WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO DERAIL THE A-ROD TRADE?
After being kept in the dark for days, we can now finally conclude that A-Rod will not be traded to Boston ... at least not now. So, why did the deal fall apart? With apologies to O. Henry, the Writers' Bloc's Jim Caple explains why the A-Rod saga was a lot like the classic tale, "The Gift of the Magi."
The Gift of the A-Rod
One-hundred and seventy-nine million dollars. That was what still remained on Alex Rodriguez's contract. And $136 million of it was to be paid in the new $20 bills, the ones with Peter Gammons' picture on them. Millions and millions of $20 bills to be paid out annually, an average of 1.25 million twenties each year, until Tom Hicks' bank account bled crimson.
Three times Scott Boras counted the figures. He also had those accountants from Enron and WorldCom count, and their total came out differently each time, but that didn't change the arithmetic. His client was owed $179 million dollars and no one -- certainly not Hicks -- wanted to pay it. And the next day was Bud Selig's trade deadline.
As the minutes ticked away, there was nothing for Boras to do but flop on the couch and howl and blame the union.
Now, A-Rod was the highest-paid player in baseball and the recent recipient of his league's MVP award but there remained one thing he still coveted. He wanted to be traded to the Boston Red Sox so that he could play shortstop for an annual contender in historic Fenway Park. Unfortunately, there were a few obstacles to obtaining this laudable desire. One, the Red Sox already had a great shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra. Two, A-Rod was under contract to the Rangers (although as A-Rod pointed out, he had honored almost a third of the deal, which is all anyone could really expect). And three, A-Rod's salary was so mind-bogglingly high that no one, not even the Red Sox, wanted any part of it.
Clearly, there was nothing that could be done for it, nothing at all. And yet, Boras was A-Rod's agent and as long as he remained so, he would receive four percent of that $179 million, or more than $1 million per year. No matter what, he simply had to arrange the trade.
Boras glanced at the antique gold pocket watch that had been extracted from George Steinbrenner as part of Brien Taylor's signing bonus -- the pitcher gave it to him because it hurt to pull it from his pocket after his arm blew out. The watch was one of the two possessions in which Boras took mighty pride -- the other was his hair. If Rickey Henderson had been the precious watch's owner, he would have attached it to a platinum chain and worn it around his neck.
And at that moment, the watch said 1:32 p.m. Less than four hours remained until the commissioner's deadline. He had to work fast.
Boras instructed his secretary to get Hicks, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino and players association VP Gene Orza into the conference room. At roughly 5:30 p.m., the last of the group arrived to resume negotiations for the grandest and most expensive shortstop in the land.
"Will you trade for A-Rod?" Boras asked of the Red Sox.
"We trade in shortstops," Lucchino said. "We have a problem with my current one -- he won't talk to the press or our suites holders -- and we would love to trade for yours. What is the Rangers' price?"
"Manny Ramirez,'' Hicks replied. "And some players to be named."
"That sounds fair," Lucchino replied. "But there must also be some financial restructuring if we are to take on such a contract."
The restructuring was substantial, but Boras was desperate. A-Rod demanded that he get the trade done and the deadline was only minutes away. If the deal wasn't finalized soon, the entire trade would fall apart. He swallowed and accepted the proposal.
"Naturally, any contract restructuring must be approved by the union," Orza piped in. "While we cannot allow you to devalue the contract's overall worth, we could approve certain non-financial remunerations that would compensate."
"What did you have in mind?" Boras said, watching the second hand sweep around the face of his watch.
"Well, I have this exquisite platinum fob chain, and I couldn't help but notice that's a fine pocket watch you have," Orza said. "With a watch of that beauty, I could possibly be too busy fastening it on my chain to notice any contract restructuring you parties might work out."
Give up his prized watch? Such an appalling thought -- he would just as soon lower his commission. But what choice did Boras have? A-Rod, his most lucrative client, wanted to play for the Red Sox and this was the only way it could be arranged.
Slowly, Boras extended the watch with a shaking hand.
"Oh, and there's just one more thing, Scott," Lucchino said. "As a show of support to the Red Sox cause, are you willing to Cowboy Up by shaving your head?"
Boras was almost intoxicated with joy during the drive to A-Rod's mansion. The trade had cost him dearly, but the crucial point was that he had completed it. He, the greatest of all agents, had performed the impossible. He had arranged the trade that everyone else said could not be completed because it was too expensive and too complicated and didn't make a lick of sense to any of the teams involved. But he had done it! Even during a payroll crunch -- a virtual recession in salaries if not out and out collusion -- he had pulled off the trade of the century! Take that, Arn Tellem!
The agent sang "Joy to the World" softly as he pulled his Mercedes up the winding drive to A-Rod's main entrance.
When the butler opened the door, A-Rod stood inside, staring at Boras with an expression that was not joy or anxiety or anger or surprise but genuine horror. "I thought you were going to meet me here at 5:30 so we could go over my impromptu remarks regarding the failed trade," he snarled.
"Alex, don't look at me that way," Boras said. "I'm late because I gave away my watch and didn't know what time it was. And I had to go home and get a hat first because I also had my hair cut off. And I did all of this because I couldn't live through Christmas without giving you a present. I'll get another watch and my hair will grow out again ... you'll see.
"And what a beautiful gift I got for you. I got you traded to the Red Sox!"
"You cut your hair and gave away your watch to get me traded to the Red Sox?" A-Rod said, laboriously, as if he had not quite gotten hold of this fact even after considerable mental labor.
"Yes. Orza took the watch and Theo shaved me bald," said Boras. "And I did it all for you. Now, let's celebrate! What's that lovely wife of yours cooked up this Christmas?"
A-Rod finally emerged from his trace-like state. "What's for dinner?" he shouted, "Eat this!'"
He drew a TV remote from his pocket and clicked onto SportsCenter, where Jayson Stark was delivering the details of the trade.
"But what's wrong Alex?" Boras said. "That's the trade I was telling you about. You're what you always wanted to be -- you're the Red Sox shortstop for the next seven years!"
"Don't you see what you've done?" A-Rod cried. "You traded me to the Red Sox but the price was too high! You re-structured my contract so that I don't get paid another cent until I'm 72 years old. And to get me, the Red Sox had to trade away Manny and Nomar, plus Pedro, Jason Varitek, Bill Mueller, Derek Lowe, Tim Wakefield, Todd Walker, David Ortiz and Trot Nixon as the players to be named later. The only player left is Kevin Millar, and that means I'll have to watch his karaoke video every night.
"You traded me to a team that's going to be even worse than the Rangers. I'm going to spend the rest of my career in last place. Your damn Christmas gift is useless to me!"
Boras looked at the screen, almost too stunned to speak. But that had never stopped him. "But I did it all for you, Alex," Boras said. "I just wanted to give my favorite client what he wanted most."
A-Rod tumbled onto the couch and put his hands behind his head and smiled mischievously.
"You don't have to worry about pleasing me," A-Rod said, pausing to let Boras relax before delivering the hammer blow. "You don't have to worry about pleasing me because you're fired. Now get the hell out of here before I sic the Dobermans on you."