Commentary

Rodriguez gets his money, but it came at a price

Updated: November 17, 2007, 6:21 PM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- The "Wizard of Oz" was on TV a couple of nights ago. Dorothy tosses a bucket of water on the Wicked Witch of the West and the green-faced hag melts like a scoop of sherbet dropped in a fry vat.

Weird, since that's exactly what's happening to the public image of Alex Rodriguez and to the mystique of his commission-conscious Doberman, Scott Boras. They got doused with a bucket of baseball reality and now they're melting. Melting! Oh, what a world … what a world!

Isn't it wonderful?

If ever two people deserved very large servings of humility it is Rodriguez and agent Boras. They spectacularly underestimated the blowback caused by their latest series of business miscalculations. The bumbling has further damaged A-Rod's credibility and left welt marks on Boras' carefully crafted persona of invincibility.

Rodriguez is still going to get his millions from the New York Yankees. He's just not going to get as many of those millions as he and Mr. Greed wanted. So it's not as if he'll be clipping Beefaroni coupons from the Sunday paper anytime soon.

As currently reported, A-Rod will likely end up with something in the 10-year, $275 million range. He was the highest-paid pro athlete before this started. He'll be the highest-paid pro athlete after this ends.

But it is that time between the start and the finish that makes this negotiating drama so memorable, as well as so satisfying. It's fun to watch the clueless squirm.

A-Rod can describe the situation any way he wants on his Web site (and by the way, thanks for finally updating the journal from 2006), but the simple truth is that he capitulated. Or in baseball terms, he's Yankee whipped.

What do they say in Texas about people who talk a big game, but can't deliver? "All hat, no cattle.'' That's A-Rod and Boras. They thought the world would be lining up to sign the free-agent third baseman and it didn't happen.

Rodriguez and Boras botched this thing from the very beginning. They alienated Yankees fans with their greed and indifference. They angered the Steinbrenners with their arrogance (and that takes some doing, considering how the Steinbrenners handled the Joe Torre situation). And they created a scenario where absolutely no one would want to root for A-Rod's success. If anything, you rooted for the Yankees, which is like rooting for Lord Voldemort.

But sometimes enough is enough. The Yankees drew their line in the wet cement, and A-Rod and Boras left their footprints as they walked out of the Bronx. But before the cement has even hardened, A-Rod is back professing his supposed love for the pinstripes.

It wasn't long ago -- Game 4 of the World Series, to be exact -- that Boras all but decreed that the opening bidding for A-Rod's services begin at no lower than 10 years, $350 million. One problem: Team Knucklehead didn't notice that nobody was going to pay its asking price. You need two suckers for a bidding war, and this time not even the great Boras could find a pair of takers. So Rodriguez did a negotiating U-turn and steered his way to Tampa and a meeting with the Steinbrenners. And he did it without Boras. Even if he did it with Boras' tacit approval, who cares?

This is an extraordinary admission by an extraordinary baseball player. He screwed up. Give him credit for at least acknowledging his obvious and colossal mistake in judgment. In the immortal words of Rod Tidwell in "Jerry Maguire": "You tell me to eat lima beans, I'll eat lima beans.''

Rodriguez is eating lima beans to get his new deal. He's making nice after making wrong.

But the tag team of A-Rod and Boras has a history of doing things the hard way. Their negotiations with the Seattle Mariners when Rodriguez was selected with the first pick in the 1993 draft were predictably acrimonious (Boras was an "adviser").

Rodriguez's divorce from the Mariners eight years later was no less messy as accusations flew back and forth. He then signed that landmark $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers, talked confidently about winning world championships, and was gone after three seasons. The Rangers couldn't wait to trade him and that contract to the Yankees.

Baseball's best player kills in the regular season, but belly flops in the postseason. The Yankees are 1-4 in playoff series since Rodriguez arrived. He has exactly four home runs and nine RBIs in those 24 postseason games.

In short, the Yankees haven't reached a World Series during his watch. It isn't all A-Rod's fault, but bang for the buck? Not when it comes to ring ceremonies.

Yankees fans haven't forgotten those postseason stats and they won't forget the way he ditched and dissed their team. They can smell a fraud from here to Shea Stadium and the official A-Rod/Boras version of the truth (Rodriguez's decision to bolt was based on the uncertain contract status of Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte) stunk.

Sports management classes will be studying this Boras-orchestrated catastrophe for years to come. Can A-Rod recover from ding-dong, the witch is dead? We'll know soon enough.

It's called Opening Day. Listen for the boos.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. He co-authored Jerome Bettis' autobiography, "The Bus: My Life In and Out of a Helmet," which is available now.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter

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