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Mets have their hands full with K-Rod

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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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Well, the Mets are going after Francisco Rodriguez but good. Whether they succeed is another matter entirely.

The Mets announced Tuesday that they were placing Rodriguez on the disqualified list Tuesday and exercising their rights to convert his contract to a non-guaranteed deal.

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Rodriguez will not be paid or accrue service time during his time on the disqualified list. But rest assured, this is not over. Not even close.

The players’ union will challenge the Mets’ maneuvers, saying K-Rod did not violate the terms of his employment when he punched his girlfriend’s father and suffered a season-ending thumb injury.

Everyone knows how these things usually turn out.

The players’ union rarely loses in such matters.

Indeed, the Mets already might have gone too far, basing their argument on the allegation of an assault rather than an actual guilty plea or conviction.

“They will be far better off relying on a conviction than a fight,” one agent said Tuesday night. “A fight may have many reasons, many defenses, many excuses and many witnesses who do not remember as well as they should.

“If the Mets try to convert on the fight or try to release him because of the fight, they will LOSE.”

Yet, it appears that is exactly what the Mets are doing.

Their attempt to convert Rodriguez’s contract to a non-guaranteed deal is the same course the Yankees pursued when Aaron Boone injured his left knee playing basketball in 2004.

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Boone violated the guaranteed language in his contract, which prohibited basketball. The Yankees converted his one-year, $5.75 million contract to non-guaranteed, then released Boone and paid him 30 days of termination pay.

The Mets surely would love to do the same with Rodriguez’s $11.5 million salary in 2011 and $3.5 million buyout or $17.5 million club option in ’12. But as the agent said, their case would be stronger if Rodriguez pleaded guilty or was convicted.

Their splashy, bold act Tuesday reeks of a public-relations effort — no surprise, considering that the New York media trashed the Mets for suspending K-Rod for only two days after his alleged incident.

A guilty plea or conviction, on the other hand, could be viewed as a clear violation of Rodriguez’s contract. Yet, the Mets could be stuck with K-Rod even if they converted the rest of his deal to non-guaranteed.

At that point, Rodriguez would be like any player on a non-guaranteed contract through arbitration. He would go to spring training and likely make the team. Once he appeared on the Opening Day roster, his deal again would be guaranteed.

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The Mets could attempt to release K-Rod, the way the Yankees did with Boone. The difference is that Boone’s injury prevented him from playing in 2004. If K-Rod was healthy, the union would challenge the validity of his release.

Then we’re talking, potentially, about the Mets’ worst nightmare: K-Rod fulfilling the conditions that would guarantee his $17.5 million option for 2012 by finishing 55 games in ‘11 and getting a clean bill of health at the end of that season.

Frankly, Rodriguez stands a better chance of meeting those terms than the Mets do of wiggling out of his contract.

Make no mistake, the Mets have to try; they at least are showing a pulse, not to mention a proper sense of outrage.

But chances are, their newfound tough-guy act will prove an exercise in futility.

The battle is just beginning.
 

Tagged: Angels, Mets, Francisco Rodriguez

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