This, we recently learned, is exactly what Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, 25, did when his team, the Washington Nationals, made him such an offer at the end of the 2018 season.
Harper has frequently stated that he loves playing in Washington, and would like to continue his career there. He is also regarded as the most valuable baseball free agent since Alex Rodriguez entered free agency almost 20 years ago and received a record contract. (You know what happened to him, right?) His agent, Scott Boras, has said in the past that a realistic target for Harper on the open market is $400,000,000, and most experts thinks Boras is nuts.
I see only three possible explanations for Harper turning down the Nationals offer: 1) He’s an idiot, 2) he is getting irresponsible and conflicted advice from his agent, or 3) he was lying when he said he wanted to play in D.C.
If your answer is “4) He’s greedy,” I submit that this is indistinguishable from #1. I defy anyone to explain how their life is enhanced in any way by making 40 million a year rather than 30 million. Harper has no children, but since “I’m doing this for my kids” is the default rationalization used by players when they accept the highest bid, I also defy anyone to explain how his theoretical children would have significantly better or different lives if Daddy makes an extra 100 million over the next 10 years—especially since another mega-million dollar contract will probably come into play after that.
We passed the greed stage with top baseball salaries (and top Fortune 500 CEO salaries) long, long ago. Unless one really believes money is everything, and nothing else matters, what access to this range of income should represent is freedom and autonomy. The matter of money is settled: you’re richer than all but a handful of people on Earth, and unless your goal in life is to collect solid gold tractors (and maybe even then), you can now concentrate on other things. Do what you want. Work where you want. Associate only with those you want to associate with. Harper has said in public that he wants to play baseball in Washington, D.C. with and in front of the people he says he loves. Why, then, would he not say to his agent—who IS greedy, and who is not advising Harper in his best interests—“Get me the best contract you can here. This is where I want to live and play baseball.”
Some players—very few, but some–do say that. They are the smart, rich and happy ones. Players like Harper call them “suckers.”
I know I have written about this before, but I don’t care, the issue drives me crazy. Baseball players like Harper are ethics corrupters. They teach children and persuade the culture that one’s top priority in life should be to maximize not just income, but riches, and to do so despite all other values and considerations. People who believe that are not ethical people. Riches are a non-ethical consideration unless the owner of such riches is a philanthropist, in which case money is just a tool, a means to an end. For a philanthropist, the difference between $300 million and $400 million is significant. There is no evidence, however, that Harper is an aspiring philanthropist, or that he even knows what one is.
Or how to spell the word.
America was founded on the concept that liberty and freedom are the most important values in human life. Bryce Harper’s response to the Washington Nationals was a rejection of these values in favor of the ego gratification gained from the numbers on a contract.