Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Stress Relief Tip

The following advice is a practice I began following very early in my sportswriting career, and I think baseball fans will find it especially helpful.

Do not believe a word about free agency until there's a picture of a player signing a contract. Do not even read about it. Don't watch ESPN's baseball shows, and above all, ignore any and all talk radio discussions of the subject.

Every single word that's uttered before two parties sign their names to a multimillion dollar deal is bullshit. Always has been, always will be. The rules governing contract negotiations are distinctly more liberal than those for NFL pass interference. There is a reason auctioneers and used car salesmen (and a baseball free agent is, by rule, a used product) do not enjoy the same reputation as the clergy. There's a reason baseball owners are despised as a class (in person, most of them are very nice), too.

Mark Teixeira will sign with whomever he wants, eventually. Might be the Red Sox, might not be. For the right dough, Scott Boras would sign Teixeira up with Manchester United. There's no sense in having the slightest emotional response to the process by which this decision is being made. Wait until it happens, then freak out, either with happiness or anguish. This saves energy you'll need for cursing traffic on Route One on your way to the Pats game tomorrow.

The question of whether the Sox SHOULD sign Teixeira is a permissable subject of debate, one Boras would prefer nobody, not even fans, discusses. The key moment of a successful con is when the mark takes the initiative and forces his money on the con artist, an economic dialectic Boras has mastered.

My considered judgment is that the Teixeira auction has reached the point where the wise bidder waits for the next item. Look at it this way. The Red Sox have offered him an eight-year deal which is approximately the same amount of money they paid Manny Ramirez from 2001-2008. Does anyone really think Teixeira, who is an excellent hitter, will duplicate Manny's production during those years over the length of that contract?

I sure as hell don't. Hall of Famers are not growth stocks. The idea that an All-Star who's 29 will automatically progress into an immortal by age 35 is the kind of financial optimism that invented the mortgage-backed security.


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