View Full Version : Inside the mind of a FA

12-23-2008, 05:29 PM
Not much to this but a few little nuggets of interest, plus it's slow and I've been looking for something different to think about, talk about.

www.DugoutCentral.com (http://www.dugoutcentral.com/blog/?p=2158)

Inside the Mind of a Free Agent
Published by Jimmy Scott on December 23, 2008 11:06 am

Doug Glanville was a free agent after the 2002 season. He was coming off one of his worst seasons but expected, based upon his past history, to get a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract from a team. He waited. And waited. The market never developed. “It was the wrong year to be a free agent,” he said.

Is that what’s happened during this 2008 and soon-to-be 2009 off season? Is this the wrong year to be a free agent? Is more than just our economic climate to blame?

Carsten Charles Sabathia signed a record deal for pitchers. Alan James Burnett and Francisco Rodriguez got very comfortable pacts. Everyone is aware Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez are going to earn a nice allowance next season. Just look at the back of their baseball cards. Lots of big fat numbers to match their big fat paychecks.

But what about this year’s Doug Glanvilles? What about Wily Taveras? What about Ron Villone or Vance Wilson, Jay Payton or Tony Clark? What about these guys who aren’t the top-tier free agents? What about the role player, the bench guy, the 11th man on the pitching staff? What about them? What’s going on inside the mind of the unsigned MLB free agent?

Tom Petty once sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.” He’s right. These guys have been waiting for almost eight weeks to find out about their futures. Believe it or not, they are technically unemployed. Think the Department of Labor includes them in their economic statistics? Probably not. They’ve filed for free agency, not unemployment. Still, there’s got to be a time when they begin to think, as the waiting gets harder and harder, “Maybe this is it for me.”

A professional baseball player is not human. They have been raised since early childhood to be maniacs about competition. To win. To be the best. When you work and work to be the best, there is no room for doubt. You never allow thoughts to creep into your head that you might not have what it takes. You never believe the naysayers who say you’re too small or too slow or don’t hit the right digits on the radar gun. You push and push and never let up.

Until now.

Let’s say you’re Luis Gonzalez. Your salary over the past three years has steadily dropped from $10.6 million to $7 million to $2 million. You’re 41 and coming off one of the worst statistical years in your career. And the bumps and bruises took a little longer to heal. The strains went a little deeper this season. The playing time shrank a little bit more. You didn’t have the bat speed you owned as recently as one year ago; your footwork in the outfield and around the base paths was sluggish, like a wooden spoon in overcooking gravy. Now, as you sit each day, calls to your agent not getting returned as quickly as they used to, what happens? Doubt. Fear.

Maybe it’s over.

Is it? Your agent, when he finally calls you back, says no. It’s the market. The economy is in the tank. Clubs have pulled back a little on the “role guy” spending. Like holiday shoppers, they want bargains. “Luis, I can get you an invite to spring training right now from Pittsburgh. Just say the word and it’s done.

“Or you can wait.”

Pittsburgh? Ballplayers won’t admit it while they’re still in the game, trying to collect a steady and guaranteed paycheck from any one of the 30 teams, but they don’t want to play in places where they’ll get lost; places where they, at best, will be asked to start the season at AAA because “we’re going with youth” and you’re “our insurance policy.”

Does Luis Gonzalez want to be an insurance policy? Does he want to be the guy who “provides additional depth?” Or does he still want to play baseball?

Luis Gonzalez is a smart man. He’s got a future outside of baseball. You ever hear him speak? Put him behind a microphone for your team and listen to how much better your TV or radio play-by-play becomes. Is he thinking of that now? Have the age and the agent and the slower bat let enough doubt creep in to convince Luis that this may be it for him? Only he knows; the only one who can admit if the waiting is making him doubt.

“You take it on your faith. You take it to the heart. The waiting is the hardest part.”

It’s a good thing Tom Petty didn’t play baseball. At his age, he’d be talking about new albums instead of making them.

As for Doug Glanville, he eventually signed a one-year deal with Texas for $1 million. “It was the best deal I could get,” he said.

The more than a hundred guys waiting today? Depending upon the guy, any deal may turn out to be the best deal.

Roy Tucker
12-23-2008, 05:43 PM
Speaking of Doug Glanville, he wrote a very good series of baseball-related articles at the NY Times over this past year...