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The May 1 Option
2006-01-20 09:50
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

In Europe, it's a mark of continental sophistication. In the United States, it's a statement of individual wealth and elegance (or unemployment, if you want to be cynical about it).

What we're talking about here is the one-month vacation. And I'm waiting for the day when major league ballplayers jump at the opportunity to take one themselves.

A free agent who is not offered arbitration by his previous team, or who refuses aribration when his team does offer it, is ineligible to resign with that team until May 1. Right now, 43-year-old future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens is the most prominent player to fall into this category. Ex-Dodger Jeff Weaver fits there as well. The common theory is that because a month of the season will already be gone, it would be too late for that player to return - and so he must leap into a contract with another franchise.

But wouldn't someone, after earning millions of dollars in baseball, welcome the respite of a one-month holiday? Wouldn't they enjoy feeling tanned, rested and ready to take on a 140-game season in May, to have an extra month of strength come September or October, at the mere sacrifice of one month's salary.

Yes, these players do get time off from November through Spring Training - but so does everyone else. It's the one-month vacation while others toil away beneath the sun's rays and into the midnight hour that truly massages the mind and soul.

Teams make plans to move on with filling their rosters after players don't go to arbitration - but plans fall apart. Clemens might be the first to take advantage of the May 1 option - in recent years, as I understand it, he has already forced his team to tailor the scheduling of his starts so that more would be made at home. But if not Clemens, I have to think it's only a matter of time before someone catches on to spending an extra month at home with the kids or on the beach.

Comments
2006-01-20 10:15:25
1.   Bob Timmermann
Could a player signing after May 1 not wear white shoes?
2006-01-20 10:17:42
2.   Howie
Good thinking, Jon. I don't know the numbers, but Weaver always seems to start out strong and fade as the year goes on.

Piazza would also be a good candidate for the May 1 option. He hasn't drawn much interest from other teams and he can focus on bringing the gold (or whatever the WBC winner gets) to Italy. Piazza would be a better option for the Dodgers than Molina. They need the extra bat.

2006-01-20 10:20:25
3.   LAT
What fun is it to play golf or go fishing if all your friends are working and can't go with you. I suppose you can have an entourage, but then you have to ask yourself do they love me or the money.

Ah screw it. I could get used to it.

2006-01-20 10:28:21
4.   Bob Timmermann
I haven't seen any stories on what the WBC champion would get.

My brother got to hold on to a Cy Young award at a BBWAA banquet. He told me it was incredibly heavy. But the MVP is very light.

2006-01-20 10:29:18
5.   Jon Weisman
Actually, Weaver had a pretty ragged April and May last year, but we quibble.
2006-01-20 10:32:37
6.   oldbear
Chuck Finley had this happen to him a couple seasons ago with the Cardinals. It was one of those arbitration deals where the Cards offered, Finley didnt accept, and then no team wanted to sign Finley bc they didnt want to give up the draft picks.

I dont think Finley ever did resign with the Cards after May 1st. He just retired.

No team wants to sign Weaver bc a 1st round draft pick carries more value.

2006-01-20 10:46:11
7.   Bob Timmermann
But Chuck Finley was 39 years old at the time also.
2006-01-20 11:10:21
8.   Marty
If Finley had been working, maybe he wouldn't have gotten beaten up by his wife.
2006-01-20 11:33:04
9.   bigcpa
I recall Tim Raines re-signing with Montreal in May one year.
2006-01-20 11:41:19
10.   Bob Timmermann
9
That was during the heyday of collusion.
2006-01-20 13:09:07
11.   King of the Hobos
Robert Fick signed in May last year, because after his 2004 season, the Padres were the ony ones willing to give him money
2006-01-20 13:12:47
12.   Bob Timmermann
In Jayson Stark's pay column, he thinks that Bengie Molina would be a perfect for the Dodgers. And Boras is having a hard time convicing anyone to give Weaver even a four-year deal.
2006-01-20 13:47:17
13.   mob
Jon,

funny you point out Clemens, because I have felt all along that Clemens might do EXACTLY that. Get ready and pitch in the WBC, take some time to recuperate and then sign with his hometown Astros to give them added boost for the long hot summer.

As for Weaver, I feel his agent has him overvalued. He made $9+ million last year so any long term deal would, by "boring ass" the agent, need to be over $10M per year. AJ Burnet got $55 over 5 or $11m per. Weaver is not AJ.

2006-01-20 13:52:12
14.   mob
Interesting article on Matt Kemp today on dodgers.com. Good attitude, after being invited to major league camp says he plans to make the squad. Too bad he doesn't stand a chance. he could hit .400 with a dozen dingers and still end up in Vegas or AA (Jacksonville???) But you gotta love his confidence.
2006-01-20 15:43:05
15.   jystakes
14 - Wow, I love Kemp already.
2006-01-20 16:05:29
16.   Blaine
Hey, isn't that what Shaq did his last few years with the Lakers? He would have surgeries on "company time" and would have injuries during the year and only play 50-60 games to get ready for the playoffs.
2006-01-20 16:14:33
17.   Jon Weisman
Shaq is progressive that way, I guess.
2006-01-20 18:51:17
18.   Zak
Shaq is about as progressive as he is skinny.

Interesting write-up Jon... got me thinking. I can see the points you make applying to someone like Clemens, who's been playing for 25 years (college, minors, majors). But someone in their prime... I don't know. If I was Weaver, it would tear me up not to be pitching and being part of a team, when all my peers are already starting their season. I wouldn't necessarily enjoy the time off, especially in April. Give me a month off in June maybe :)

In all seriousness, this would be extremely difficult to pull off for a pitcher in his prime, considering no spring training. I mean, there has to be more injury risk in just joining a team on May 1 and start pitching in games that matter right away. You justify that in someone like Clemens by arguing that he knows his body better and any injury to him would not be as financially devastating to him as it would be to someone in their prime.

Good discussion though. Made me want to get my two cents in.

2006-01-20 19:01:19
19.   morikawablue
I just wonder, will a player play well at May 2 when he is picked up by some franchises as a "May 1 option"?

I mean, especially for those aged pitchers, they really need some extra-time to work out. Referring to how Mariano Rivera did last April, spring trainning does have its raison d'etre for players, doesn't it?

2006-01-20 19:21:46
20.   das411
I guess there are not many hockey fans here after all.

Exhibit A of Jon's theory: Keith Primeau, 2003-04 Eastern Conference Playoffs.

2006-01-21 12:27:19
21.   BlueMamma
Well... if one month's salary is half a million dollars (and that's if you're only re-signing for $6 mil per year, which is a lot less than Weaver and Clemens are expecting, I think), you might want to reconsider the size of the sacrifice.

Of crouse, if you're sacrificing half a million dollars but you're assured of five and a half more to make up for it, that might be OK too.

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