Sunday, March 31, 2013

Alex Rodriguez Contract Hangs Over the Yankees

A big front-page story at today's New York Times, "Hitched to an Aging Star: Anatomy of a Deal, and Doubts":
Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera was convinced that Alex Rodriguez had made a colossal blunder.

Rodriguez, the Yankees’ standout third baseman, had created a public uproar and infuriated team officials by opting out of his contract, the richest in the history of baseball at the time, seemingly to pursue options with other teams.

“I told him he had to take responsibility and make it right,” Rivera said last week at spring training, recalling how he admonished his teammate in the fall of 2007 and urged him to reconcile with the Yankees. “He had to call them.”

Rivera’s stern telephone call set in motion a negotiation that led to a contract that stands as the largest ever in American sports: $275 million over 10 years. It involved the rapper Jay-Z urging his friend Rodriguez to stay in New York, Goldman Sachs executives stepping in as intermediaries to smooth the negotiations and Rodriguez flying to Tampa, Fla., to ask the Steinbrenners for forgiveness, according to interviews with nearly a dozen people with direct knowledge of Rodriguez’s negotiations.

Within two years, he helped to deliver the team’s 27th World Series title.

But now, five years into the contract, that financial commitment hangs ominously over opening day, threatening to impose itself on virtually every decision the Yankees make and severely hampering management’s ability to cope with the shortcomings of an aging roster.

As the Yankees prepare to open the 2013 season Monday — without the injured Rodriguez — the team still owes him $114 million through the end of 2017, when he will be 42.

“At the time, there was an expectation that A-Rod would be breaking all the home run records by the end of the contract, and that is exciting for the fans,” said Andrew Zimbalist, an economist at Smith College and an expert in sports business. “But now it’s eating up an enormous amount of payroll, and it has clearly become an albatross for the Yankees.”
And I'm reminded of this story from the post-season last year, "Benching of Rodriguez Prompts Questions About His Future."

An albatross alright. Bummer for the dude.