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Stick 'em Up! Star Players Holding Teams Hostage

By Edited Nov 30, 2015 0 0

The Catch 22 of how to treat stars at the end of their careers

Despite the fact New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter got his 3,000 major league hit recently, not everyone is happy to see him playing. There are those who think that Jeter should no longer be batting high in the Yankee lineup or playing shortstop every day. They think that because of his status as a 16 year veteran and 'Mr. Yankee' he is holding the team hostage in their decision-making. If this is the case then Jeter is not the first athlete to do it.

Holding a team hostage is when a player's star status becomes so large that when it comes time for management to make team decisions they do it with the stars best interest in mind instead of the teams. This is not a problem when the athlete is in their prime, but is when they are at the end of their careers and not as productive.

This could be the case with Jeter now as first management gave him a huge contract that will pay him at least $51 million over the next four years, then he began the year slowly at the plate and in the field.  Jeter has often been a slow starter and given the benefit of the doubt, but at this stage in his career people are less willing to give him a chance to come around. It's a touchy situation for the Yankees, because of Jeter's status not only with the team, but baseball as well.

The Yankees are in the same situation that the Baltimore Orioles were when Cal Ripken, Jr. played shortstop for them. Ripken was known as the 'Ironman' for never missing a game as he broke Yankee great Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games. Ripken always said that he never liked being a prisoner of the streak, but it handcuffed the team in their decision-making. The fact that Ripken was credited with single-handedly saving baseball after the 1994 players strike made their decision making harder.

The first hint of this was when manager Davey Johnson said at his first press conference that he  wouldn't mind being the manager when Cal's streak ended. The Baltimore press and fans did not like that. Then Johnson moved Ripken to third base. They didn't like that. Johnson and every other manager was held hostage by the streak and Ripken's status. Especially when team owner Peter Angelos basically said that he wasn't going to waste time trying to rebuild while Ripken was there, because it wasn't fair to Cal. He had to build a championship team before Ripken retired. One could say, the Orioles are still paying for that decision.

Pete Rose held the Cincinnati Reds hostage at the end of his career as he chased the all-time hit record. Rose became player manager of the Reds after the Philadelphia Phillies let him go. He came back to the organization where his career began. Nothing wrong with that. However, as player manager Rose had final say on who played and who didn't. He could put himself in the lineup anytime he wanted. There was nothing the organization could do. The tradeoff was that Rose made the Reds relevent and sold tickets. The drawback was that the Reds were not always at full strength with Rose on the field.

Miami Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino is a case of a player in the National Football League. Marino was the face of the organization at the end of his career. When Dolphin head coach Don Shula stepped down the team hired Jimmy Johnson. Johnson really had no choice, but to rebuild the team just as he had in Dallas. But he couldn't as long as Marino was the quarterback. Marino would never win a championship if the team decided to rebuild. Trading him was out of the question. So Marino and Johnson both went down in flames as the Dolphins lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 62-7 in the 1999 playoffs.  

The Brett Favre saga in Green Bay was much the same. The Packers drafted quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2005 with intentions of making him the starter when Favre retired. Favre was in his 15th season so the move made sense. But Favre fought it to the end. When the Packers wanted him to retire he did not. Favre even led them to the 2007 NFC championship game. This all but forced management to have to bring him back. He did not have  a good year in 2008 and Green Bay no longer wanted him to start. They were ready to go with Rodgers. Green Bay took a lot of heat for seemingly forcing Favre out, especially after he signed with the Minnesota Vikings, beat the Packers twice and led his team to the conference finals in 2009. But the Packers were right in the long run as Rodgers led them to a world's championship in 2010.

These are just a few examples. There are those who think that Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis is hindering the team's decision-making, because of his status. They say that Lewis is not the every down linebacker he once was and should be replaced from time to time. They could be right, but the Ravens are winning and the defense is still one of the best in the league so Lewis plays.

None of the things that happened with these players and teams diminishes their careers in any way. It's just a simple fact that sometimes a player's star status can affect how a team operates business.

Whether they mean for it to happen or not.

Cal Ripken hits home run during game 2,130
Credit: Google Images
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