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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Dirty Dealin'?

by Hal Vickery

It looks as if Sox management is up to its old tricks.† Apparently Jerry Reinsdorf doesnít approve of players employing agents and is willing to do whatever it takes to negotiate a deal with players without the nasty inconvenience of an agent being present to represent the best interest of the player involved.†

The latest such accusation was brought to light Saturday in an article in the Chicago Tribune by Teddy Greenstein.† If Roberto Alomar is to be believed, Sox GM Kenny Williams pulled the old ďletís reach an agreement without your agent being aroundĒ scam on him.† †

Greenstein quotes Alomar as saying about Williams, ďHe said: 'What do you think about [an offer for $3 million for a one year deal]?† I said, 'Let me talk to my agent.'† I let my agent take care of my business, that's what you pay your agent for."†

Greenstein then continued, ďAlomar said it was "unprofessional" of Williams to try to pin him down on a contract extension while he was sick and his agent was not present.Ē†

He then quotes Alomarís agent, Jaime Torres as saying, "It doesn't make sense for a player of Robbie's caliber and experience to agree to something without consulting with his attorney. I've represented Robbie for 12 years. He always runs stuff by me."†

It is possible that Torres wasnít aware of the widespread story about how then GM Ron Schueler tried to corral Alex Rodriguez a few years ago, and hustle him into making a deal with the Sox without consulting with his agent, but itís highly unlikely.† Word of that sort of thing makes the rounds pretty fast.†

As further evidence that this is more like company policy rather than an aberration, sources have revealed that these are not the only two incidents in which the Sox have resorted to these tactics.† Just last summer, sources close to a current Sox player told how someone near the top of the Sox organizational used similar underhanded tactics.†

In this case, the Sox approached the family of the player rather than the player himself, suggesting that they all get together, without the player having the benefit of his agent present, of course, to come to a deal.† The family members were very surprised by this and told several people about this.†

Itís tactics like this that give organizations bad names.† Youíd think that Jerry Reinsdorf would have learned his lesson from the fiasco that arose after Michael Jordanís second retirement from the Bulls.† For years afterwards, free agents would come to Chicago to be wined and dined only to sign with other franchises.† Once it was clear that this was happening, reports began to surface that the reason had to do with the Bullsí treatment of their stars from the championship years.†

In particular, those stories centered around Michael Jordan and to a lesser extent, Scotty Pippen.† Both players apparently put out the story that the Bulls were a terrible organization to sign with, and free agents stayed away in droves.

Such stories are not limited to ex-Bulls players however.† A number of free agents have left the Sox organization with nothing good to say about it.† The Sox treatment of Carlton Fisk, releasing him after flying to Cleveland so heíd have to pay his airfare home, is now a classic story of the pettiness of this outfit.†

Imagine what players are saying to each other about the Soxí attempts to do an end-around on their agents!† And imagine the warnings the agents are giving their players about even thinking about negotiating with the Sox.†

Jerry Reinsdorf may think heís a smart cookie, but when it comes to treatment of his players, he is cutting off his nose to spite his face.† The truly odd thing is that the players who seem to get the shoddiest treatment are some of the biggest stars.†

Besides the aforementioned Fisk, there is the case of Frank Thomas.† In retrospect one wonders how anybody could have thought that Reinsdorf had any intention of paying anything near the $40 million dollars that Thomas was to make in his now-vacated contract.† All Thomas had to do was have a poor year, and Reinsdorf could invoke the now-infamous ďdiminished skillsĒ clause.† †

The next thing Thomas knew, he went from making about $12 million in 2002 to just $5 million in 2003 with a new deal from Reinsdorf.† Of course, to Thomas, the settlement he reached in negotiating the new deal looked a lot better than the $375,000 he would have made if he hadnít renegotiated.†

Thereís a strong possibility that Reinsdorf is still playing a game of chicken with Thomas.† We saw the first round of it this fall.† In his current contract, Thomas and the Sox have a mutual option.† Thomas gets the first chance to pick up his own option.† If he doesnít, the Sox can pick it up at a higher salary (as if thatís going to happen).† If neither side renews, Thomas becomes a free agent.†

You could almost hear the collective holding of breath on 35th Street this fall as Thomas was making his decision.† And he made the only one possible if he wants job security.† He renewed at $6 million for 2004.† Was there anybody living who thought that if Thomas didnít invoke his option, the Sox would pick him up for $8 million?†

So as Sox fans dream their hot stove dreams, letís at least be cognizant that the reality of the situation is that itís not just because of a miserly $58-million player budget that is keeping the Sox from signing any top-of-the-line free agents.† And itís not just because King George, the Red Sox, and the Tribune Co. are the only ones paying top-dollar for free agents.†

There is yet another reason that even dropping a nuclear devise on Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, and Wrigley Field wouldnít prevent free agents from ignoring the Sox.† The Sox have a well earned reputation among the players, and itís the same reputation the Bulls have had for several years.†

And until new ownership comes along, itís the kind of reputation that will keep free agents away from the Sox and will have players looking to leave this outfit at the first opportunity.


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.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

Have a Thought about
Dirty Dealin'?

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