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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Maggs Postmortem
by Hal Vickery

The Sox officially said goodbye to Magglio Ordoñez last week, and the response of Sox fans to his long-expected departure was exactly as expected. The pro-Chairman forces said good riddance to the greedy millionaire player while the anti-Chairman forces blamed The Chairman for being the reincarnation of Ebenezer Scrooge.

The Maggs-Is-Greedy crowd cited the fact that last spring Magglio turned down a “very generous” offer from The Chairman that would have set him up for life. They also cite the fact that a few weeks ago Ordoñez hired Scott Boras as his new agent as additional proof that when push came to shove, Maggs was only in it for the money.

Meanwhile the Chairman-Is-Greedy crowd cited the fact that much of the money offered to Magglio was to be deferred and that the contract the Sox offered was loaded with incentive clauses. They also note that the Sox began preparing the fans for Magglio’s departure even before last season started with little hints being dropped to the media that Magglio was asking far more than the Sox could afford.

So who is right in all of this? The answer isn’t satisfying at all because it is “everyone and no one.”

Look at it this way. A ball player of the quality of Magglio Ordoñez probably has at best ten years in which to make as much money as he possibly can. So Magglio to some eyes was being greedy when he was asking for Vlad Guerrero dollars. However, if you look at it from his perspective, he was simply trying to do the best he could to make as much money from his chosen profession as possible.

Have no doubt about it. Major League Baseball is a business, and it still involves an inherent conflict between labor, which wants to make as much money as possible, and management, which wants to make as much money as possible.

Magglio wanted Guerrero money because in his eyes he was worth that kind of salary. The White Sox didn’t want to commit that kind of money for five years unless they had some kind of out, be it deferred money to minimize the impact of the salary or incentives to only pay for what the employee actually earned.

Of course no one but Magglio, Scott Boras, The Chairman, and Kenny Williams (and maybe a few of their aides) know exactly what Ordoñez was offered. And somehow I have a suspicion that perhaps neither side is being completely forthcoming about what was offered.

Complicating the issue was the knee injury that Ordoñez received last season. No one seems to know exactly why Ordoñez went to Vienna to have a second surgery performed on his. In fact no one except Magglio’s doctors seems to know exactly what his injury was. We’ve heard “bone marrow edema” from the Sox but “bone bruise” from Magglio’s camp.

It didn’t help Ordoñez in the eyes of the fans when a workout that was scheduled this weekend for potential suitors was cancelled because Scott Boras claimed he wanted to avoid a “media circus.”

Magglio further hurt his cause by accusing the Sox of being interested only in money and not in winning championships. This played right into the hands of the anti-Chairman forces, though. They’ve been saying that for years. It doesn’t help that the Sox haven’t appeared in a World Series since 1959 and haven’t advanced beyond the first round of playoffs since The Chairman’s group took over the team in 1981.

After looking at this fiasco as the media have dutifully reported it, one can only conclude that the entire affair is a public relations disaster for both sides. While many can sympathize with Ordoñez trying to make as much money as he can in the time he has remaining, it’s hard to sympathize with any client of Scott Boras, especially when Boras was hired after a career-threatening injury.

It’s hard to sympathize with a player who cancels a workout after that injury because it looks mighty suspicious. In fact to put it bluntly, such actions could easily lead even not-so-cynical observers to feel that Ordoñez has something to hide. The fact that Ordoñez would not let Sox doctors examine him before the arbitration deadline just heightens those suspicions.

On the other hand, you can’t give the Sox much credit here either. Once again they lucked out. Last year, even before he was injured, we were hearing rumblings of 2004 possibly being Magglio’s last season with the Sox. When he went down a second time and was announced to be out for the season, the media noted that Ordoñez had likely played his last game in a Sox uniform.

Those kinds of comments can only say one thing: there were rumblings coming out of the Sox organization, even before the injury, that the Sox would not be offering Ordoñez a new contract.

Had there been no injury, the scenario probably would have played out much like that of Robin Ventura: protestations on the part of the Sox that the player was asking more than they could afford, followed by a lowball offer when the player appeared on the verge of signing with somebody else, just to prove that the player was greedy.

We’ve seen it before, and it seems that the Sox only have one script: “The player is greedy, and we’re trying to be fair, but we can only go so far.”

No one is completely innocent in this mess, and no one is completely guilty. There is enough guilt for both sides, and both sides have a claim to have been wronged.

The real problem is that this whole thing is a sideshow, and that while this has been going on, it has masked the fact that the Sox have done absolutely nothing to improve the club for the 2005 season. And you can’t place any of the blame on a player for that.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

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