Why dontcha just f-f-f-f-fade away?
Or is it – “old soldiers never die – they just fade away…” (Douglas Mac Arthur)
Getting old happens to all of us. Even if you never abuse your body, hurt yourself and live a perfect healthy lifestyle with no stress (how IS that even possible) you gonna get old. The day comes when you finally have to face that your body simply will NOT do what it used to.
Problem is, you don’t become a major league baseball player by giving up and giving in to tiredness, sore muscles, aching joints or time itself. You look at the young guys on the field and think – I’m bettern THEY are. And maybe your ability to read pitches, to read fly balls and ground balls and your understanding of strategy is incredibly better than theirs, true. But you STILL have to have the reflexes to swing the bat at the exact right second, to get the right jump on the ball, to be able to run, spring, dive and the arm strength to throw it.
So when does a guy who has been an elite athlete all his life look at himself and say – man I just can’t do this no more.
Or, maybe, the better question is – IF someone tells him – man you just can’t do this no more, when does he believe it, or maybe I should say, WHY does he finally believe it? Even when some players say they would play for the minimum ML salary, they STILL can’t get a nibble, and some go to the indy leagues (Devon White, Rickey) thinking they could still play at the ML level.
IF Baggy (yeah, yall KNEW I was gonna get around to him, hunh) didn’t have a guaranteed contract this year, would he STILL be trying to rehab and show up at spring training? How much would it take to convince him self that he couldn’t play at the ML level any more?
I’m going to quote Richard Justice’s entire article from today’s Houston Chronicle:
If I could be Drayton McLane for a day, I’d be waiting at the door when Jeff Bagwell walked into the clubhouse this week at Minute Maid Park. Jeff, I’d tell him, I’ve been doing some hard thinking. I’ve had some sleepless nights. I’m guessing you have, too.I don’t like the way this thing has played out. I don’t like the way we’ve handled some things, and I certainly don’t like the things you’ve said about the Astros. I’m here today without an attorney or an agent or a doctor.
I’m here to tell you that we’ve done too many good things together to have it end like this. I’m here to offer you a compromise because you’re as much a part of this franchise as any man who has lived. You represent all the things I want the Astros to be. What you’ve contributed can’t be measured in dollars or playoff appearances. You’ve done even more. You’ve left a legacy that has been passed to the next generation of players. Last summer, when those kids made one of the great turnarounds in history, they were following the example you and Craig Biggio set every single day.
You’re professionals in every sense of the word. You play the same way – as hard in April as you do in September. You play hard when it’s 2-2, and you play hard when it’s 10-2. You don’t know any other way.
I look at how guys such as Adam Everett and Morgan Ensberg care so much, how they’re not affected by the score or the standings or anything else. They might be inclined to do it anyway, but you were the living, breathing example they followed. Hopefully, Adam and Morgan will pass their legacy to the next generation. And it’ll still be yours.
We’ve done well together. You’ve made a boatload of money and, to be honest, I’ve done pretty well myself. I couldn’t live with myself without at least seeing if there were a deal to be made.
Here it is. I want you in spring training. I want you in uniform. I want you out there hitting and throwing and running. I want you to find out if you can still play. Our doctors say your career is done. They say your right shoulder simply won’t allow you to be an everyday player anymore. That’s why we filed an insurance claim to collect $15.6 million. We had no choice. We had to protect ourselves. That’s why we purchased the insurance in the first place. Even in the screwy world of baseball economics, $15.6 million is a lot of money. The thing is, the doctors might be wrong. Because they can’t measure heart and determination. They can’t measure how badly you want to play again. They can quantify the damage to your shoulder, but in the end, they have no idea if you’re capable of playing. I’ve read where you’ve been encouraged by your rehabilitation and that you think you’ll be good to go by opening day. I don’t know whether this is an honest assessment or a great warrior’s refusal to give in to reality.
The thing is, I believe in you. I’ve seen you accomplish too much. If you say you can do it, then I think you can. So I’m willing to withdraw the insurance claim. Come to spring training, put the uniform on and go for it.
I’m doing this even though neither of us has any idea if you can play. I’m doing it even though you’re probably never going to be the dominant player you once were. In truth, we don’t know. I don’t know. You don’t know. I just feel you deserve a chance.
Stop smiling until you’ve heard the rest of the deal. This is the tough part. This is the part you’re not going to like.
In return, I’m going to ask you to be honest. You’ve told me you’d never do anything to embarrass yourself or the Astros. If you get down to Florida, or if you get into April or May and find the shoulder won’t allow you to continue, I want you to retire. Yes, you heard right. I’m asking you to walk away and accept a settlement of your contract. You’ve got around $25 million coming to you over the next two years.
You’re going to make $17 million this year. You’ve got $8 million guaranteed for 2007 (not covered by insurance). I’m risking $15.6 million by withdrawing the claim. But if I win, you lose. Your career probably is over. If you win, you come to spring training under the worst circumstances possible.
So let’s make a deal. Remember the time we worked out a deal at that Whataburger near the Astrodome? Let’s do another deal like that. Let’s agree to divide the $15.6 million. I’ll pay $7.8 million; you pay $7.8 million.
Other players have left money on the table. Mark McGwire walked away from $30 million because he didn’t feel he was worth it. The thing is, if you can still play - I mean play the way Jeff Bagwell should play - you’ll get all $25 million. That’ll be $133 million in 15 years. Guess what? You’ve been worth every penny of it. Good for you.
I think it’s funny that some people say you can no longer play. They haven’t done their homework, have they? You played 2003 and 2004 with a bum shoulder and had 66 home runs and 189 RBIs. You’re not as good as you once were, but you’re in the upper echelon. Ensberg had what you would consider an average season, and we’re clearing a spot in Cooperstown. That’s the problem with setting the bar so high.
Maybe you’re not going to like this deal. Maybe you’d rather go down the road we’re headed. No one is going to win doing it this way. Take a couple of days to think about it and get back to me. I’m asking you to do something unprecedented. I know it won’t be easy.
I just want this to end the right way. I want it for the Astros. I want it for you. And when you’re done playing, we’ll find the perfect job in the organization. You’ll be a coach or an instructor or a scout or an ambassador. Whatever you want to do.
What you’ll mainly do is be an Astro. Forever.
And let’s let bygones be bygones.
By the way, you might have noticed the huge posters of you and Roger Clemens were removed from the exterior of Minute Maid Park. OK, I overreacted. I’ll have ‘em put back up there.
If you see Roger, don’t tell him I had his taken down, too. That was Hunsicker’s idea.
- I agree with everything Justice has said here. I think this is a VERY fair deal.
- Only problem I see is that Jeff is gonna hafta look at the man in the mirror with an honest eye, and I think that may be the toughest thing he’s ever had to do.
But I want Jeff to be Mr. Astro, and I think every single Astros fan wants that too. Sometimes, you just have to compromise so you don’t have to compromise your integrity.