brought Orlando Cabrera into the Red Sox championship fold. Nomar was never the same.
Of course, 2004 started out rough and he finished the year with 321 at bats. The most at bats he ever had after this were 469 in his first year with LA, which netted 20 home runs. That was the only year after 2004 that he hit .300 again. In the end, whether it was tragic pride, Mia Hamm, a bum body, or ancient aliens coming back to intervene with his career, Garciaparra was never the same again.
Turning down 4 and $60million saw him never again make $10million a year again. His final year in Oakland, which was in the words of the Germans, "nicht so gut," saw him step to the plate 169 times to bat .281 with 3 round trippers. The next year, the Red Sox allowed him to sign a 1-day deal to come back and retire from the game with Boston colors on his body and an invitation to ESPN as an announcer.
The moral of the story is simple. A player can be rookie of the year. He can be solid every year down the pike and feel he is worth tons of cash, but there comes a point where a player has to be thankful and make the deal with Howie Mandel before the wrong case is picked. A player can take the odds and go for more, but the reality is that the banker has gotten stingy and there aren't as many good cases as bad cases.
Sometimes, the answer is to walk out of the room ahead instead of King of the Hill.
Somehow, the Yankees paid tons for A-Rod when he opted out early, and let's be honest... 2 years not hitting .300 (but hooking up with Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson and a lot of love for Madonna despite divorcing his wife) and only hitting 30 home runs each year when he's being paid to hit 150 more than the 613 he has at the end of the season aren't good. Let's be honest, his injuries are getting more frequent as well. He's not the high 600s and low 700 at bats guy that he was. It would be safe to say that he doesn't get 700 homers. I'd even put money on not passing Willie Mays, but I wouldn't put a lot on it.
The reality is that Babe Ruth is safe from him. So is Hank Aaron.
Barry Bonds has nothing to worry about.
And looking back, Ken Griffey Jr. was the answer to beating Hank Aaron before injuries (to both him and McGwire) and BALCO changed the landscape of baseball forever. A-Rod was supposed to be the boy anointed, but steroids and starlets changed his world, too. For Griffey, his first 10 years saw him hit 2/3 of his home runs. The last over half of his career was 1/3 of his production. A-Rod put up some sick numbers for his first 10 years, and so has Albert Pujols (408), but 10 years isn't a career though it puts a person in the Hall of Fame.
Now, it's down to Albert and Albert alone to rescue the home run record from its taint. It will be the career numbers and the effect of them that will make or break the sport I love.
Let's hope that St. Louis comes to realize this sooner than later and doesn't get worried about the burn that could happen. And let's hope equally that Pujols realizes that sometimes, hometown discounts go further than an extra $100 million.