Maybe you missed it, what with the indictment of Barry Bonds, the return of Stephen Jackson to the Warriors lineup and your turkey-fueled narcolepsy, but the saga of Alex Rodriguez has turned into the feel-good hit of the hot stove league.
First, on the advice of agent Scott Boras, he opted out of his contract with the New York Yankees, establishing himself as the biggest swinging stick on the free agent market. Then he sat back and awaited offers from at least one of the half-dozen organizations with a budget large enough to bid for his services: the Boston Red Sox, the Los Angeles Angels, the Chicago Cubs, Google, NASA and the People's Republic of China.
Then came the sound of crickets and tumbling tumbleweeds. And then: A-Rod ditching Boras and huddling privately with George Steinbrenner's offspring to ask if he could have his old room back.
Those negotiations are ongoing, though it appears he's going to get it, along with a 10-year contract in the neighborhood of $27.5 million per. Nice neighborhood, by the way -- has a Starbucks and everything.
This story, however, isn't so much about what A-Rod and Boras stand to gain. It's about the face they already have lost.
But before we get to that, let's pause to luxuriate in the moment. Isn't this enjoyable? And isn't it interesting that we find this so enjoyable?
After all, it's not as if we have a personal stake in how much money A-Rod makes. The contract he famously terminated during Boston's World Series-clinching victory had three years and $81 million remaining. The one Boras (reportedly) expected him to fetch on the open market was worth a minimum of $350 million. Now Rodriguez (reportedly) is back in the $275-million-for-10-years range.
Does any of the above affect the price of Two Buck Chuck where you live? Let us help you with that: No, it does not. It doesn't even affect the price of a ticket; that always has been based on what a team owner believes fans will pay.
It's not as if, should A-Rod choose to play for half what the Yankees are offering, the other 50 percent of the money would go to charity. It would stay in the Steinbrenner family vault. The Yankees, meanwhile, could pay A-Rod with a 60-foot, 6-inch stack of Honus Wagner baseball cards and still make payroll. Money is no object, and so money should be no object. And yet we can't help delighting when a player gets less than he thought he was due.
Maybe it's because of the way some of them act. Rodriguez has long been known for subtly putting his personal agenda ahead of whatever team he happened to be on. He doesn't even talk a good game -- his attempts at humility and deference come off as ghost written at best, gratuitously insincere at worst. It doesn't help that he has aligned himself with Boras. Together they give blood-sucking avarice a bad name.
Seven years ago, they famously pinched Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks to the tune of $252 million, then disingenuously passed it off as an I-wanna-win-a-World-Series decision. Four years ago they paraded themselves around baseball with the Rangers' blessing. The trade to the Yankees included a $21 million subsidy from Hicks, so anxious to be rid of A-Rod that he underwrote the deal.
It has been reported that A-Rod may give the Yankees a $21 million discount to offset the stipend he cost them when he opted out of the original contract. We'll see about that. The mere possibility is delicious enough -- a guy celebrating his third MVP award by having to leave the equivalent of three nine-passenger Learjets on the table.
Boras, meanwhile, has now been left at the altar twice in one month. Pitcher Kenny Rogers recently told him to take a hike while he attempted to personally negotiate a new deal with the Detroit Tigers.
As far as the IRS is concerned, there are no losers here. Boras, it has been estimated, will gross $14 million from A-Rod's new deal. A-Rod will wind up with the biggest contract in pro sports history. The Yankees remain on track to open their new stadium -- the House that Ruthlessness Built -- in time for the 2009 season.
Feel free, however, to enjoy the incongruous sight of two men with $150 haircuts and $500 cufflinks dusting themselves off at the foot of the stairs. Next to the inside-the-park home run, it's the most exciting play in baseball.
Contact Gary Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.