In the 1970s and again in `80s, I signed that era’s version of the Giancarlo Stanton deal.
I was considered the Giancarlo Stanton of those times. I had led the league in home runs and RBIs a few times, so the Phillies decided I was worthy of becoming the highest-paid player in baseball.
Ruly Carpenter, then owner of the Phillies, sat in front of me in spring training and told me about the responsibility that went along with my acceptance of $550,000 a year for five years. I said I understood. He had to trust my response and use his judgment as to my character and ability to fulfill this both off, and more importantly, on the field.
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Remember, I was a college graduate, 26 years old, married and a pretty good hitter. That was my ticket, as free agency had just been granted to players, and owners were in the first stages of fearing the loss of star players. That deal worked out great for both sides.
After we won the 1980 World Series and I was the MVP, I really got the ”mini”-Stanton deal. Highest salary ever, six years. Funny though, the entire deal was worth one-third of what Stanton will make a year. You bet there was a responsibility clause or two in that contract.
Whether it’s $2 million or $30 million a year, it causes several changes in one’s life, both private and public. Everywhere Stanton goes, he will be looked at as the guy with $325 million. Especially in his own clubhouse, which brings greater performance expectations.
Sure, the Marlins will sell it differently, saying it’s the beginning of a new era, he’s the face of the franchise, his teammates are excited for him, all good.
Now he’ll get to experience batting slumps as the highest-paid player, a totally different feeling. He’ll be at home plate with the bases loaded and strike out to a chorus of boos. He’ll miss a ball in right field and want to crawl in a hole because of what he hears. Work as hard as you want behind the scenes, it doesn’t matter, now you are expected not to fail.
Off the field, he will have choices to make. Undesirable people will find him and want a piece of his financial future. He will be able to buy anything and everything – planes, yachts and expensive automobiles. He will need financial advisers and personal assistants, leading to the usual entourage.
Gratuities will be expected to double. Cell phones will follow him everywhere. Facebook and Twitter will chronicle his every public minute. ESPN and the MLB Network will feature his performance, good and bad nightly.
For someone who likes to stay under the radar, the question becomes: Is it worth it? The answer, of course, is ”hell, yes!”
This contract will carry a major burden along with it, and if history is any indication, these deals make little sense.
We’d all like to believe Jeffrey Loria thought this through thoroughly. But after being out of the news, maybe the Marlins owner figured it was time to buy another show pony.
He got Miami to give him a stadium deal. He signed and made promises to Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle about building a winner and then traded them. He hired Ozzie Guillen to link the team to the Latino population in Miami, and that move became a bust as well.
Does Loria really believe Giancarlo Stanton will be a Marlin for the next 13 years?
If a player in today’s game can command the highest free agent-influenced salary in history, it is Stanton. He is big, strong, fast, a five-tool player and 25 years old. He’s Jose Canseco minus PEDs, plus great defense. He’s not showy, or hung up on himself. In fact, he comes off as a bit shy and reserved, with no sense of entitlement. Very unusual in this generation.
He has the potential to be the best player in the league for many years, a run he started in 2014, but can he stay healthy and hungry, and can the Marlins surround him with winning talent?
Stanton has had three reasonably good seasons in his first five years, by today’s standards. Hit 30-plus home runs three times and drove in 100 once. This past year was great timing, as he was far and away the best offensive player in the National League.
To me, nobody was more valuable to an NL team in 2014 than Stanton, by a long shot.
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher baseball right now. Numbers don’t lie. But there is no way a starting pitcher can be the Most Valuable Player of his league.
Had the Marlins made the postseason, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. It’s not possible for any player in the National League to be more valuable than Stanton.
He plays every day. I repeat, he plays every day, not every fifth day. But enough of that debate for now.
Stanton has tremendous potential, as we all know, but would a more conservative approach by Loria have been a more prudent avenue? Had Stanton delivered another MVP-caliber year in 2015, no one would have questioned making him rich.
Stanton is coming off a nightmare injury for a hitter, being hit in the face. He has been injury-prone over his career, and will be a bigger center of attention for opposing pitchers. If I were an owner and had $325 million to spend on one player, I’d want to be sure he had what it takes to be MVP every year, which means unusual talent, desire, and durability.
Backing up a great year with another great one would convince me. I’d have waited till the end of 2015. After all, for $30 million a year shouldn’t you be MVP a few times at least?
For those who look at this and say ”ridiculous, no athlete is worth $325 million,” understand the guy who realizes that the most is Stanton. He’s just a gifted young athlete doing what he does at the right time in history. Same as me back in the day.
People want to lay blame somewhere for these things. Look in the mirror, fans. You pay these salaries by watching TV, buying jerseys, buying the products advertised by the teams, using social media, parking at stadiums and attending games where you eat, drink and buy memorabilia.
Jeffrey Loria may not be the most popular guy in Miami, but he knows where this $325 million is coming from, and it’s not his savings account. It’s from yours.
So Miami fans, eat drink and be merry and enjoy Giancarlo Stanton for 13 years. You are paying for it.
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt in 1977 became the first player to make more than $500,000 for a season. In December 1981, he signed a six-year deal that was worth a total of nearly $12 million.