Forgotten Player of the Moment – JODY REED
(by ED AGNER)
Greed. I am always amused by people who rail against supposedly greedy professional athletes. An athlete HAS to be greedy to become great enough to be an exceptional, let alone professional athlete. Greed and immense skill are what sets apart great athletes from the pack from the get go. While most athletes – even the good ones – at the amateur level are happy merely to partake in sports and not find themselves crippled or embarrassed or both, the great athletes know very early on that they NEED to excel and win and dominate and become better and better all the time. This on-the-field greed we find acceptable in a great athlete, for that drive sets them apart and makes them special and wins our teams games.
But come contract time for the professional athlete, the self-righteous who didn’t know the greed that demanded perfection on the sports fields turn their noses at the supposed greed of the athlete who wants fair return on the investment and sacrifice made to become exceptional – not to mention their cut of the industry’s big pie they helped create. “How can someone playing a kids game deserve millions?,” they say. “How can someone doing something completely useless like sports make more than doctors or nurses or school teachers?,” they scream.
Yet, the self-righteous don’t point out millionaire pop stars or actors or TV talking heads or otherwise inexplicable celebrities. It’s all the same entertainment business in the end and really, what have Keanu Reeves or Katie Couric or Jennifer Lopez done for you to make them earn even more money than Alex Rodriguez?
Wait. Don’t tell me what they’ve done for you. I’m afraid of your answers.
Point is, professional athletes are exceptional talents in an entertainment field that can command top money. If you really have a problem with that, don’t funnel your hard earned cash into that particular entertainment industry. Sure there’s greed, even misguided, mind-numbing greed in the soul of the professional athlete – it’s the nature of the beast. Fortunately, sometimes all that greed backfires in their faces – making the world of professional sports all the more entertaining.
Reed was a – UGH! – scrappy little shortstop cum second baseman who came up with the Boston Red Sox at the end of the eighties and provided an exceptional glove and a surprisingly nifty bat. In ‘88, ‘89 and ‘90 Reed was a nice little on-base machine who knew how to take advantage of the Green Monster and slapped himself a load of doubles, all the while providing exemplary defense. Of course, those were his age 27 and 28 seasons and Reed had peeked. In his ‘91 and ‘92 seasons in Fenway, Reed showed signs of fading and since scrappy little second basemen are a dime a dozen, the Sox exposed Reed to the ‘93 expansion draft.
Picked by the Rockies and quickly moved to L.A., Reed had a solid ‘93 season and the Dodgers were as pleased as punch. This being his walk year, the Dodgers were willing to shore up Reed to a nifty little multi-million dollar long-term contract to make him their best second base solution since Steve Sax.
And this is where it gets funny. Reed wanted to explore the free agent market to get top dollar. Hey, you could argue that his numbers were among the best for National League second basemen. Why not? Yeah, why not? Well, his agent/brother-in-law was apparently not the brightest bulb in the socket and, in turning down the Dodgers most generous offer, didn’t understand the market well enough to realize that the demand for aging, scrappy second basemen began and ended with the Dodgers.
The Dodgers, after being shunned by Reed, traded some skinny pitcher whom Tommy Lasorda didn’t believe in, named Pedro Martinez, to the Expos for Delino Deshields.
Not only did Reed and his agent/brother-in-law turn down the best offer for his services, they turned down the ONLY offer for his services. Forced to hang his head in shame and beg for a job, the Brewers gave him a deal for the league minimum – at only several million dollars below the Dodgers offer.
Reed played pretty well for the Brewers, but was clearly nearer the end of his career than the prime. A free-agent after the ‘94 season, the Padres signed Reed to a contract better than the Brewers gave him the year before, but nothing like the Dodgers offer. A couple of fading years in San Diego and one last lost year in Detroit and Reed was done by ‘98 – without the big payday he should have/could have had.
The lesson here? Well, first off, never trust your in-laws, but that’s a given. But the most important lesson? Athletes are generally not incredibly bright. Don’t begrudge them for being greedy, odds are good that they’re only a bad brother-in-law away from being another Jody Reed.