Saturday, July 2, 2011

Jose Reyes And The Contract year

After being publicly ridiculed by his teams owner New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes is having a fantastic season. He leads the league in hitting and has a .397 on base percentage. Right now he's the best lead off hitter in the game and arguably the best shortstop so why would the owner have disparaging words about his star player? It's a contract year.

In the sports world there is a belief that athletes in the last year of a contract perform better. They run faster, jump higher, and play harder to insure they get the most lucrative contract possible. I understand the logic behind the theory, but I don't believe it to be true. It suggests that players don't play hard or give maximum effort once they feel financially secure. That may be the case for some guys, but typically great players are self motivated and play at a high level because they are driven not because of the monetary value of their talents.

Quite often the opposite is true. Players press and try harder after receiving a big contract to prove their worth and validate the investment. The pressure of expectation can lead to locker room issues, run-ins with fans and the media, or even the use of performance enhancing drugs a la Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez.

If players only tried hard during contract years why not just sign players to 1 year deals? Because owners don't want players having the option to leave every year. That's the hypocrisy of the argument. If Jose Reyes leaves in free agency the Mets organization will say he only gave maximum effort when it benefited him. If he re-signs with New York everyone will expect him to lead the league in hitting every season. It's all about projected production which isn't an exact science. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but don't blame it on the contract year.

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