The one who almost got awayBy
Jon Heyman at Sports Illustrated relays the story of how A-Rod almost wasn’t a Yankee anymore. It’s a nice look back on a story that was pretty much lost in the rest of the off-season hoopla. Once the Santana derby took front page, we all kind of swept A-Rod under the rug. Which is nice, since he was taking the brunt of it from the fans for the few weeks in which this situation was up in the air.
According to Heyman, the Angels, Dodgers, Mets, Red Sox, Tigers, and Giants were in on A-Rod, whether explicitly or implicitly. Further, A-Rod planned to meet with all of them, if for no other reason than to increase his leverage. However, it appears his desire to remain in the Bronx remained at the forefront of his mind.
So why did he opt out?
Rodriguez and Boras had believed that the Yankees needed to see, 1) that A-Rod was willing to leave, a serious concern since Boras thought A-Rod tipped his hand too much throughout his glorious 2007 season, and, 2) that others were willing to pay much more. Boras always believed the Yankees would get back in and pay the market rate, which he felt was 10 years for at least $300 million, for the three-time MVP with as much marquee power as home-run power — but only after he opted out and gave them a reason to.
And so we had the opt-out situation, in which many of us waved goodbye to A-Rod, even though it wasn’t our ~$21 million he had blown. The Yankees had made it pretty clear that he wouldn’t be welcome back if he opted out.
Boras felt the Yankees needed to be shocked. And while the opt-out did that, it apparently also shocked A-Rod. Rodriguez understood he’d be opting out, but he didn’t plan on the quick negative reaction by fans, media, and especially by the Yankees, including new boss Hank Steinbrenner, who publicly said the Yankees were done with A-Rod. “Good-bye,” Steinbrenner announced on opt-out night.
We did plenty here at RAB after the opt-out. Namely:
- Bid him adieu, noting that the opt-out signaled that he never intended to re-sign.
- Moved his category from “Current Yankees” to “Selfish Jerks.”
- Created a new one: “A-Rod’s Shimmy Makes the Women in New York Puke.”
- Explored the myriad options open for the Yankees to fill the third base vacancy.
A few weeks later, though, we learned that A-Rod was talking to the Steinbrenners about a contract. We were baffled a bit — and I talked to more than one person who thought it was a facade to extract more value from the other teams on the market. But after a day or so, it became apparent that these talks were serious, and that A-Rod would be a Yankee for the rest of his career.
Rodriguez triumphantly called Boras from the meeting with the Steinbrenners. He mentioned some hope for incentives but didn’t seem to care too much about them. Boras nonetheless pressed for $30 million in very attainable home-run milestones and finalized the contract language. So with the $10 million Texas was obligated to pay after the opt out, that could bring the total haul to $315 million — which is not too bad for a guy who was portrayed as crawling back. Yet, it probably still fell short of what he could have gotten elsewhere (or maybe even from the Yankees, had he waited it out).
Given the treatment of A-Rod by the fans and media in the past, I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction to his re-signing. While a number of fans thought that we were making a mistake by giving him 10 years and $275 million, he was for the most part welcomed back with open arms.
And A-Rod is glad to be back, too.
“New York brings out the best in you. And the worst,” Rodriguez said the other day. “You have to be able to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself I didn’t want to go to a place and hide and have my weaknesses be swept away. New York has made me a better man. And it’s made me a better baseball player.”
It might be spin, it might be PR speak. But it’s damn nice to hear those words from the best player in baseball.