Spring Training 2001: Show Me the Money!

By John A. Poole
Updated: November 20, 2007

GLEN BURNIE, MARYLAND — The first week of baseball’s spring training is underway and, as expected, the controversy this year has surrounded the off-season, free agent signings of Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Mike Hampton. These three contracts are three of the most lucrative deals ever negotiated in the history of sports with Rodriguez leading the charge with his $252 million deal over 10 years.

“If someone …[had} told me I’d be making this much money, I wouldn’t have believed [him],” Rodriguez said during a press conference earlier this year. He has also been quoted as saying that he does not think anyone is worth this much money. A-Rod, as he is known around the baseball community, is considered to be one of the top 3 all-around baseball players in the league, along with Ken Griffey, Jr. and A-Rod’s new teammate, Ivan (pronounced Ee-vahn) Rodriguez (No, they’re not related).

While A-Rod has been making headlines because of his contract signing, there were several others who made headlines because of the contracts they wanted to sign. The two most notable players on this list are Gary Sheffield of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Frank Thomas (“The Big Hurt”) of the Chicago White Sox.

Sheffield wants to restructure his contract and also extend it so that he stays a Dodger for the remainder of his career and if this deal can’t be accomplished, the slugger wishes to be traded to the New York Mets, the Yankees, or the Atlanta Braves.

Thomas, on the other hand, wants more money. He is not satisfied with his $9.9 million contract or the structure of it. If Thomas fails to become an All-Star, win the Silver Slugger Award, or finish in the top 10 in MVP votes this year, he could potentially make $250,000 for his base salary, which is a far cry from the $9.9 million he should be getting. Because of his bickering with upper management, Thomas came to camp on the very last day in which players are allowed to report before they are considered to be late for training camp. He also lost his agents, Scott Sanderson and Mike Moye, with whom he had just joined at the end of last year’s season.

The fiasco with Thomas and Sheffield has caused many of the players to voice their opinions more this year than ever before. Boston Red Sox’s pitcher Pedro Martinez spoke very candidly with ESPN and did not pull any punches. Without using Thomas’ or Sheffield’s names directly, he told players to stop whining about their contracts. “It (the contract) was good enough when you signed it…so live up to your word,” he was quoted as saying. Martinez has never been one to hold back what he feels. After a game last year, when he intentionally threw at a batter who immediately charged the mound in retaliation thereby causing a huge brawl on the middle of the field, Martinez was quoted as saying, “Don’t cry…there’s no crying in baseball!”, a quote taken from the Tom Hanks baseball movie, A League of their Own.

Although Thomas has reported to camp and has supposedly ironed out his differences with regard to his contract, Sheffield still is not satisfied. “It’s a matter of feeling comfortable,” Sheffield told reporters. Sheffield has made many enemies since the beginning of this dispute, which was evident during his first game of the spring training season against the Baltimore Orioles when Sheffield was booed as he came to the plate for the first time.

In other news around spring training, Roger Clemens, now 38 years old, looks to be on top of his game early. Clemens pitched 2 innings of no-hit ball with 4 strikeouts over the 2-inning span. Clemens, who finished 2nd to Pedro Martinez in the Cy Young voting last year, is going after his 6th Cy Young Award with the New York Yankees. Clemens is scheduled to start the opening day game on April 2nd at Yankee Stadium against the Kansas City Royals.

Hoping to redeem himself from a personal sub-par season of 40 home runs, 120 rbi’s and a .270 batting avg., Ken Griffey, Jr. blasted a home run in his first spring training at bat against the Milwaukee Brewers. Since the home run, he has had one hit, which was a single, with 2 runs batted in.

Mark McGwire, trying to stay away from the hoopla of contract negotiations, signed a 2-year contract extension worth $30 million. McGwire , who has recently spoken out against players and their negotiations during this spring training, negotiated the deal himself and it took no more than 25 minutes to close the deal. “I’m not out here trying to set precedents. I’m just doing what I think is right,” said McGwire during a pre-season press conference. After signing the contract, McGwire went 0-2 in an intra-squad game, which included a double play and a fly out.

The Boston Red Sox’s efforts to compete with the New York Yankees as the American League’s top team took a hit on Wednesday, as their best player and two-time AL batting champion, Nomar Garciaparra, re-injured his right wrist. The injury looks to sideline the ailing superstar for at least the first two weeks of March and is the same injury that kept Nomar out of a playoff game last year.

The Colorado Rockies may have just made the correct move in making Mike Hampton the highest paid pitcher in baseball ($121 million over 8 years). On Sunday, Hampton threw 3 perfect innings, which included 26 strikes out of 37 total pitches during a game that ended in a 2-2 tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Baltimore Orioles may be without their star right fielder for a significant amount of time. Albert Belle, who has been bothered by an ailing right hip, has yet to play during this spring training and may have to miss the entire pre-season and part of the regular season if it does not get any better. Belle hopes to be in the lineup by Monday, March 5th, but Mike Hargrove, head coach of the Orioles, is more apprehensive about getting Belle back. “If it comes down to [the reality that] Albert can’t play, then we’ll have someone ready,” said Hargrove. Belle sustained the injury last year and was unable to be very productive towards the end of last year when he ended up sitting out of the lineup for most of August and September.

That is all for now — but please check back for another update from Spring Training 2001.