Jordan Bean | Sacked
The faded superstar
Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 19, 2012 08:11
How do you judge a player’s worth?
That’s the age−old question for general managers across all sports. Do they pay for the name? What about for past production? Or are they predicting the numbers the player will put up in future seasons?
Each time a superstar hits free agency, they attempt to outdo those who came before them. It’s a matter of pride and self−validation of how a player views his abilities.
Many times, though, the situation turns into a catastrophe.
Why is this the case?
By the time a contract expires, a player has already put up his numbers. A team is paying for what they have done instead of what they will do. These contracts are designed to pay a player for only one to three years in their prime and then shoulder the load of four to seven years in decline.
When the Yankees signed Alex Rodriguez in 2007, they paid $275 million for a player who put up hall of fame numbers for eight years. The player they were getting was not one who would give them eight more hall−of−fame years. It’s unrealistic to expect a player to produce sixteen years at such a high level.
As of late, Rodriguez’s numbers have not just been dropping, they’ve been in a full−fledged free fall. He was benched multiple times throughout the postseason and has lost his status as one of the elite hitters in the game.
Now the Yankees are stuck paying an obscene amount of money to a player worth the league minimum of $480,000 — for five more years.
While A−Rod and the Yankees are experiencing the worst−case scenario of this situation — that is, a player who sees drastically falling numbers while only in the middle of a long term contract — there is another player I feel could soon fall into this trap as well.
That player is Albert Pujols. This past season he and the Angels completed a 10−year $254 million contract that will pay him $30 million in the last year at the age of 41. Is there any among us who thinks that Pujols will be worth that much money at that age? Do you think anyone is worth that amount of money at any time?
The fundamental problem is that players are being paid for who they were, not for who they are and will be. It is a sign of respect from the organization to the player. It is a message to the fans saying that the team is committed to winning right away.
It is a mistake.
There are two possible solutions that can eliminate this problem.
First is that Major League Baseball, and all other sports with this problem, place a limit on the amount of time a player can be signed — for example, six years. Many of these contracts come about not because GMs want a player for this long, but because they fear another team will give the player the contract if they do not. Free agency is a competitive market and there is always a team willing to make a big splash.
Solution number two is to decrease the guaranteed money in a contract and increase incentive−based money. These contracts weigh down teams because of the guaranteed money owed to players. A deal that includes more incentives would ensure that a team is paying for the performance on the field, not for the name of a faded superstar.
I cannot blame the players for taking the money. If they are being offered more money and job security in long−term deals, the best move is to take it. This one falls on the teams and general managers. So to those dishing out the long−term, big−money deals, you’re sacked!
Jordan Bean is a freshman who has yet to declare a major. He can be reached at Jordan.Bean@tufts.edu.