Thursday, November 15, 2007

A-Rod and Barry

Well, this isn't what I was expecting. It looks like Alex Rodriguez has definitely come to a preliminary agreement with the Yankees on a 10-year, $275 million contract. This is basically the same offer the Yankees extended to A-Rod in the days before he opted out of his contract, except it's actually less -- the Yankees have subtracted the money they would have gotten from the Rangers as part of the old contract. So for all intents and purposes, A-Rod will be returning to the Yankees next year and will be a Yankee for the foreseeable future.
The Yankees negotiated this contract directly with A-Rod -- the Steinbrothers refused to negotiate with Scott Boras.
There are a lot of implications here, and to discuss them, I'll whip out my bullets:

  • Boras. This is a tremendous embarrassment for Scott Boras, as he had staked most of his reputation and mystique on his ability to break the bank again with A-Rod. The problem isn't so much that Boras was universally excoriated for the manner and timing of A-Rod's opting out; being despised doesn't seem to bother Boras. The problem is that his aura as the ultimate super-agent has been punctured.
    You could certainly say that this isn't such a setback for Boras. Similar things have happened in the past, such as when Andruw Jones bypassed him to negotiate a contract extension with the Braves. But Boras hadn't staked his reputation on Andruw Jones, and neither had the Jones negotiations become a sports media extravaganza. And, of course, Atlanta is not New York, and Andruw Jones is not A-Rod.
    So even if you argue that it's just the perception of Boras that's been hurt, I would say that it's that same perception that sets Boras apart from every other agent. That perception is what makes players seek out Boras to get them a bigger payday than any other agent could secure. And when Boras convinced A-Rod to opt out (which seems to be what happened), he did so knowing that it was make-or-break time for his reputation as a king-maker. And it's only A-Rod's willingness to go back to the Yankees hat in hand that's saved Boras from a real embarassment.
    It's also been suggested that, in the weeks and days leading up to the opt-out announcement, Boras wasn't entirely honest with A-Rod with his assessment of the situation. And this could be the most problematic thing of all; Boras has made a living getting players to believe that they're better than anyone else thinks they are and that if they trust him, they'll get that payday. If his clients (or, especially, prospective clients) start doubting either of these things, it will be that much harder for him to seel his agency based solely on his reputation.
  • A-Rod. Somehow, A-Rod has managed to emerge from this with some degree of honor intact. That's not to say that the New York fans won't give him hell -- I don't picture his life on the field being that pleasant until the Yankees win the World Series -- but he didn't come out of this story as the villain.
    According to Buster Olney, A-Rod really felt like he was misled by Boras into thinking that teams would be lining up to pay him $300 million. He was also, reportedly, furious at the timing of the opt-out announcement, which hurt his cause immensely. It came to the point where A-Rod saw Boras, at least temporarily, as a hindrance rather than a help, and swallowed some pride on his way back to talk to the Yankees. The fact that Scott Boras would even allow A-Rod to enter such high-profile negotiations without him is a sign of how much of a hit he's taken.
  • The Yankees. PR-wise, the Yankees are the clear winners. I'm not so happy that they went back on their word about not negotiating with A-Rod if he opted out, but technically, they can get around that by saying that they were just offering him the same deal (roughly) as before, and that it was Scott Boras who they wouldn't negotiate with.
    Money-wise, I don't like the fact that this is for 10 years at all. A-Rod's contract makes more sense for the Yankees than it does for anyone else, but it's still not a good idea to subsidize someone into their 40's at $25 million per.
Oh, and as you may have heard, Barry Bonds was indicted today by a federal grand jury in San Francisco on 4 counts of perjury and 1 count of obstruction of justice.
I really don't have much to say about this that I haven't said before, but it does look like Barry's baseball career is over, and this may be the final straw that keeps him out of Cooperstown. Especially if there really is some new evidence of a positive drug test uncovered by the prosecutors.
I can't see any team risking $10 million+ to a recently-indicted player who may spend a fair amount of the season in court.
Just to add a few thoughts after reading more about the issue.

  • My understanding is that since the prosecutors have decided to indict after all this time, there must be some new piece of evidence that's changed their minds. I highly doubt (thought it's not impossible) that the prosecutors would indict now, with little or no new evidence gathered over the past two years and face the wrath of a malicious prosecution lawsuit. Of course, if they don't have any new evidence, such a lawsuit may in fact be justified.
  • Even though I did speculate that Bonds' career is over, I highly doubt that he will be convicted. If there is some damning evidence against him, we'll most likely see him plea to a lesser charge and skip a trial. If there is no damning evidence against him, then it's obviously difficult to imagine him being convicted.
    The trouble is that the main counts against him are the perjury counts, and perjury is hard to prove. The prosecution has to prove that Bonds knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs before or during the time he testified otherwise. A positive test for PEDs (which is referred to in the indictment) does not prove perjury. If Bonds claims (as Gary Sheffield so cunningly did) that he may have been given the drugs without his knowledge, that's a very difficult claim to dispute. It would have to secure testimony from either Bonds (unlikely) or the person who provided the drugs to prove that he knew what he was taking. And even then, if someone comes forward and testifies that they provided Bonds with PEDs and that he knew what they were, that person would really need corroboration to be a convincing witness. Without corroboration, they can be dismantled on cross-examination, particularly if they're a shady character (and if they're giving out steroids, they probably are).
    Whether or not Bonds knowingly took PEDs is a question for you to decide. To prove that he did in court is much more difficult, and I haven't seen anything yet to suggest that the government can do so. If they have some new, secret magic evidence to prove such a thing, then great, but I highly doubt that they do.
  • If Bonds is acquitted of this charge in court, or if the charges are dismissed, then the government's plan has actually backfired, because then Bonds will have faced his charges in court and defeated them. Buster Olney drew a parallel between Bonds and the 1919 White Sox, who were also acquitted in court, but were still suspended for life by Commissioner Landis. That's a faulty-ass parallel, because if baseball had a strong labor union in 1919, that suspension would never fly (and hell, if baseball had a strong labor union in 1919, Landis probably wouldn't have taken the job in the first place). Also, the Black Sox players were not as independently wealthy as Bonds and actually had a good many of their legal bills fronted by Charlie Comiskey. Bonds can buy very good lawyers who could, in concert with the players' union, tear Bud Selig to pieces if he even contemplated a suspension. Without a conviction (and possibly even with one), Barry Bonds will not be suspended from baseball.

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