Don’t Hate John Lackey, Hate Long-term Contracts

Don’t Hate John Lackey

Hate Long-term Contracts


Some baseball fans argue that free agency has ruined the sport.

Since the 1970s, players have been granted increasingly greater freedom to leave their team and sign with whoever is willing to offer the most money.

I absolutely understand why people (particularly Kansas City Royals fans) don’t like free agency. The most insidious problem with 21st Century Major League Baseball isn’t free agent contracts, though – it’s LONG-TERM contracts.

It used to be that a free agent would look for a team that could offer him the most money. Now he is looking for the most years.

Early in the 2000s, a handful of clever sports agents convinced a few myopic team owners to sign their clients to five, six, and even seven year contracts. Now, each off-season, the most coveted free agents demand outrageous long-term deals.

Two years for $50 million is no longer acceptable. Seven years, $142 million – THAT’s the prize. And, invariably, some desperate franchise will give in and mortgage its future to land the hottest free agent of the moment.

A long, lucrative contract is a big score for the agent who sets up the deal. The agent’s 10% cut allows him to build a nicer Jacuzzi for his guest house. But these contracts are bad for everyone else involved.

First, there is the simple fact that long-term job security saps a man’s motivation to work hard and achieve excellence.

I am a good employee; I have a strong work ethic and I take pride in my job. But it would still be foolish for my boss to offer me a steady salary and 100% job security for the next seven years. Frankly, I’d probably slack off a little bit. I’m only human.

The uglier unintended consequence of long-term contracts is that it turns heroes into villains.

Red Sox fans: you loathe John Lackey. You want him to get the heck out of Boston and take his 6.41ERA and his sour attitude and his clubhouse beer bashes with him.

And you know what? I’ll bet Lackey wants the same thing! I’m sure he’d rather get a fresh start in a new city where he doesn’t get booed every night. But his 5 year, $85 million contract ensures that Lackey isn’t going anywhere.

That ridiculous contract transformed John Lackey from a Los Angeles Angel into a New England devil. Long-term contracts turn ballplayers into bums faster than a positive steroid test.

Joe Mauer should be the most beloved athlete in his native Minnesota. Instead, Twins fans see him as the $184 million has-been who will be sucking the financial life out of the franchise until 2018.

I want to remember Alex Rodriguez fondly for leading my New York Yankees to victory in 2009. Instead, all I can think about is how disgusting it will be to watch old A-Rod get $20 million to limp around the bases at age 41.

I love Major League Baseball. I don’t think we need shorter games and I can live without instant replay. But I wish there was some way to get rid of these awful long-term contracts.