Guaranteed contracts are something to which few of us will become intimately familiar, damn it. They have ramifications we never encounter in the normal workforce. Let’s examine a few of them today.
It would be nice, if somewhat demeaning, to have someone to pay you not to work for them. Nice, in that you can hang around the house in your underwear scratching your ass without worrying about your mortgage payment. Demeaning, because your former employer has decided your contribution is such that he would rather pay you not to come in at all than to have your influence around the workplace.
There’s a step even lower than that. What if your workplace “contribution” was of a nature that your employer was willing to pay you to work for a competitor? Hard to imagine, isn’t it? It happened just this week, and all parties are delighted.
Sammy Sosa is the only man ever to hit 60 home runs in a season three times. He has been among the most marketable and beloved faces in baseball since his historic home run chase with Mark McGwire in 1998. His pre-game sprints into right field at Wrigley have inspired Cubs fans for years. Yet this week they traded him to Baltimore for a utility player with promise and two empty uniforms. Even better (worse) the Cubbies agreed to pay about half of Sosa’s salary, which was what made the deal palatable to the Orioles.
This was a deal born of last-minute desperation. Sosa had been available for a song ever since his largely undocumented antics became too much for the Cubs to bear (har-har) and he left the ballpark during the last game of the season in the first inning, then lied about it later. (He said he left in the seventh; security cameras proved otherwise.) No one wanted him. No one. The new Washington Nationals had discussions with the Cubs that included the possibility of the Cubs paying all of Sammy’s salary and the Cubs didn’t reject it out of hand.
That would set off warning bells to a lot of people. Not in Birdland. Owner Peter Angelos is still pouting over the Nationals taking away his monopoly, forcing Washington area residents to trek up to Baltimore to watch the Birds lose 90 games again if they want to see major league baseball. Now he’s going to have to at least look like he’s trying to field a competitive team if he wants to draw a crowd. All the free agents worth having spurned the Orioles; Sosa was their last chance to grab a headline.
Angelos appears to be falling into the same “strategy” the New York Mets have used for years to compete with the Evil Empire, er, I mean the Yankees. (Sorry, as a member of Red Sox nation, excuse me World Champion Red Sox Nation, every so often the ghost of Ted Williams reaches out and controls my keyboard. I’ll try not to let that happen again.) The Yankees make the playoffs every year; the Mets were last seen in post-season play in 2000, when the Yankees thumped them in the World Series.
The retirement of Cal Ripken in 2001 pretty much severed any ties I had to the Orioles. I don’t know too much about the new Nationals, since they came from baseball Siberia in Montreal, but I’m willing to be impressed. I’ll be rooting for them to at least win more games than the Orioles this year. Given the O’s ideas of building a team, that might be aiming low.