Sports 101

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Just when you think major-league baseball contracts can't get any bigger, they do. A wealthy owner steps up to the plate and whacks a deal that lands in uncharted territory.

In this case, billionaire Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks gave shortstop Alex Rodriguez (nicknamed "A-Rod") a 10-year, $252 million contract. Rodriguez has his work cut out for him: He joins a team that has never gotten beyond the first round of playoffs.

He wasn't the only one who hit the jackpot. Manny Ramirez agreed to an eight-year, $160 million deal with the Boston Red Sox. Many observers say these megadeals are bad for baseball, that they will alienate fans and create too wide a gap between strong and weak teams.

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Q: Who negotiated the Rodriguez megadeal?

A: Scott Boras. He is considered the most aggressive agent in baseball. He has negotiated megadeals for such superstar players as Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams and Dodgers pitcher Kevin Brown. He currently represents 55 major-league players, including Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux and San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds. For the A-Rod deal, Boras and his staff put together a glossy book called the "Alex Rodriguez Historical Performance." The 70-page report was peppered with statistics supporting the claim that Rodriguez is the best shortstop ever.

Q: How can the Rangers afford Rodriguez?

A: Three words: Fox Sports Net. The network bought the local cable TV rights to the Rangers and the Dallas Stars hockey team (also owned by Hicks) for $250 million over 10 years. Fox also bought the teams' local broadcast rights for $250 million over 15 years.

Q: What lies ahead?

A: The contract between the owners and players expires at the end of the 2001 season. Some predict a lockout, which could mean no baseball in 2002. But this might be a chance to rethink the economics of the game. A-Rod and Ramirez had better enjoy the big bucks while they can.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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