"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice


After a weekend of stalled negotiations, Tom Hicks, the owner of the Texas Rangers, has set another deadline in the potential Alex Rodriguez-for-Manny Ramirez blockbuster trade. The latest in a string of deadlines is 5 p.m. tomorrow. But even if the deal doesn’t get done by then, how do we know that this will be the last deadline we see? The Boston Globe reports:

And so, the next deadline beckons. Will the Sox attempt to re-sign Garciaparra to an extension if the A-Rod deal is indeed DOA? They haven’t contacted his agent, Arn Tellem, about doing so in recent days, according to an industry source. Maybe they’re waiting for the newest deadline to pass.

“If the [A-Rod] deal gets done, then we’ll know it’s over,” one industry source said yesterday. “But if it doesn’t get done, how will we know it’s done? This has been going on nonstop for a month. A whole industry has developed around this. How will we know that it’s really over?”

Peter Gammons reports how the talks screeched to a halt over the weekend:

According to sources, Rodriguez’s passion for this trade has diminished, both because of his relationship with Hicks and his encounters with Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino.

Rodriguez was reportedly incensed when a Lucchino statement Wednesday not only made reference to Alex and his wife — neither of whom Lucchino has ever met — but also tried to drive a stake between A-Rod and the union, portraying Rodriguez as some union-buster who cared little for his fellow players.

“What happens from here on out will depend on whether John Henry steps forward, and undoes some of the damage rendered by his employee Lucchino,” said one source.

Gammons writes that there is plenty of blame to go around, but is especially critical of Gene Orza and Larry Lucchino:

Rodriguez and Theo Epstein did reach an agreement under which A-Rod would restructure his contract by $28 million. But Gene Orza, still fighting the “30-Year War,” nixed it. Then when Larry Lucchino, another cold-war warrior, blasted Orza and made a statement that separated Rodriguez from his fellow players, it blew up any immediate compromise or the hope that someone rational like Michael Weiner and Rob Manfred could be brought into the equation. It should be said that for one man, Orza, to anoint himself with the god-like authority to establish arbitrary valuations of benefits agreed upon by a player and general manager reeks of the height of arrogance. But when Lucchino played his Khrushchev routine there was no chance at an immediate compromise.

Complicating things was Hicks’ hopeless leaking of information in Texas, which clearly disgusted Henry, who does his business where it should be done — in private.

As expected, Mike Lupica jumps all over the union too, but Tim Marchman of The New York Sun wrote last Friday that Orza and the MLBPA did the right—if unpopular—thing:

If the deal is good for Rodriguez, why wouldn’t the union approve it? Because it’s not in the interests of players generally. It would set an ugly precedent, and this is probably the union’s primary concern. Any player trying to force a trade—which is quite common, as Curt Schilling or Roger Clemens could tell you—would be told by the team he wanted to join that he they’d need to renegotiate in order to get the deal done. Also, it would depress the player salary scale significantly. Free agent negotiations and salary arbitrations now use Rodriguez’s contract as a comparison point. Lower it, and you lower the potential income of every union member. The MLBPA would be criminally negligent if it didn’t object. If indeed they are willing to approve a $15 million giveback, as ESPN reported, they’re going far out of their way to get this deal done.

Gary Huckabay of Baseball Prospectus doesn’t understand how Texas would benefit from the trade, and defends the union as well:

It’s going to be interesting to see how things actually shake down. This has the potential of being the biggest trade of my lifetime, and it’s both good and bad that money and intrigue have become such a big part of it. I do know two things: 1) from a tactical perspective, I think the OCB played this much better than I expected, and 2) Gene Orza isn’t paid enough.

If this trade doesn’t eventually go down, it could be Rodriguez’s loyalty to the union that ultimately killed the deal. A Rod didn’t allow Larry Lucchino to seduce him into a scenerio where he’d essentially be setting himself apart from the MLBPA. Marchman concludes:

Moreover, [Rodriguez] has made it clear that he will not waive his no-trade clause to allow the deal to go through unless the terms are approved by the union. IF the trade does not go through, Commissioner Selig cannot bring the issue to an arbitrator, as he has reportedly considered doing, and the union will not be exposed to a potentially dmaging decision. In word and action, Rodriguez has shown an awareness of the history of the game—which could be written as a series of attempts by rich men to steal money rightly belonging to the athletes who generate it—that modern ballplayers are so often criticized for lacking.

Rodriguez should be commended for this awareness, the MLBPA should be commended for protecting the right of its members, the Red Sox should be commmended for trying to improve their team, and Commissioner Selig should be commended for trying to get Rodriguez to a city that will appreciate him.

How often can you say all that?

True enough. Although things are looking dark, I won’t believe that the deal is dead until A Rod is suited up in a Rangers uniform on Opening Day, or the Sox sign Garciaparra to an extension. Perhaps I’m being overly reverential of the Red Sox front office, but I wouldn’t count out a last-minute suprise from Saint Nick. Regardless, even if the trade doesn’t occur, the Red Sox have an improved, and mighty impressive team going into 2004 writes Ben Jacobs. I find it hard to disagree with him.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver