Alex Rodriguez, a former three-time Most Valuable Player Award winner and a current television personality, claimed during a radio appearance on Thursday that he was willing to take significantly less money to sign with the New York Mets during his foray into free agency in winter 2000.
"I told my agent Scott Boras that I would take a 50% haircut to come to New York and play for the Mets," Rodriguez said during an appearance on the Evan & Tiki Show. "I just thought it was a perfect story, for me personally, for the Mets, for baseball.
"I told them pay me 50% less, and I woke up to the New York Post headline '24 plus 1,' and I said 'No, I don't want anything, I want less.'"
A New York Times article from the time offers greater context on the "24 plus 1" quote from then-Mets general manager Steve Phillips. Phillips, in short, felt that Rodriguez and Boras' demands would have isolated him from his teammates, a dynamic that Phillips felt would prove unworkable:
That may have been enough to give Phillips pause, but the general manager listed Boras's desire to have a separate marketing staff and an office for Rodriguez at his home stadium. Boras asked for four employees to strictly handle Rodriguez's off-field obligations, another baseball executive said. The Mets have four full-time employees in the media relations department. Phillips indicated a private plane may have also been requested as well as a ''billboard presence in the city,'' which another baseball official confirmed.
Rodriguez instead signed a 10-year pact worth $252 million with the Texas Rangers. He spent three years with the Rangers, excelling personally while the team failed to win more than 73 games. The Rangers, deciding they would be unable to construct a competitive team with Rodriguez's salary on the books, then traded him to the New York Yankees prior to the 2004 season.
The Yankees trade materialized only after a deal to the Boston Red Sox had been vetoed by the players' union on account of Rodriguez's attempt to voluntarily reduce his salary.
As for the idea that Rodriguez would have taken 50% less to join the Mets … well, that's difficult to believe. Perhaps he was willing to take less money, but 50% seems highly unlikely. Rodriguez has proven in the past that he can become excitable and, perhaps, a little prone to overstatement when talking about scenarios that never came to pass. For instance, here's what Rodriguez said in 2018 about his past desire to become a part of the Red Sox franchise:
"At the time the Yankees weren't even part of the equation," he said. "They had a great shortstop in (Derek) Jeter; they had won four championships over the last eight years or so.
"So I was like, this is perfect. This creates kind of a Magic (Johnson) - (Larry) Bird scenario: Great for baseball, great for us, both shortstops, pretty good."
Still, if you're a Mets fan, you can only wonder how the early 2000s would've played out differently if Rodriguez had ended up joining the team.