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Friday, October 19, 2012

Mike Schmidt: Alex Rodriguez was cursed the moment he signed big-money deal

The Superman Curse continues!

To make a point, two personal stories. After his first couple years as a teenage major league shortstop in Seattle, I met him before a golf event in Fort Lauderdale. I had retired several years earlier, he was just beginning his career, and I sensed a great respect as he addressed me as Mr. Schmidt. It made me feel old, but at the same time, he impressed me with his approach.

Fast forward to the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium in 2008 when he was one homer away from my 548 on the all-time home run chart. We were standing at third base, I was a little uncomfortable not knowing what to say, so I tried to make conversation by mentioning the home run list. He asked me if I was planning on being there to see him match me. It was sort of an aloof response to my question — to ask if I was planning on following him till he tied me was a little presumptuous and a blow to my ego. It came off as the exact opposite of our first meeting. This was 500 home runs and $200 million later in life.

I may be reading too much into these moments, Alex wouldn’t even remember them. He was there to play the game, not carry on a conversation about home run records with me. Just the wrong choice of words in a stressful moment, that can happen.

...Imagine if he had never signed that contract, made a normal amount and never had a brush with performance-enhancing drugs. Imagine if there were no Internet, no Twitter or Facebook, only a couple newspapers and radio shows, and limited television exposure. Would he be today’s Mickey Mantle?

But that’s the reality, and because of it he has his $200 million and the pressure that comes with it. He signed on for this and now he faces challenges few if any ever have. I was never benched, never removed for a pinch hitter. The Phillies believed I was always one swing from changing a game and a series. Apparently, Joe Girardi didn’t feel the same about Alex Rodriguez.

Alex seems to my eye to still be a fundamentally sound and potentially very productive hitter. Staying healthy at 37 is the issue. Age is a funny thing. I seemed to hit a wall in my late 30s. I can’t explain it other than to say fastballs I used to hit a long way ended up on the warning track, nagging injuries increased, I didn’t get to groundballs I used to eat up.

And as this happened, I began to doubt my ability. I had an excuse: I was old, so I retired. It happens to all of us. But in Alex’s case when it does — if it isn’t happening now — it won’t be that easy. He will be making $30 million a year, guaranteed! For that kind of money, you aren’t allowed to get old.

Repoz Posted: October 19, 2012 at 09:11 PM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: yankees

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   1. MC Skat Kat kann es eigentlich kaum erwarten Posted: October 19, 2012 at 09:29 PM (#4277059)
Jesus, he won them a ####### World Series!
   2. Monty Posted: October 19, 2012 at 09:38 PM (#4277074)
We were standing at third base, I was a little uncomfortable not knowing what to say, so I tried to make conversation by mentioning the home run list. He asked me if I was planning on being there to see him match me. It was sort of an aloof response to my question — to ask if I was planning on following him till he tied me was a little presumptuous and a blow to my ego.


Well, he was the one who brought up the lifetime home run list when Alex was one run below him.

I was never benched, never removed for a pinch hitter.


I would not be surprised if that were true, but I would still like somebody to look it up.
   3. McCoy Posted: October 19, 2012 at 09:42 PM (#4277082)
only a couple newspapers and radio shows, and limited television exposure. Would he be today’s Mickey Mantle?

Um, no. If that is all you have you ain't going to be much.
   4. McCoy Posted: October 19, 2012 at 09:51 PM (#4277105)
I was never benched, never removed for a pinch hitter.

Well, I think we would need a few more qualifiers. Schmidt didn't complete every single game he started and had his replacements come up and bat a few times so there is that at least. For instance in Schmidt's rookie season Don Money would replace him in the 8th and then would bat in the Phillies half of the 8th or in the 9th.

But July 8, 1973: Mike Rogodzinski pinch hits for Mike Schmidt (3B) batting 6th
   5. JRVJ Posted: October 19, 2012 at 09:53 PM (#4277107)
That's a very good article by Schmidt. I particularly liked this part:

So many people .... say imagine what you’d make if you played today. My answer is simple and has two parts: I’d be Alex Rodriguez, and I’m glad I’m not.
   6. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: October 19, 2012 at 09:58 PM (#4277118)
I may be reading too much into these moments, Alex wouldn’t even remember them. He was there to play the game, not carry on a conversation about home run records with me. Just the wrong choice of words in a stressful moment, that can happen.


I love this about Schmidt. Rather than rip ARod he acknowledges a more innocuous interpretation of the conversation. Every time I read something from Schmidt I'm impressed with him.
   7. Los Angeles El Hombre de Anaheim Posted: October 19, 2012 at 10:04 PM (#4277125)
Two MVPs, 302 homers, a World Series, 141 OPS+ and $247 million over nine seasons. Were that I could be so cursed.
   8. Tuque Posted: October 19, 2012 at 10:09 PM (#4277139)
Yeah this was actually a pretty honest and reflective examination by Schmidt.
   9. Lassus Posted: October 19, 2012 at 10:21 PM (#4277159)
I hope A-Rod spends the rest of his life rolling around in pools of $100 bills.
   10. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: October 19, 2012 at 11:28 PM (#4277251)
I keep waiting to read the "Hey! Get off my lawn" article from Schmidt and it never comes. Good for him. He's a lot more insightful and in tune with the modern game than I imagined.
   11. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 19, 2012 at 11:58 PM (#4277260)
And as this happened, I began to doubt my ability. I had an excuse: I was old, so I retired. It happens to all of us. But in Alex’s case when it does — if it isn’t happening now — it won’t be that easy. He will be making $30 million a year, guaranteed! For that kind of money, you aren’t allowed to get old.


Well:

1. ARod has never had a stretch as bad as the 172-PA stretch Schmidt had in 1989.

2. Schmidt was making $2+ million per year when he retired, which had to be among the highest paid contracts in the game. I remember in the early 90s Clemens kept pushing the envelope of highest paid player with $5 million.

I remember when I read that Schmidt had retired abruptly during the 1989 season. I was 16 at the time, in the school library and reading the story in the Boston Herald. The story decided to take a dig at Rice instead, with the headline:

"Rice should take the hint from Schmidt and retire."

Granted the point was valid, but...
   12. Walt Davis Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:16 AM (#4277275)
Well, now, ARod signed two big money contracts. That first one didn't seem to curse him at all. But curses are sneaky that way -- you think the curse doesn't exist, you do the same thing again and Whammo!

That original 10-year contract covered ages 25-34:

299/394/577, 150 OPS+, 424 HR, 1130 runs, 1236 RBI, 69 WAR

That was a great contract.

As #1 notes, this was a doubly sneaky curse. Not only did it wait until he opted out and got the new contract, it still bided its time. In the first year, ARod led the league in slugging, put up a 150 OPS+ and amassed 6.5 WAR. In 2009, the regular season was only so-so but he did hit 6 HR in the playoffs and basically demolish everything in sight to help the Yanks win the series that year.

The curse finally started doing its Mariano stretches in 2010 and took its warmup tosses in 2011 and finally starting throwing ARod the cut fastballs of age in 2012. Next year it's going submarine RHP, every pitch at the ankles on his ass.

Fair enough, maybe it was all the "marketing incentives" around breaking records that annoyed the baseball gods. Good on 'em in that case.
   13. Mayor Blomberg Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:28 AM (#4277277)
Highest paid data goes back to 85 on BREF. Schmidt was#1for 2of those years, 2 one year and 3 the other.

His final year, he was the highest paid player IIRC what I read earlier tonight.
   14. madvillain Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:40 AM (#4277280)
Ray is only 39? My mind is blown.
   15. DFA Posted: October 20, 2012 at 04:54 AM (#4277286)
Ray is only 39? My mind is blown


He does have old player skills though...
   16. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: October 20, 2012 at 07:06 AM (#4277289)
I keep waiting to read the "Hey! Get off my lawn" article from Schmidt and it never comes. Good for him. He's a lot more insightful and in tune with the modern game than I imagined.


At this point even if that story does get written I would give it more credence than I would coming from someone else. He's proven that he's not just going to rip guys for the hell of it so when he does I'll consider his position more than I would someone else's.
   17. Answer Guy Posted: October 20, 2012 at 10:32 AM (#4277335)
That original 10-year contract covered ages 25-34:

299/394/577, 150 OPS+, 424 HR, 1130 runs, 1236 RBI, 69 WAR

That was a great contract.


Was it? He certainly performed as well as one could reasonably have hoped under it, and didn't run into many injury problems. But one might also argue that that's the sort of contract whose sheer heft made it tougher to solve the many other problems the franchise who signed it had at the time, and that they never adequately solved those problems while having A-Rod under contract. Only three seasons in, they had to sell him for pennies on the dollar to the one franchise willing to take a contract of that size.
   18. McCoy Posted: October 20, 2012 at 10:41 AM (#4277340)
The Rangers had plenty of money to do other things and did those other things. The problem was that they spent their money on a lot of sucky players. They didn't have to do anything.

If they had kept him for 2004 they likely win the division.
   19. Ron J2 Posted: October 20, 2012 at 10:44 AM (#4277342)
#17 Texas didn't have any problems paying for other players, they just did a bad job of selecting the non ARod players.
   20. Ray (RDP) Posted: October 20, 2012 at 11:03 AM (#4277359)
Was it? He certainly performed as well as one could reasonably have hoped under it, and didn't run into many injury problems. But one might also argue that that's the sort of contract whose sheer heft made it tougher to solve the many other problems the franchise who signed it had at the time, and that they never adequately solved those problems while having A-Rod under contract. Only three seasons in, they had to sell him for pennies on the dollar to the one franchise willing to take a contract of that size.


Here are the breakdowns from 2001-2003 with respect to ARod vs. the rest of the team, in WAR and $$.

2001
ARod: 8 WAR, $22 million
Rest of team: 19 WAR, $90 million

2002
ARod: 9 WAR, $22 million
Rest of team: 20 WAR, $111 million

2003
ARod: 8 WAR, $22 million
Rest of team = 11 WAR, $102 million

Does that about fix it for you? The Rangers had between $90-110 million to spend on non-ARod players in those years, and spent it horribly. In 2003 they spent $31 million on a replacement-level pitching staff.

To look at the above and conclude that ARod's contract prevented them from building a team around him, or that ARod's contract was the problem, is to be seriously misguided.
   21. puck Posted: October 20, 2012 at 12:44 PM (#4277419)
Jesus, he won them a ####### World Series!
As #1 notes, this was a doubly sneaky curse


Every BBTF thread on A-Rod or giant contracts supports Schmidt's notion of how the contract was a curse. People always feel to argue for how good a player A-Rod was.

From TFA:

Alex Rodriguez was cursed. At the time he had no idea, none of us did. That contract changed him and baseball and has been a burden to many. A burden under which he has to play, fans have to watch and baseball has to exist. Alex Rodriguez’s career will never be appreciated.


It's pretty clear that too many people don't see what he's accomplished, they just see the giant dollar signs and his apparent self-absorption.
   22. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: October 20, 2012 at 12:51 PM (#4277422)
In that case, he cursed himself. He knew (or should have known) what he was in for with this town.

And I'm not sure why we're feeling sorry for a guy who will make eight figures the next five years even if he retires right now.
   23. Monty Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:02 PM (#4277430)
Because we're a remarkably empathetic lot?

No, that doesn't sound right...
   24. BDC Posted: October 20, 2012 at 01:05 PM (#4277434)
1973: Mike Rogodzinski pinch hits for Mike Schmidt

That's not the end of his career that Schmidt was implicitly talking about, though. In 1973 he was a rookie, batting .196. In 1989, on his last legs (or last shreds of his shoulder, more precisely), he was only caddied for late in games that weren't close. He was hurt some in his last few years, and missed playing time accordingly, but the larger point is that as long as he was able to get into the lineup and the game was close, his managers really did think he was still their best home-run threat. That's mainly a comment on the feeble power of the 1989 Phillies, of course, but still valid enough.
   25. eddieot Posted: October 20, 2012 at 02:40 PM (#4277496)
Schmidt is an incredibly insightful writer for somebody who you would expect to be a pompous ass. Really refreshing. He writes with the honesty and nuance of Doug Glanville, but he's Mike freaking Schmidt. I love that about him.
   26. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: October 20, 2012 at 02:57 PM (#4277508)
only a couple newspapers and radio shows, and limited television exposure. Would he be today’s Mickey Mantle?

Um, no. If that is all you have you ain't going to be much.


Right. Because Mickey Mantle relied on the internet and constant TV exposure to become famous.

If today still had 1960's level of media coverage, I have no doubt A-Rod (and many other superstars) would be more highly regarded.
   27. BDC Posted: October 20, 2012 at 04:22 PM (#4277551)
Ray's point above about Schmidt's salary led me to wonder about the inevitability of having a big target on your back once you sign the biggest contract in baseball. As far back as B-Ref has data, these were the highest-paid players in the game:

1985 and '87 Schmidt, and he kept delivering, though boos were never far away in Philly
1986 George Foster, who had an exceptionally rough half-year in New York
1988 Ozzie Smith, who could rag on Ozzie Smith?
1989 Orel Hershiser, well-respected
1990 Robin Yount, who had certainly earned it, though he was going into decline
1991 Darryl Strawberry, name used as a derisive chant
1992-94 Bobby Bonilla, isn't somebody still paying him, and there's an annual story #####ing about it?
1995-96 Cecil Fielder, enough Schadenfreude for everybody there in lots of ways
1997 and '99 Albert Belle, darling of the press corps
1998 Gary Sheffield, see "Albert Belle"
2000 Kevin Brown, see Belle and Sheffield
2001-present AROD, though there were two years when another player's current annual salary exceeded his:
2004 Manny Ramirez, see Belle, Brown, and Sheffield
2007 Jason Giambi, almost too easy a target to draw excessive hatred, but reviled enough in his own way

Just eyeballing the list, the Bonilla contract seems to have been a "tipping point." Till then, the perceived good guys outnumber the perceived bad guys among the highest-paid. Yount was the first $3M/yr ballplayer, and just a couple of years later Bonilla doubled that, despite being nowhere near as good as Robin Yount. Very broadly speaking, I'd say that until Bonilla most fans figured that ballplayers had been grossly underpaid forever. Yes, you could boo George Foster for being terrible for his money, but it wasn't the money that people primarily resented, vast as it was. After Bonilla, it was like, nobody could ever possibly be worth that (no matter how much money was pouring into the game to fund those salaries).

   28. McCoy Posted: October 20, 2012 at 04:46 PM (#4277567)
Right. Because Mickey Mantle relied on the internet and constant TV exposure to become famous.

Yeah, it was all word of mouth. Hey, let's have a really stupid argument over how someone becomes famous.
   29. Walt Davis Posted: October 20, 2012 at 05:59 PM (#4277609)
BDC -- well, Strawberry, Belle and Sheffield were "hated" before they signed the big contracts. I'm sure we were chanting "Darr-yl" in Wrigley no later than 1985.

Giambi was only hated by A's fans ... well, everybody hates the Yankees on principle but that wasn't related to Giambi.
   30. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: October 20, 2012 at 06:44 PM (#4277638)
Yeah, it was all word of mouth. Hey, let's have a really stupid argument over how someone becomes famous.


Hey, you took the shot at Schmidt's comment - either because you didn't understand him or you just wanted to snark. Schmidt was really talking about the nature of fame - not whether or not A-Rod is famous. Mickey Mantle's alcoholic, adultering lifestyle would've earn him a legion of critics in the modern media environment. The "All-American Boy" stuff would've been exposed as bullshit in real time.
   31. BDC Posted: October 20, 2012 at 07:29 PM (#4277649)
Good points, Walt. Kevin Brown didn't endear himself in Texas, either :)
   32. phredbird Posted: October 20, 2012 at 07:40 PM (#4277657)
I hope A-Rod spends the rest of his life rolling around in pools of $100 bills.


he could make commercials!

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