Question: You Are Offered 300 Million Dollars To Do What You Want To Do Where You Say You Want To Do It For The Next Ten Years. Why Would You Say, “No”?

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.

22 thoughts on “Question: You Are Offered 300 Million Dollars To Do What You Want To Do Where You Say You Want To Do It For The Next Ten Years. Why Would You Say, “No”?

  1. Two word explanation: “Scott” and “Boras.” Simple. Boras wants ten percent of that extra hundred million. It’s a forty million dollar fee rather than a thirty million dollar fee. Spread over ten years. I’m sure all the agents keep track of which agents are making the most. They use it to recruit clients. Plus, Boras is pushing the player salary envelope, which will benefit him as he signs all the players down the pay scale. And for guys like Boras, it’s all about ego and bragging rights. He who dies with the highest net worth wins.Bryce Harper is just Boras’ drill bit.

  2. Question: You Are Offered 300 Million Dollars To Do What You Want To Do Where You Say You Want To Do It For The Next Ten Years…

    First, let me address the situation at hand: Harper IS an idiot, for all the reasons stated.

    Additionally, the man has no idea what truly makes a person happy. Fulfilling relationships is a big part, with parents, friends, and family. Health contributes, and is often not recognized until it fails. Faith in something (some say ‘anything!’) plays a big role. For some, children can contribute (and can poison happiness as well.) Personal satisfaction in a job well done. Working at something you have a passion for. The Red Sox winning the Series works for certain individuals. Keeping things in perspective (not being angry all the time) is another contributor. None of these can be bought with the last thing providing happiness: money. Money can alleviate certain pressures, but after that, is no indicator of a happy life. Maybe one day Harper will figure that out: many never do.

    Now, to the implied question: what would you do with far more money than you and your heirs will ever need?

    Material needs and wants will be taken care of. Pursuit of the dollar will become a hobby, not a pressing need. Money does not bring happiness, I have been told, but it CAN rent it for a while. Initially, perhaps a vacation for my family, assorted friends, and the odd theater troop or two.

    My pastor will be really happy: I tithe. My church could use a parking garage… or a water park. 🙂 All kidding aside, I would set up a foundation to distribute that tithe (and maybe more?) and make a difference in our little corner of this planet.

    My kids could pick a college, contingent on it being Texas A&M. Wait, that is the rule NOW. In any case, their education would be funded.

    Of course, I would likely quit my job: managing that amount of cash would require a LOT of attention. I would find something I am passionate about to work at: perhaps a home dedicated to the care of indignant cats? 🙂

    What I will not be, in all likelihood, is more happy. Such is the nature of mankind: there will always be problems to overcome, issues to resolve, and setbacks to endure. People will still die. Sicknesses will still exist. Politics will still be the mess they have always been. My current little city will still be run by unelected self important morons. McDonalds will still bring back the McRib only for limited engagements. Such is life.

    Money is a tool, not an end unto itself. Like any tool, the ethics lie in how it is used. An unethical person will act the same way when rich: they will just be more damaging to those around them. An ethical person can remain so, but the temptations will be much worse. “With great power comes great…” you get the idea.

    Happiness lies within each person. It is a decision, a way of looking at life, and a choice. Circumstances can hinder it, but one has to allow them to overcome it. YOU set your ‘altitude.’

    This may be the single most important lesson in this life.

  3. “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.”

    Are we sure his conduct isn’t actually just an extreme application of liberty and freedom at the cost of other values America was founded on?

  4. Jack did you read the offer? So the total amount of 300 million is your focus but there might have been idiotic contractual stipulations in the contract that were unacceptable. Agreeing on the 300 million dollar amount but rejecting the other contracted items. That way the Nationals save face and say “we tried” knowing full well that he would not accept the contract stipulations and Bryce Harper would look like a greedy clown. The devil is in the details of those contracts and money is just one factor. Crapping on Bryce Harper without knowing all the details is a bad look Jack and ethically unfair without all of the facts.
    Scott Boras is working for his client to get the best deal he can. He is really good at his job. The other arguments of “is he good for baseball, yadda, yadda”, is another issue.

    • You are arguing that it was not a good faith offer. I assume the offer was in good faith, because bad faith offers are unethical. Boras has an unwaivable conflict of interest: 1) he gets more money the bigger the contract, and 2) his clients get more money if Harper resets the bar higher, and then Boras gets more money from THEM.

      He often pushes clients to do what is not in their best interests. They are too naive/ignorant/greedy to realize it.

  5. I think Lee Iacocca covered this in his autobiography. There was a point where he was President of Ford Motor Co. and was making $500,000/year. That year, Ford outsold GM for the first time. When Iacocca found out that the CEO of GM made $1,000,000/year he got mad. He burst into Henry Ford. Jr’s office and DEMANDED a raise. I believed he accused Ford of being a cheapskate, too. Later in life, Iacocca reflected on this and asked the question “Why did I do that?”. He truthfully admits he had been happy at $500,000/year, he loved his job. He didn’t need more money and couldn’t think of a thing he wanted and couldn’t afford. Why then, did he act like such a fool and risk losing the job of a lifetime? He came to the conclusion it was all ego. It wasn’t about the money, it was about being better than the CEO of GM. At that point, it is all about status. He concludes that this ‘ego arms race’ is behind the obscene salaries CEO’s make now and the widening gap between upper management and the rank-and-file employees.

    • Which pushes the question… there must be a mini-market for CEOs, if acting CEOs on average cost way more than they actually should cost, there ought to be aspiring CEOs (who for all intents and purposes are as qualified and skilled) that are willing to undercut the competition and land CEO-ships right and left.

      Or is there an inherent value to a company to spend like drunken sailors on expensive CEOs?

      • Currently, the common-wisdom is that you put your competitor’s CEO’s on your board of directors. The stockholders really aren’t represented. Most of the stock is held by mutual funds and the fund managers just vote as the board directs. The boards then act much like ‘CEO clubs’ with no accountability to the actual owners of the company. Even if every stockholder votes against a proposal, they have little chance of overruling the board. You vote for my raise, and I will vote for your raises…

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