FTM post peek: A-Rod, the Sox, the now-infamous opt-out clause, the Theo ‘n’ Larry show, and the spending sprees of 2006. (Plus: Jon Lester!)

March 15th, 2007 → 11:50 am @ // 6 Comments

As previously noted, this is not the first time that an opt-out clause in A-Rod’s contract has garnered attention: it was that very clause that ended up being, in a roundabout way, the sticking point in the Sox-Rangers deal that would have moved A-Rod to Boston and Manny to Texas. Obviously, it’s way too late to be running sneak peeks from Feeding the Monster (although if you missed them, there are lots of interesting ones, as well as other excerpts from the book, over here. And don’t forget, FTM is available from Amazon for only $17.16 (cheap!) and, as always, free, signed, personalized bookplates are still available. (Virtual) operates are standing by!). So what should we call this. A post-peak? Whatever it is, here’s a section of the book detailing the breakdown of those ’03-’04 talks.

That period is especially interesting in retrospect. As you’ll see below, players union head Gene Orza rejected the Sox’s offer of those opt-outs in return for shaving about $4 mil/year off of A-Rod’s salary because Orza thought that offer was essentially worthless; after all no one had signed a $20 million deal since those crazy days of 2000-2001. Well, folks, crazy days are here again, and with Gary Matthews getting $50 million deals, who out there doesn’t think A-Rod could add to his bottom line should he actually end up doing a whole new deal after this season? What’s more, it was these negotiations that started the breakdown in Theo’s and Larry’s relationship. Good times! (And: an interesting footnote to all this: Jon Lester was the pitching prospect who was going to be thrown into the deal.) Without further throat-clearing:

“By mid December, newspapers around the country were reporting that a Rangers-Red Sox deal was all but completed. Boston would send Manny Ramirez (as well as some cash to help pay out the $98 million still owed him) and minor league pitcher Jon Lester to the Rangers. The Rangers would send Rodriguez to the Sox, and Rodriguez, in return for getting the chance to play for a contender, would reduce the annual value of the years left on his deal. A corollary deal would send Garciaparra to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Magglio Ordonez.

And that was supposed to be that. Garciaparra’s teammates readied themselves for a new shortstop, a prospect that they were frankly looking forward to. ‘When you’re talking about a guy who’s going to be a leader and be the face of the organization, that’s Alex Rodriguez,’ Kevin Millar said on December 16th on ESPN. ‘Manny leads in the batter’s box and Nomar prepares himself to play hard everyday but you’re talking about a leader in Alex Rodriguez…. I mean, A-Rod’s the best in the game.’

Because of the high profiles of the players and the enormous sums of money involved, officials at Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association, the union for professional baseball players, had joined in the discussions even before a deal had been finalized. Gene Orza, a top union official, had given Rodriguez the requisite permission needed for Rodriguez to discuss a restructuring of his contract with the Red Sox. According to an article by The Boston Globe’s Gordon Edes, Orza also called a top official in Major League Baseball’s central office and said, ‘I want you to get word to Larry [Lucchino] that we’ll do everything within our power to get this thing done—it’s great for baseball and we love Alex—but I hope Larry doesn’t abuse the process, as he is wont to do.’ Soon after, Lucchino and Orza had a conversation in which Orza reminded Lucchino that any reduction in the average annual value in a player’s contract needed to be offset by some other ‘added benefit’ which the player received.

The Red Sox and Rodriguez ended up working out a deal in which Rodriguez would cut approximately $4 million a year off the last seven years of his deal in return for some licensing rights and the ability to declare free agency at different points during the remaining years of his contract (emphasis added for the purpose of this post). When the two sides presented the deal to Orza, he was dumbfounded. No one had signed a contract for as much as $20 million in years, Orza said. The made the offer of free agency essentially worthless—there was no way Rodriguez would ever sign a more lucrative contract again. Orza made a counter-proposal he said the union would be able to accept, in which the Red Sox would save a total of about $12 million instead of $28 million. The Red Sox initially rejected Orza’s figure, but both sides assumed they’d keep working towards a compromise.

Then, on the same night in which Orza had presented his proposal, Larry Lucchino issued a statement. ‘It is a sad day when the Players Association thwarts the will of its members,’ Lucchino said. ‘The Players Association asserts that it supports individual negotiations, freedom of choice, and player mobility. However, in this high-profile instance, their action contradicts this and is contrary to the desires of the player. We appreciate the flexibility and determination Alex and Cynthia Rodriguez have shown in their effort to move to Boston and the Red Sox.’

The move was typical of Lucchino’s career. Despite his unprecedented record as a CEO and despite the high esteem in which his many admirers held him, Lucchino had a hair-trigger sense of being slighted and often seemed to be spoiling for a fight. He’d been a union adversary for years. If Orza was being difficult to spite him, Lucchino wasn’t going to back down. But by trying to create the impression of a rift between the union and Rodriguez, baseball’s highest paid player, Lucchino actually made it less likely Rodriguez would make a stand about the issue. And now, not only was Orza angry, but Rodriguez, according to people close to him, was upset, both that Lucchino would give the impression he was speaking for Rodriguez and that Lucchino would draw Rodriguez’s wife Cynthia into the picture. Rangers’ owner Tom Hicks was annoyed as well, and within days, the Boston newspapers were reporting that Lucchino had been pulled off of the A-Rod negotiations and that Tom Werner had taken over.

Lucchino characterizes what happened differently. ‘I was frustrated,’ he says, talking both about the union negotiations and his efforts to get Hicks to reduce the amount of money he was asking for to augment Manny Ramirez’s salary. ‘At one point, I was talking to Tom and John and I said, ‘One of you guys should try to talk to [Hicks], maybe you’ll have better luck.’ And Tom said, ‘I’ll call him.” John Henry agrees with Lucchino’s assessment. ‘Larry went for Christmas to see his mother in Pittsburgh,’ Henry says. ‘We didn’t send him out of town. Tom still tried to get the deal going, but it wasn’t like we’d lost faith in Larry.’ In the coming weeks, there would be various attempts to resurrect a deal—all to no avail. By January, the Rangers and the Red Sox had ceased discussions.”


Post Categories: 2007 Spring Training & A-Rod & Feeding the Monster Outtakes & Gene Orza & Jon Lester & Larry Lucchino & Manny Ramirez & Theo Epstein

6 Comments → “FTM post peek: A-Rod, the Sox, the now-infamous opt-out clause, the Theo ‘n’ Larry show, and the spending sprees of 2006. (Plus: Jon Lester!)”


  1. Shalomar

    10 years ago

    THANK G_D WE KEPT MANNY

    We have a stud, clutch, relatively secure hitter who doesn’t give a rats arse about what people think of him, as opposed to an insecure, childish, chest-baring choke artist (when it comes to the playoffs at least).

    Reply

  2. Zabathan

    10 years ago

    Not to mention a potential Lefty stud in Lester.

    Reply

  3. john

    10 years ago

    So then A-Rod was willing to take less money. Now he may leave for more money. Evidently, it’s not easy being A-Rod.

    Over on YanksFanSoxFan Rob Bradford guesses that a) the Sox would have no interest in a free-agent A-Rod, because of his head-case tendencies in NYC, and b) the Sox won’t pick up Manny’s options.

    Reply

  4. ygbluig

    10 years ago

    ‘Manny leads in the batter’s box and Nomar prepares himself to play hard everyday but you’re talking about a leader in Alex Rodriguez…. I mean, A-Rod’s the best in the game.’ — Kevin Millar.

    And when you’re talking about assessing a person’s character, no one is better than Kevin Millar.

    Reply

  5. SeaBeachFred

    10 years ago

    All I can say is that in all my years following baseball I have never ever heard a player call HIMSELF out, and to me that is just what A-Rod did. As if he didn’t have enough just getting ready for the season and trying to let his playing do his talking, he just decided to run off at the mouth and wound up saying some ridiculous things about the people wanting him out if he didn’t perform or want him back if he did and the Yankees won it all. Fact is, he will determine whether he will stay or go, but I can only believe the camp that wants him to go suddenly grew by at least a dozen percentage points with his ridiculous utterances a few days ago. He didn’t help his cause one twit.

    Reply
  6. […] I wrote about this same thing back before the season began; that post contained an excerpt from FTM that quoted from “The A-Rod Chronicles,” the book’s relevant chapter. I’ll reprint a paragragh of that here: […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: