As many of us have been expecting for months now, CC Sabathia is planning to opt-out of his 7 year, $161 million contract with the Yankees. The backlash from fans has been significant, and can be expected only to get worse as this news is made official after midnight tonight. But this outrage is irrational and entirely undeserved.
As fans, we fall victim to the ideas of team loyalty, and a player’s dedication to remain with one team for his entire career without being “greedy” and worrying about money. But it is not so simple.
From a young age, we all dream of strapping on the Yankees uniform, and playing under the bright lights of the Bronx. We think that players must feel the same way, forgetting the fact that to them, it is a job. To them, this is how they make their livelihood, and because they have such a small window to earn money, a window which any fluke injury could slam shut within seconds, it is understandably their prerogative to squeeze out almost every last penny while they still can.
CC Sabathia may not have been lying when he said he loves it in New York, nor was his agent lying when he said that the two will exhaust all efforts to sign with the Yankees. For all we know, he may not even consider moving away from New York, he simply wishes to add more years and guaranteed money to the four years and $92 million he is currently owed.
Yes; to us, that seems a bit ridiculous. After all, $92 million is a great deal of money. But what if Sabathia’s arm blows out before the four years are up? No team will offer him anywhere close to the type of money he stands to gain currently. Consequently, the decision not to opt out would cost the lefty nearly $50 million.
Take A.J. Burnett for example. Before he signed with the Yankees for five years and $82.5 million, he opted out of the final two years and $24 million contract with the Blue Jays. Let’s say hypothetically that Burnett stayed with the Jays and his career followed the same path. He would have made peanuts following the 2010 season compared to what he is currently making. Not opting out of his current contract would have cost him almost $60 million.
There have also been many comparisons to the A-Rod opt out of 2007, one which even Brian Cashman was peeved at. But there is a difference which makes these two situations incomparable. As part of the deal which brought Rodriguez from Texas, the Rangers agreed to pay about $9 million per year, making him one of the great bargains in the game for the Yankees. (Weird thing to say, I know.) By opting out of the contract rather than trying to work an extension, A-Rod let the Rangers off the hook and cost the Yankees $27 million.
We all get peeved when a player searches for a better opportunity to make money, and we seem to forget about all the hard work that player had given us over the years. Perhaps the easiest way of accepting players’ actions is to equate them to your own.
Let’s say you have a great job which pays $100,000, and for years you have worked your tail off for that great salary. But you feel you could make $150,000 working elsewhere, so you explore your options. This is an acceptable practice, one which no one would berate.
I have made it clear what I think of CC Sabathia as a pitcher. For the past three years, CC has been the definition of an ace. He has been a workhorse, throwing ~250 dominant innings per year with the playoffs taken into account, and last season was his best as a Yankee. He has been worth every penny thus far, so why not give him another market-value contract.
We constantly blame players for the ridiculous amounts of money which they receive, but they are simply taking advantage of a lucrative market. In the end, players are not any more greedy than you or me, they are merely every bit as rational.