Comment Of The Day: “Baseball Ethics Dunce: San Diego Padres Third Baseman Manny Machado”

The tricky ethics balancing act engaged in by professional athletes’ agents has been a regular topic of examination here from the very start, particularly the apparent conflicts of interest facing agents who might be inclined to tell a client to take less than the top monetary offer for other factor that might affect a player’s career and enjoyment of life.

I don’t know why you’re paying attention to me, though: Ethics Alarms has a real former player agent among the commentariat, and below are some of his thoughts on Padres star Manny Machado opting out of his contract to seek riches he neither needs nor could possible use.

[Since 77Zommie offered this Comment of the Day, it was reported that Manny has indicated that he is discussing an extension with the Padres, meaning that he’s taking advantage of his contract that allows him to become a free agent after only five years (the contact he signed in 2010  was for ten at 30 million bucks a year) but giving his current team an opportunity to craft a new deal to keep him around. This, after saying he would be going on the open market.]

Here is 77Zoomie’s Comment of the Day on the post, “Baseball Ethics Dunce: San Diego Padres Third Baseman Manny Machado”


A couple of thoughts on this post from the vantage point of a 20-year-plus former National Football League Players’ Association agent.

Most of the younger professional athletes with whom I interacted were fixated solely on money as a marker of professional success. This was especially true for players who came from poor or underprivileged backgrounds where financial success was almost unheard of and any affection directed their way tended to be purely mercenary. This is particularly true of those athletes who were identified as potential superstars early on in middle and high school. Those kids were surrounded by peers, adults, and an army of hangers-on who hoped to make some type of claim in the event the athlete strikes it rich. The culture surrounding many of these future superstars instructs them that without money, they have no respect, few friendships, and little access to members of the opposite sex. In other words, these players come into the professional leagues with a well-developed sense that money is virtually the only way they can define themselves as a success.

This attitude usually starts to change as the player matures after several years in the leagues. He interacts with similarly situated peers, many of whom are older, and understand how fleeting is the fame and how phony are the friendships and romantic relationships that are contingent on his paycheck. At some point, several of my clients came to understand that their professional and personal success involved more than simply being the biggest contract number, as they started to build a network of other players, coaches, sportscasters, and, in unusual cases, former teachers or professors and work toward a post-playing career.
But, as George Costanza frequently said, “ you just can’t help some people.” I had other clients who never got beyond the numbers game and remained unable or unwilling to assess the intangibles that really are the rewards of an athletic career. For those folks, I simply worked to get the best number that I could while trying to inject some sense of reality into their worldview.

There are other factors at work in these situations, as well. My father was an NFL coach from the mid-60s through the early 90s and I had an inside view on how the relationship between the players and their communities changed dramatically as more money moved into professional sports. NFL players were not particularly well-paid through the first two decades of my father’s NFL coaching career. Every one of them had to have some kind of backup employment in the offseason to make ends meet. As a result, players had to integrate Into their communities with jobs and careers that in many cases proved to be more lucrative than football. Considerations of family stability, fan loyalty, and team camaraderie are much more important when you don’t have the financial security to walk away and do nothing else to make a living.

Finally, do not discount the influence of the agent in these negotiations. The only effective marketing tool for professional sports agents is public knowledge of the value of the contracts they negotiate for their clients. The agent will push the player to demand the biggest contract possible, and then push the player to renegotiate if the market changes. An agent who is not doing this consistently will very quickly find himself or herself being undercut by other agents who will reach out to the client to say that money is still on the table that should be in the player’s pocket.

I’m sure there are elements of all of these factors in Machado’s situation.

3 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Baseball Ethics Dunce: San Diego Padres Third Baseman Manny Machado”

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