This week in baseball

By on February 22, 2001

When I wrote that Alex Rodriguez signed with the Texas Rangers for $252 million, I did not write one sentence more. ARod was a Ranger, and that was the news.
Anyone who wanted to hear about the enormous contract and all the negative implications surrounding it, could watch Jim Rome on TV.
For true baseball fans, money was always just another vice, like agents and astroturf, that got in the way of the game. That being said, and sick as it may sound, good for Derek Jeter.
Last week when Jeter signed with the Yankees for $189 million, he prevented what could have been a new precident for young superstars to sign a decade long contract at over $200 million.
Though certain superstars may be worth that money today, the lesser crop of stars would soon trickle into that 10 year/ $200 million contract range, which would increase the escalating salaries problem even greater.
Jeter is not as good as A-Rod, and the contract he signed, (for what its worth) reflects that fact.
An example of how salaries can increase rapidly is just 10 years ago when Ryne Sandberg signed the largest contract in baseball history for $7.1 million per season.
In 1997, Albert Belle signed for 5 years, $55 million with the White Sox. Just four years later, Darin Dreifort, a young unproven power pitcher from the Dodgers, signed for five years, $50 million.
Thus, the type of contract star players were receiving four years agohas trickled down into players who have great potential to be stars. If history repeats itself, does this mean a player like Dreifort several years from now could be signing half a billion dollar contracts?
Lets hope Jeter’s contract is the start of the reversal of the ARod level contract.
The Yankees also spent more money shortly after the Jeter deal was complete, by resigning closer, Mariano Rivera.
Rivera, the 1999 World Series MVP, is the most dominating and best clutch performing closer since Dennis Eckersley mowed down AL batters 10 years ago in Oakland. Henry Rodriguez, formerly of the Expos and Cubs, also signed with the Yanks.
The Red Sox are experimenting with Scott Hatteberg at firstbase. Though Jason Varitek is the starting catcher, Hatteberg is good enough both offensively and defensively to start for half the Major League clubs.
He has become too valuable to back up Varitek, so with Mike Stanely and Rico Bronga gone, Hatteberg will try to outplay Brain Daubach and Jose Offerman in Fort Meyers this spring.
If Hatteburg wins a spot at first, Daubach will be dropped from the roster. Offerman can also play second, as well as Craig Grebeck and Mike Lansing.
The best example of a back up catcher finding success at first in recent years, is Mike Sweeny of the Royals. He was a back up until 1998.
Over the past two seasons, Sweeny has slugged his way into the top ten in almost every offensive category. The greatest example of all time would be Jimmie Foxx though. Imagine if this 537 homerun hitter was kept a back up to Mickey Cochrane on the Philadelphia Athletics.
Thankfully Connie Mack had enough insight to see Foxx’s potential.


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