By: Holly Horning
Ah, Hot Stove season where the baseball world is ablaze with the “will-he-or-won’t-he” rumors. The spin being given to the media is making me positively dizzy.
The free agents say they want to stay with their team. Agents tell the media that their clients want to return to their team. Teams release a statement saying they want to re-sign their player who just became a free agent.
But don’t believe a word of what any of them say. This is actually the opening strains of what I call The Money Dance and it’s meant to create goodwill and enhance earnings. This is an attempt to spin perception as reality.
David Price said he wanted to re-sign with the Tigers. Several weeks later, he also said it about the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays were quoted numerous times professing their desire to retain Price.
In the end, he and the Tigers never had more than one contract extension talk and it was reported that both sides were very far apart. And despite their proclamations, the Jays never even made him an offer.
Ditto for Yoenis Cespedes who professed his deep feelings of admiration for Detroit…… and then for NY in the next breath. The Mets also made the statement that their fans wanted to hear but in the end, they never made an offer to Yoenis. Neither did the Tigers.
Would you be surprised to hear that Joakim Soria has identical tales involving the Tigers and the Pirates? Should we even be surprised?
In addition to these former Tigers, we’ve also seen Zack Greinke go back on his word about the Dodgers and accept a pay package from Arizona allowing him to pay fewer taxes and keep more of his income.
Alex Gordon’s and the Royals’ professed mutual love resulted in Gordon feeling insulted at their offer and walking away. And Chris Davis’ rejected the Orioles’ uncharacteristically generous contract despite his multiple quotes about Baltimore being his “home.”
Only Jason Heyward stood out this year by accepting $16 million less to go with Chicago because he wanted to work under Joe Maddon, play with a younger team and win a World Series ring. And ironically, he got a lot of grief from fans for leaving St. Louis.
Players will never diss a team publicly. They will always come across as positive because it enhances their brand. But more importantly, it increases their marketability. And it all starts by creating a potential relationship that gets that team’s rivals to join in the fun.
The free agents are coached by their representatives to present a positive face, likeable personality and to entice as many teams as possible to join in the bidding game. Afterall, the more teams who become interested, the greater the chance that a bidding war will ensue and drive up the price.
But teams also have their own motives for expressing their desire to re-sign their former players. Even when they don’t have any intention of making that return happen.
Like the players, Front Offices want to present their best possible image. They need to come across as players (“play-yahs”) or contenders. They need to craft the perception the media will report about them. And no one wants to give journalists the impression that they are being cheap or, God forbid, going into a rebuilding mode.
These days, giving the impression that you won’t be contending in the coming year can kill you financially with both players and fans – resulting in players not wanting to sign with your team and the likelihood that there will be a drop in attendance.
But GMs are also playing to the fans. Can you imagine an organization stating they will not seek to re-sign a favorite player? A lack of effort can create ill will among the fan base and the certainty that some fans will vote with their feet – and wallet.
The off-season in particular is a dangerous one fraught with the push to sell season ticket packages. Of course, teams want their fans to be hopeful. Thus, they will promote their desire to sign the best athletes – whether it is sincere or merely an attempt to create the desired perception.
And sometimes, they will make an offer – just not an authentic one. Offers they know will be rejected. Offers they want to be rejected. It gets them off the hook and does minimal damage to the fan base.
If a team is unable to sign that player, whether it be a David Price, Yoenis Cespedes or Zack Greinke, at least the team can say “Oh well, we tried.”
Don’t get me wrong. What everyone did was fine. Baseball is a business and not exempt from the rules that govern all other businesses.
Almost everyone will take the job that offers more pay and greater security. I know I would. And probably you would as well. That’s what good businesspeople do.
But as fans, we need to get over the altruistic idea that the players and teams we love will put us first on the priority list. The athletes are looking for job and financial security. The teams are looking to be fiscally responsible, financially stable and to keep those turnstiles cranking.
It may not be what we want, but it is reality.