Pudge Rodriguez is making history again. But according to friends who have spoken with him recently, he didn't want to make this kind of history.
Pudge, the reigning NLCS MVP, is one of 101 official LCS or World Series MVPs. Loyal reader David Hallstrom reports that he's only the eighth to change teams the next winter, just the third to willingly sign with a team coming off a losing season and only the second to sign with a last-place team.
But there's a big difference between him and the other MVP to go from penthouse to outhouse. That was Ray Knight, the '86 World Series MVP who went to an Orioles team coming off its first losing season in 19 years. Those Orioles had finished just 16 games under .500. So it's a long elevator ride down from there to the 2003 Tigers.
The Tigers, as if we needed to remind anybody, landed slightly south of that last year -- like around Nicaragua. They were 76 games under. But at one time they were 80 games under .500 -- which would equal how many games below sea level all of Rodriguez's teams finished in his six previous losing seasons combined.
So no wonder he has been telling friends that he's still heartbroken over not re-signing in Florida and that he's taking the Tigers' offer simply because it's the only one out there in the price range he'd set. It's amazing what some guys will give up for money -- such as happiness.
Here's the complete list of postseason MVPs to change teams the following winter:
1986 WS MVP Ray Knight signed with Baltimore (73-89, last place).
1991 WS MVP Jack Morris signed with Toronto (91-71, 1st).
1996 WS MVP John Wetteland signed with Texas (90-72, 1st).
1997 ALCS MVP Marquis Grissom traded to Milwaukee NL (78-83, 3rd).
1998 ALCS MVP David Wells traded to Toronto (88-74, 3rd).
1995 NLCS MVP Mike Devereaux signed with Baltimore (71-73, 3rd).
2000 NLCS MVP 2000 Mike Hampton signed agent with Colorado (82-80, 4th).
Meanwhile, an official of a club which, at one point, had some interest in Rodriguez says he believes Pudge actually made an attempt to feel out the union on the legality of a rumor we reported in the last Rumblings -- that he might sign with an unspecified team and then have that team trade him back to Florida.
That seems to violate the intent of the rule barring the Marlins from re-signing him before May 1. But the scuttlebutt was that, as long as the Marlins didn't negotiate with Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras before May 1 (the other team would) and Rodriguez then waived the clause prohibiting him from being traded before June 15, it might fly if nobody complained.
But as one baseball man with longtime involvement in Basic Agreement principles puts it, "I can't imagine that happening with this prominent a player and somebody not complaining about it."
Boras has tried driving a Hummer through many a potential loophole in the past. But even he didn't risk this one.
One thing that apparently held up an announcement of Rodriguez's Detroit contract for a couple of days was a question about the legality of the clause which could void the contract after two years if Rodriguez has lower-back problems.
It's believed the Tigers were concerned enough about a clause that unusual that they took pains to make sure the language was acceptable to both the union and the commissioner's office.
Most contracts with clauses like that are announced as shorter deals, with option years that would vest if the player stays off the disabled list. But Boras clearly wanted to be able to announce this one as a four-year deal, even though, in reality, only two years are guaranteed.
Legal or not, however, some agents aren't happy about the inclusion of any clause that could void a contract of this magnitude. For one thing, Rodriguez had no back issues whatsoever last season. For a second, they worry that this might actually be the opposite of an incentive clause -- it's a potential disincentive clause.
If Rodriguez feels any type of back twinge under this sort of arrangement, is it in his best interests to serve his team by playing with pain -- or to sit out a few days to make sure his contract isn't voided? Fascinating question.