Let’s talk today about money, big money, the kind of money teams pay high profile players in this era of free agency.
Sometimes, that big money can lead to buyer’s remorse.
And sometimes, that big money can evaporate in a slip of the lip, when a player’s eye tooth gets in the way of his wisdom teeth and he can’t see what he is saying.
Our specimens for examination are Odell Beckham Jr., arguably the best wide receiver in the National Concussion League, and Manny Machado, perhaps the best infielder in baseball’s upcoming free agent class.
They are in much different places today because Beckham has his money and Machado may have cost himself a nice chunk of his.
Beckham’s bosses, owners of the fabulously successful New York Giants, agreed to a $95 million contract extension during training camp when the player, once a wild thing, was behaving like Little Goody Two Shoes. There was no carrying-on, no asking kicking nets to marry him, no R-rated antics in the end zone.
After he got his money, Beckham made a bit of a U-turn. In an ESPN interview, he took a shot at quarterback Eli Manning, wondering if the two-time Super Bowl MVP, was equipped to help the Giants out of their 1-5 start and another shot at new coach Pat Shurmur. This is not advisable for clubhouse unity. Beckham was supported by rocker Lil’ Wayne who, for some unexplainable reason, sat next to the player during the interview.
John Mara, who signs Beckham’s paychecks, was not amused and let the player and the rest of the world know it. Is he sorry he didn’t think it over a bit longer before paying the big bucks to his player? Probably.
Mara suggested Beckham concentrate more on running pass patterns and less on helping coach the team and promised to talk over the issue with the diva wide receiver.
Then there’s the case of Machado, a lightning rod free agent to-be shortstop, who has a fistful of teams waiting to throw money at him after he batted .297 with 37 home runs for Baltimore and the Los Angeles Dodgers this season.
Right in front of the line are the New York Yankees, who just happen to need a shortstop now that Didi Gregorius is walking around with his arm in a sling following Tommy John surgery,
The problem is Machado keeps getting into hot water. He has ignited his share of brawls and was in the middle of a couple of controversies during the playoff series between the Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers. There was a couple of hard takeout slides at second base, one of them ruled as interference, and that was before he stepped on a first baseman’s foot crossing the bag, maybe deliberately, maybe not.
Perhaps the most troubling episode however, came when he confessed in an interview that he often doesn’t hustle, choosing to jog instead of running hard.
Hustling is the easiest part of baseball. Throwing 100-mph pitches or hitting 500-foot home runs is tough. Hustling just involves effort. It is what is expected of players but Machado says he can’t be bothered.
Well maybe teams like the very rich Yankees need to consider that before they make the effort to sign him to a fancy contract. They don’t want to have buyer’s remorse. Just ask John Mara.