Mets’ exit from A-Rod bidding could be a lie

  • LARRY LARUE / The News Tribune
  • Tuesday, November 14, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By LARRY LARUE

The News Tribune

David Segui was lifting weights when the call came in, then spent a few minutes listening to the long list of perks good friend Alex Rodriguez was asking for in his new contract.

A charter jet at his disposal, for friends or family.

More billboards with his face on them than any sports figure in the city.

An office for his own off-field public relations and merchandising staff.

Unlimited use of the team logo and uniform for any personal merchandising.

A separate spring training gift shop that would sell only A-Rod items.

A luxury suite – at home and on the road.

The option to become a free agent after the third and sixth year of a 12-year deal.

“Geez,” free-agent Segui said. “Do I feel stupid! I only asked the Cleveland Indians for two Greyhound bus tickets a year and a hot dog stand in front of Jacobs Field.”

Like most everyone in baseball Tuesday, Segui – like A-Rod, a client of agent Scott Boras – was fascinated by the New York Mets bowing out of the bidding for perhaps the highest-profile free agent in major league history.

A week after telling the media that a team would have to “move heaven and earth” to sign his client, Boras spent much of Tuesday insisting that he’d never even requested such amenities when talking with teams.

The question isn’t whether Boras was stretching the truth – he has, after all, a track record for doing so.

No, this time the issue is whether Rodriguez has made a major misstep that leaves him well short of the image he has long cultivated.

Over the last three years Seattle has devoured myths and legends. Randy Johnson was so angry the Mariners wouldn’t trade him, he said he couldn’t pitch – and often didn’t. By the time he departed, many had trouble buying his warrior image.

And by the time Ken Griffey Jr. was traded last February, the most popular player in franchise history was considered more a selfish child than a future Hall of Famer.

Now this. A-Rod tarnished by the over-the-top requests of an agent who, by the way, was also asking for a 12-year deal that could top out at $24 million a season.

“Inevitably, what Scott asks for is what the player wants,” Segui said. “Scott doesn’t ask for things off the top of his head. He listens to you, fixates on what you want and then does his homework.

“I can see asking for it. There’s no harm in that. Somebody might say ‘OK.’ Do I think Alex’s deal would hinge on all that stuff? No.”

Mets general manager Steve Phillips very publicly disagreed, saying that when he took a list of Boras’ demands to his owner, he was told negotiations were at an end.

“We can’t do for one player what we can’t or won’t do for 24 others,” Phillips said. “To be talking about the largest contract in major league history – and then be handed a list of clauses and perks that defies the imagination … I can’t envision us getting involved again.”

Well, yes and no.

The Cincinnati Reds, remember, backed out of the Griffey derby last December, when GM Jim Bowden said he would no longer talk to Pat Gillick because Seattle’s demands were impossible. He didn’t back out long, and the Mets may not either.

What New York did, however, was what a lot of teams wanted to do but couldn’t – including the Mariners. They told Boras to take a hike, even at the risk of alienating his client, and no one wanted Rodriguez more than the Mets.

Asked what kind of amenities he might include in an offer to A-Rod, Gillick on Tuesday was straightforward.

“We’re not going to do anything for Alex we wouldn’t do for anyone else,” Gillick said, “except pay him very well on the 1st and 15th of the month.”

The list of serious suitors for A-Rod is small. When Boras said 16 teams had called about A-Rod, what he failed to mention was that Rodriguez had ruled out several long before the season ended, and about half didn’t have the money to play in this game.

The suspicion is that the White Sox and Angels are being used to accelerate the bidding. And when Boras hinted that a mystery team was involved and implied it was Colorado, his nose may have grown.

A-Rod said in August he’d never play in Coors Field because there’d be an asterisk next to his career statistics there.

This is Boras’ style. When he broke the bank with the Dodgers and the Kevin Brown contract, he pushed the bidding higher by convincing GM Kevin Malone that the Rockies had bettered LA’s last offer.

Turns out, Colorado never made an offer within $20 million of what the Dodgers finally got Brown for.

“Scott’s a shark,” one National League GM said Tuesday, “and he wants to be the biggest shark in the sea. He got Brown a deal that was the highest in history and included charter jet flights for Brown’s family.

“Now he wants more money, more perks, more everything. What his clients may forget is that people don’t just look at Scott and see greed, they look at his clients, too. Does anyone seriously believed Alex didn’t know about all of this?”

The contenders in the A-Rod derby remain the Braves, the Mets – yes, they’ll be back – and the Mariners. The Dodgers will meet with Boras, but their bid was contingent upon trading Gary Sheffield, and they haven’t been able to do that.

Boras told the Rangers last week that Rodriguez had “serious interest” in Texas, and had the White Sox and Angels buying the same line.

But the Angels haven’t won in a decade, the White Sox have had one playoff team in the time Seattle has had three and the Rangers seem like longshots given their fourth-place finish last season.

The headlines in New York and elsewhere cannot be lost upon A-Rod, who two weeks ago said he wouldn’t play for the Yankees – only to have Boras insist his client hadn’t really meant that.

Rodriguez has spent a career carefully crafting an image, and greed doesn’t fit it.

Still, the demands are there. And before considering a return to Seattle, Rodriguez has one more: Move the fences in at Safeco Field.

“They should move the fences in,” Segui said. “Of course, when I told them that they traded my ass. But I’m not Alex.”

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