The Baseball Desert

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Show me the money

Much has been made of Pedro's motives for moving from Boston to Queens (even if a deal still hasn't been officially announced) and he's being painted as some kind of ruthless mercenary for switching clubs just because someone offered him more money. The Globe's Bob Ryan chimes in with an interesting piece on Pedro's so-called true colo(u)rs, and he makes some valid points, not just about Pedro, but about baseball players in general.

Their sporting prowess means that we admire and sometimes idolise these guys, we put them up on pedestals and create shrines for them in the Hall of Fame, but we sometimes forget to stop there, and we require higher standards and more integrity of them than we do of ourselves and of the people who surround us. Ryan is right to remind us that they do what they do for money, just like the rest of us mere mortals. The amount of money - though obscene to many - is irrelevant, at least in this particular debate, because we're talking about relative sums. When we look at things in absolute terms, then of course it's ridiculous to pay someone $15m - $20m to throw or hit a little white ball around a field, but the market value of the services of these superstars has been defined by ownership and TV contracts and us the fans, and it is what it is. However, if team A (let's say, for the sake of example, a New York ballclub desperate to make a big splash over the winter meetings) decides that it is worth their while to pay Pedro $54m over the next four seasons (even though no other team has come close to a similar offer), then who are we to say that Pedro is wrong to take what they're offering?

We no longer live in a world where people - whether they are ballplayers or IT consultants) are loyal to their employer through thick and thin. When it happens, it's an admirable thing (you only need to look at the careers of Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn to see that), but it really no longer is the norm. I've been working for about twelve years, and I've already had four times as many employers (4) than my Dad did in his entire 43-year career (1).

ESPN's Peter Gammons also shares his thoughts on the Pedro deal (the "Mets money talks for Pedro" headline should give you an idea of how he sees the whole thing), and he brings up an interesting point related to this deal, which is that Pedro forcing the Red Sox' hand for more money and then signing for the Mets because he didn't get it leaves him very little room for manoeuvre in the eyes of the New York press and fans:
In Boston, Pedro was allowed to do whatever he wanted -- show up whenever and take vacations. The Boston media were easy on him for what he had done. They gave him a mulligan for not attending Game 6 in New York. He went months without talking to the media for what he considered slights. He reacted angrily to fans who booed him. By and large, he was given slack because for a seven-year stretch he was the best right-handed pitcher in the history of the franchise.
In New York, there will be no pass, nor should there be one. This is completely a mercenary decision by Martinez, and he will have no room for complaints whatsoever if he is savaged by New Yorkers. Why not? Pedro Martinez went to the Mets solely because they offered him more money. Period. If he doesn't perform to the standard GM Omar Minaya has promised his owners, it won't
be a pretty picture.
I really wish Pedro the best in New York, if only because that particular scenario is a disaster-movie-in-waiting.