Be careful what you wish for, sports fans

Published 7:01 pm Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim provided a lesson for fans on the downfalls of selling low on a disgraced athlete, and it’s a lesson Minnesota fans can take to heart in light of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s child abuse case and Twins pitcher Ervin Santana’s 80-game steroid suspension.

Last week, the Angels jettisoned outfielder Josh Hamilton — a five-time All-Star and the 2010 MVP after a controversial drug/alcohol relapse — and got little of value in return. Hamilton had long struggled with drugs and alcohol before getting clean (well, mostly) with the Texas Rangers and becoming a star. He then signed a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels, but failed to live up to the gaudy numbers he put up in Texas.

It’s a situation most teams and fans face when an athlete falls from grace and/or gets suspended. For the Twins and Vikings, neither Santana or Peterson were paid during their suspensions, but the remaining contracts stand once the players return. It’s a sour start for Santana, who inked the most expensive free agent contract in Twins’ history for $54 million. Despite Santana’s failed test and suspension, the Twins are still set to pay the rest. They’re stuck with him, unless they follow the Angels’ path.

Email newsletter signup

That apparently wasn’t an acceptable solution to Angels owner Arte Moreno. He was peeved when MLB didn’t suspend Hamilton after his February relapse. Rather than see what Hamilton — who hasn’t played this year because he’s recovering from an injury — could offer the team, the Angles traded him back to the Rangers for next to nothing — a player to be named later and cash.

The Angels will still have to pay about $63 million for Hamilton to play against them for three years. The Rangers will get him for about $6 million for those years.

While few know what happened behind the scenes, the Angels deal is absurd for fans. Your team will pay a player to compete against you — and for a division rival.

As angry as Twins fans may be with Santana, the Twins would gain little by cutting him. They’d still have to pay him, and the Twins can’t swallow the salary difference like the bigger-market Angels.

As a New York Yankees fan, I’ll admit I spent a lot of the winter and last season calling for the team to cut third basemen Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended all of last season for steroids.

I hoped they’d void the rest of his $275 million contract or ditch him. But after watching what’s unfolded this season, I’m glad they didn’t.

Hamilton and Rodriguez are eerily similar: both have had repeated falls from grace (drugs for Hamilton, steroids for A-Rod), both had signed lucrative contracts their teams regret, both have irked fans, both appear untrustworthy, and the best seasons are likely in the past in both careers.

Despite A-Rod’s many flaws, the Yankees sucked it up and took A-Rod back, even though it hasn’t necessarily been with open arms. They acquired players to replace him in the offseason, didn’t promise him a job and have tried to work around contractual bonuses.

But he’s still in Yankee pinstripes, and through the first 19 games of the season, he hit .244 with five home runs, four doubles and 13 runs batted in. It’s not All-Star stuff, but he carried the team for the first weeks of the season. And each RBI and homer would really sting if the Yankees had cut him and it came for a rival.

Twins fans may want Santana gone for his steroid woes, but what would they think if the White Sox or Royals picked him up? Contractually, teams are stuck with disgraced players. Though it may sound bad after a player’s transgression, the best a team can hope for is the player reforms and returns to form.

For Angels fans, it could really sting if Hamilton performs well against them in the coming years.