Thursday, December 12, 2013
BOSTON -- Alex Rodriguez fielded a simple ground ball during batting practice and, based on the whirring sound of countless cameras, you would have thought it was a moment to be forever remembered.
Every move he made drew camera clicks and thousands of eyes watching. Every at-bat at Fenway Park attracted the loudest reaction from the crowd.
Well, the New York Yankees wanted an attention-grabber like A-Rod, and they got him.
But where are the Yankees these days? Playing better lately, but still unlikely to reach the playoffs.
This proud team is in a bit of a downturn. The Yankees lust for A-Rod, and his home run record potential, may be partly to blame -- one of several moves New York has made, which has them in a hole this year, and maybe beyond.
The mega-deals in 2009 and the lack of player development are also a problem.
Let's look at A-Rod first. When it comes to Rodriguez's deal, we are not talking about the original contract New York assumed, when the Yankees traded for Rodriguez before the 2004 season -- relieving the Texas Rangers of the remaining seven years of a 10-year, $252-million contract.
(Red Sox fans can hardly snicker about it since their team made the first grab at Rodriguez back then).
The questionable decision by the Yankees came after Rodriguez invoked an opt-out clause in his contract after the 2007 season (announced in typical Rodriguez look-at-me fashion, during the fourth game of the '07 World Series).
Rodriguez, 32 at the time, seemed destined to become the all-time home run champion. He had hit 54 homers in 2007 and was already at 518.
Another home run king in pinstripes? First Babe, then A-Rod. The Yankees couldn't resist and offered what is now being call the WORST CONTRACT EVER -- a new 10-year deal, through 2017, for $275-million.
But that was not enough. There are also $6-million bonuses to be awarded if Rodriguez reaches certain home run plateaus -- 660 (Willie Mays' mark), 714 (Babe Ruth), 755 (Henry Aaron), and 762 (the record held by Barry Bonds).
Rodriguez, now 38, has 648 homers. The injuries continue to mount and there is the pesky little problem of facing a 211-game suspension once this season is over because of performance-enhancing drugs.
If Rodriguez loses his appeal, that suspension will save the Yankees about $32-million. But that contract remains an albatross.
There are other contracts to deal with, after New York spent $423-million on free-agent contracts for C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett before the 2009 season. New York had missed the playoffs in 2008 and were moving into a new stadium in 2009. The Yankees needed a splash.
The signings proved successful in the short term, when New York celebrated a World Championship in 2009 (That was Title No. 27, in case you needed a reminder).
This year, Sabathia is 10-10, with a 4.66 ERA. Sabathia is 33 and is under contract through 2016, with a vesting option for 2017.
Teixeira, 33, is out all season with a wrist injury. He is signed through 2016.
The Yankees are paying $8.5-million of Burnett's salary this year, even though they traded him to before last season.
Big contracts, as the Red Sox know, limit roster flexibility. Boston had its own big splash over 2010-11, re-signing Josh Beckett, and signing John Lackey, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to contracts totaling over $446-million.
That splash got Terry Francona fired, while general manager Theo Epstein packed for Chicago.
But most of those contracts are off the books. Red Sox fans can keep sending those Thank You notes to the Los Angeles Dodgers. They now have Beckett (signed through 2014), Crawford (through 2017) and Gonzalez (through 2018).
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