RON C. JUDD
M's shouldn't blow the budget on one player
Seattle Times columnist
It's surprising how much it hurts to even write that. We'd hate to see the guy leave - especially after Game 6 of the ALCS. But if the cost of keeping Seattle's Teen-Beat hero is as grand as some are suggesting, it's too high.
Let's face it: When all the 2000 pennant run emotions fade and reality rears its ugly head, the Griffey Rule remains in effect: Winning beats star power, every time. And no player is worth $20 million a year in a game where a smartly spent $60 million can win a division pennant.
The problem goes beyond money. The A-Rod race has all the earmarks of the kind of feeding frenzy that makes general managers shut off their brains and increase their credit lines. It is already taken as a given, for example, that Rodriguez will command - and get - somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million a season.
However you feel about that amount, concede that it's just a starting point. A list of other inducements already is being hinted at by agents and advocated by the playoff-crazed, give-the-guy-the-store crowd:
-- Guarantees, written or unwritten, that whatever team lands His Rodness doesn't spend so much on its primary stud that it has nothing left for the rest of the team. Somehow we get the feeling that to A-Rod's agent, Scott Boras, this does not translate to a personal sacrifice by Rodriguez to give his new team salary room. It means guaranteeing to keep that payroll rocket soaring right on into the oblivion baseball as an industry has been trying to avoid.
-- Rearranging the physical structure of the city, or, failing that, just the fences of its ballpark, to pad A-Rod's average.
Small prices to pay, some of you already are saying.
Take a deep breath, people.
Nobody in their right mind would suggest the M's should sit on their hands - or Nintendo's burgeoning wallet, for that matter - in the A-Rod chase. But a little civic self-respect wouldn't hurt.
It's ridiculous to even ponder placing one player's fortunes, not to mention his agent's fantasy-island retirement plans, above the long-term best interests of a game Seattle fell in love with all over again this fall.
A-Rod didn't have the city wrapped up in that addictive autumn playoff frenzy. Mariner blue did.
Fortunately, the team's general manager, Pat Gillick, has made a career of showing the wisdom to make wins and losses his personal bottom line. We can only hope that logic extends to Mariner owners.
M's executives, most of whom have made careers out of bemoaning baseball's salary spiral, have an opportunity to put their mouths where their money isn't and issue a firm "no thanks" to turning the franchise on its head to keep A-Rod's jersey tossing in the Safeco washer.
Some cheap advice to CEO Howard Lincoln: If you seek to retain the dignity of the game in Seattle, don't bankrupt the franchise for one guy. Not this guy. Not any guy. Baseball in Seattle is a game that should be played by shortstops, not for them.
Far-more-important topics this week in the hose-clamp section of the White Center Chubby & Tubby:
Bring in Da Noise: A cutesy newspaper ad placed by the Sonics apologizes to Queen Anne residents for "excessive noise" on the date of every Sonic home game. It's unclear whether they're referring to KeyArena crowds or the inevitable post-game altercations between Gary Payton and Paul Westphal.
Speaking of Germination: Scientists this week reported discovery of a bacteria believed to date more than 250 million years. It's believed to be the only living matter on the planet older than Patrick Ewing's knees.
Signage: A group of thoughtful M's fans solicited a petition to dedicate their street, Edgar Street, to Mariner great Edgar Martinez. Duly inspired, a group of Sequim residents is seeking to rededicate nearby Schmuck Road in honor of Ryan Leaf.
And finally: According to news services, "A growing number of scholars now think they understand how human speech evolved from the crude grunts and growls, gestures and lip-smacking of our ancient forebears." Their study group reportedly included several offensive linemen and football commentator Mike Ditka.
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