Pujols, LeBron, Carmelo and Free Agency

This is what Curt Flood fought for. You may not remember the centerfielder, but his refusal to accept a trade to the Phillies and subsequent lawsuit against baseball forged a trail in which the players stood together and got free agency started.

Has it now progressed to the point of insanity?

Albert Pujols is seeking a contract somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million dollars. He reportedly is asking the Cardinals (or whoever wants his services) to shell out $30 million dollars a year (fixed thanks), well into his late 30’s and early 40’s.

We’ve heard and had the big market versus small market debate for years. The truth is that there are only a small handful of teams that could pay that salary. Cleveland certainly isn’t one of them.

So should the Cardinals consider trading Pujols if they don’t think they are going to win it all this year? Or do they risk letting Pujols walk while getting nothing in return?

We know what the Indians would do. They’ve already done it.

Switch sports for moment. Down in Orlando they are making a big deal about Dwight Howard’s free agency plans. Howard doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2011-2012 season. In the media, Blake Griffin’s impending free agency is already a topic.

Carmelo Anthony has killed this season for the Denver Nuggets and their fans. They boo their own superstar. Is this really what’s best for the game? For the players? For the fans?

The Albert Pujols free agency tour will be no different. Every home run hit will be a reminder that he may be leaving soon. These things are a distraction at best, a cancer at worst.

This is the new free agency.

Curt Flood argued that players were no better than slaves in that they had no right to choose where they played. He said they were property.

Now players now hold teams hostage. Surround me with a team that will win championships every year, and pay me top dollar or I will leave. Isn’t that the message LeBron sent last July?

Why not concede and only sign players to one year contracts? Start over every year. What a disaster that would be. Kind of like the sports landscape in Cleveland now.

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • BrianRut4

    “He reportedly is asking the Cardinals (or whoever wants his services) to shell out $10 million dollars a year, well into his late 30′s and early 40′s.”

    I think you mean $30 million/year.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    Indeed. Thanks.

  • stin4u

    Pujols has a no trade clause from what I heard he will veto any trades throughout the year.

    I do feel this is getting a bit out of control. Anyone that can relate the modern day athlete to a slave is to me, certifiably insane. How much liberty should these guys get? They get paid millions in contracts alone, then get endorsements and other royalties paid to them on top of that. And now they want the freedom to take that money train wherever, whenever they please?

    There is no loyalty in any of these major sports anymore. I know it’s a business but does that mean you have to sacrifice your dignity to earn a few more mil? Are you really that hard up for cash that you’d be willing to douse a city that loves you with gasoline and light a match?

  • christopher

    ahh..the players are greedy, the owners are greedy and here we are the “woe is me” fan base.

    it’s our own fault you know. we lust after the product that the owners and players put out onto the playing field/court each season and therefore they continue to do what they do and take it to new levels each year.

    if you really want to blame somebody, take a look at ourselves in the mirror. if we the “fan” (remember this is short for fanatical) collectively turn our backs on the product then this madness starts to be seen in the right light. until then, forget about anything slowing down.

    there players are with their hands out and here we are shelling over yearly salaries on jersey’s, tickets, shoes, fat head posters, cereal boxes, energy drinks, etc. to continue their ego driven dissent into insane contract negotiations.

    /rant completed

  • http://www.brian23.com Brian

    I’m not sure this is so different from 10 years ago except today there’s more media and noise. We just hear more about it because there are more places to hear it from.

  • 5KMD

    I agree Brian, but the culture is different. 10-20 years ago guys still somewhat wanted to play their entire career in one place.

    Now, they really don’t care at all where their locker is as long as they are getting paid.

  • 216in614

    notice how football doesn’t have these problems.

  • jimkanicki

    there are only two ways to manage this.

    full on capitalism
    european soccer style ‘relegation’ system such that if warren buffet wants to own a team in omaha and fund a $400M payroll he can do so. on the flip side, if the marlins, pirates, etc. can only come up with $30M they will not be competitive and will be relegated to the minor league thus affirming their status as farm team for yankees, redsox, etc. it’s a travesty to have such disparate payrolls competing against each other. benefit is that those left standing in the premier league would play at the highest standard.

    nfl style restricted player movement (franchise tag) and salary cap. this enables a competitive league thus sustaining a revenue stream (us fans) which enables all owners to make money which enables more rosters sports for players (32 teams is better for players than 16.). benefit is more teams in a competitive league.

    it’s gotta be one or the other. no surprise that the nfl is the most successful league, they have the best model. hope they dont kill the golden goose.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Denny

    I, for one, would absolutely love the relegation-style system to come into play.

  • Tribe Fan

    Maybe we could rent Pujols for a year, think the Cardinals would take Travis Hafner in a trade? One slugger for another…. 😀

  • B-bo

    Say yes to relegation

  • b

    Pujols leaving the Cards may be the tipping point for fans in general, but I thought that with LeBron and more recently Jeter, too.
    Pujols is coming off a contract that paid him over $100,000,00 over his 10 years. So, he has made more in 10 years than 99.9% of people in this country will make in their entire lives, many times over, and could reasonably expect to make an additional $200 million over the rest of his career, which is just slightly more than the average Cardinal fanbase in its entirety may earn. That he (and Jeter) can say that we love our fans, our franchise, and we want to stay here…so long as they pay us an outrageous salary is so insulting to the fans.

  • NJ

    “For a hundred years the owners screwed the players. For 25 years
    the players have screwed the owners – they’ve got 75 years to go.”

    I’m behind the players getting every penny that they’re worth. They, like any worker, should be allowed to sign whatever contract that the marketplace is willing to offer them. It’s the owners signing these contracts. It’s the league agreeing with the player union on the system. Don’t blame Pujols or Sabathia for wanting to get what they can.

    @3 – “And now they want the freedom to take that money train wherever, whenever they please?”

    No. Not at all. They’re allowed to sign a new contract when their old one is up. With whomever they want. Just like every other free person in the world.

  • NJ

    @8 – Here’s the problem with getting a salary cap in baseball: for the players to agree to it, the total $ in salary would have to remain the same. That means that forcing the Yankees of the world to spend $100M less also means forcing teams like the Marlins, Indians, and Pirates to spend $50M more. Consider that the Pirates – even with a $50M payroll and $ from revenue sharing – only reportedly clear $15M a year. Forcing them to pay salaries they can’t afford would bankrupt the team.

  • jimkanicki

    @NJ, i dont think anyone disputes that players should get what they’re worth and the market determines this. however, when individuals get 300x what their peers get, there are ramifications. namely if he doesn’t have a competitive league to play in, he has a less robust market and thus his ‘worth’ is less.

    not to mention the players union in general needs to take ownership on this too. when 95%* of their members are under $1M/yr and those jobs are put in jeopardy by the over reaching 5% it should be the union standing up to protect the futures of those 95%.

    feel me? there’s a tipping point where it’s in the superstar’s interest to rein it in a bit. the current system seems only to benefit scott boras.

    *i don’t know the numbers on players’ salaries, but if we could look at MLBPA data i wouldn’t be surprised to find that for every cc sabathia there are 30 paul byrds.

  • ClemJax

    @14 – The solution for that in baseball has been sitting out there for years. Salary cap + 50% revenue sharing (with the requirement that revenue sharing money must be spent on salaries) + salary floor (say, revenue sharing + say $20mil). Amount of money spent on player salaries at worst stays the same (likely increases since the result is a better product), big market teams can’t just spend their way out of mistakes and small market teams aren’t held completely hostage to their mistakes (see: Hafner, Travis).

    Ever since I read about this proposal years ago, I’m convinced this should be the professional sports model, period. I can’t think of a sport that wouldn’t improve for the better with this financing model, but baseball most of all.

  • nullster

    A curt flood reference. Solid.

    I’m all for a relegation system as well.

  • NJ

    I’m not disagreeing. I just don’t see a realistic solution coming to pass. The players seem to like the system as do the owners, both rich and poor. And since MLB is still making money, then the fans, on a whole, support it too. It’s only us, the Indians, Pirates, Royals fans of the world who dissent and, frankly, sadly, MLB doesn’t need us.

    As for a “tipping point”, I heard that after the Rangers signed A-Rod, the Marlins resigned Ichiro, etc. etc. etc. I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • NJ

    @16 – Fair enough.

    Now get the players and owners to agree to it.

  • http://twitter.com/dj_2 DJ

    The Pujols situation is another reason why I’m done with baseball. In this case, the Cardinals have NO leverage whatsoever. If he’s not signed by tomorrow, he will not discuss contracts for the rest of the year and will veto any and all trades, meaning either the Cardinals meet his demands by tomorrow or he walks without compensation at the end of the year. About the only thing the Cardinals can do is sit him for the year, which would be unheard of, but that’s the only power they have. They are completely over the barrel, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

    I like the Indians, but I HATE the MLB system, and I won’t come back until it changes. I don’t care if it’s relegation or like the NFL (with salary cap AND floor, so the Marlins and Pirates of the world can’t continue to take giant profits without competing, h/t @16), but until they do, I won’t watch.

  • Brad in ATL

    I haven’t watched one second of the NBA this year and haven’t watched baseball in years because of the situation put forth in this great post. Until some sanity is returned to MLB and the NBA it will stay that way.

  • http://twitter.com/dj_2 DJ

    O, and one more thing: Guaranteed contracts MUST GO. That’s the single biggest problem with the NBA, NHL and MLB. There’s no incentive for players to continue to perform except for pride once they hit the jackpot. At least in the NFL, they still have to perform or get cut.

  • Wacman

    The problem with a relegation style system is that it also takes away the financial stability of the clubs by taking away revenue sharing. Bolton doesn’t see a lick of profits from Man U’s jersey sales, while American teams do and it helps keep them afloat. Most soccer teams are in debt, and in order to win, they have to be. Also, relegation KILLS teams’ bottom lines as you can’t charge ML ticket prices for a team in the AAA. You also have to unload all of your high priced talent in order to drop down to your new, lower self imposed salary restrictions while still hopefully staying competitive.

    In Germany, all of the teams are required to be financially sound, but that league has ridiculous parity to the point that a casual fan wouldn’t know who to latch on to (other than like, Bayern Munich).

    My point is, as a rabid soccer fan, promotion and relegation is not the simplest way to solve things

  • NJ

    @20 – The Cards have no leverage because they signed that last contract with it’s no-trade clause. It’s their own fault imo.

  • NJ

    @20 – The Cards have no leverage because they signed that last contract with it’s no-trade clause. It’s their own fault imo.

  • saggy

    i’m down with the players when it comes to the NFL – owners can screw them anytime they want by cutting them and ending their contracts. But in every other sport it’s the owners who write the checks, and the owners who take all the risk.

    Who rents the gym? the owner. who buys the uniforms? the owner. who pays the staff? the owner. who ponies up for marketing, advertising, medical benefits, equipment, transportation, and incidentals? that’s right…the owner.

    Who still pays Travis Hafner’s salary? (I’m sure insurance pays a lot of it, but the owner is still on the hook for a substantial amount). When a guy hits .217 and strikes out 175 times, does the owner withhold his paycheck? No. But in every other job i have ever had, if i chose to be production 21.7 percent of the time, i am sure i would have been fired. these guys get paid millions instead.

    the owners take all the risks. the NFL owners have brilliantly protected themselves and have made shrewd business moves outside of the game. Do we watch because of the players or because the owners have made it possible through television contracts?

  • macnip

    Well, basketball is goign to be ruined after this year. Even though Lebron, Wade, Bosh, Melo, DHoward and Chris Paul think it will be fun to all be on a couple of teams and just play to have fun, they are going to kill thr revenue streams of the 26 other teams in the league. The owners know this is coming and a full season lock out is coming for the NBA. The NBA has now become the NHL before their season long lock out. Inflated salaries and decreasing fan interest are both bad things.

  • BigMatt

    I enjoy business, and I enjoy sports. But I HATE talking about the business of sports sometimes. With the labor disputes, NBA trade talk, and all the crazy baseball “hot stove” stuff lately, I’m getting quite bored. To me, it’s not as interesting as talking about our teams and the upcoming game/season, who will be playing where, what is the strategy, who is the best team/player/coach, etc. Unfortunately, the business of sports has completely taken over almost every conversation. We can’t talk about any of those topics without considering the business impact anymore.

    I think that’s one reason why we like the NFL so much. We’re free to focus more on the game itself than other sports.

  • http://www.clevelandfrowns.com Cleveland Frowns

    Don’t we basically already have relegation in the MLB? At least a handful of teams might as well not be in the league 1/3 of the way through each season as it is. Why would we want to go further toward the model of the Premier League when basically only three teams have won that league in the last 20 years (Man U., Chelsea, Arsenal), with one of those teams having won more than half of them (Man U.)?

    I have no problem with socialism when it comes to organizing a compelling competition, and the NFL seems to have it down far better than any other league.

    On one hand, the way the guys end up treated like pieces of meat in the NFL system is troublesome, and I’d feel a lot better about the lack of guaranteed contracts if there was a better pension plan. But on the other hand, the notion that nobody has an unfettered right to earn millions for playing a ballgame doesn’t bother me so much.

    And maybe none of it gets any better until the players themselves to recognize the importance of their bonds with the communities in which they play. Maybe one system is better than the others at getting us there faster.

    A lot to think about here. Not likely to be conclusively resolved in a blog post (unlike a number of other subjects), but still worth asking the questions.

  • Tapin

    “Surround me with a team that will win championships every year, and pay me top dollar or I will leave. Isn’t that the message LeBron sent last July?”

    Is that really what you get from LeBron’s situation? I disagree; I saw “I want to sit at the cool kids’ table.”

    It would be nice for top athletes to recognize their value to a community, but I think that bridge is well and truly burned by this point. They’re all (well, nearly all) mercenaries at this point.

  • jimkanicki

    @frowns no it’s not relegation — the marlins and pirates and royals are still in the premiership.

    here is an interesting link — this guy has graphed all 12 of the founding members of english football. some clubs have stayed up top consistently (chelsea, manu, liverpool, everton). others haven’t (huddersfield, derby, hull, burnley). i like that their model enables teams like arsenal, newcastle, leeds to earn their way to titles. it also allows for inspiring stories when clubs like wigan break through for the first time or blackpool’s return to the top league after 39 years. could you imagine how fired up louisville (for example) would be if their (beloved) ball team made it to mlb. and do you think miami would notice if the marlins were relegated?

    with the nfl we’re on even footing with any other team. with mlb, we could have branch rickey running the team and still be unable to compete.

    thank you wellington mara. screw you george steinbrenner.