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Outside the Lines: What's The Deal?

Here's the transcript from Show 70 of weekly Outside The Lines - What's The Deal?

Announcer - July 29, 2001.

Mark Schwarz, host - It's been said that winning isn't everything, it's the only thing. And many of today's athletes swear by those words. Ray Bourque was as much a part of Boston as the harbor. But after 18 years in bean town, Bourque uprooted his family in his quest for the Stanley Cup.

Unidentified Male - Raymond Bourque, a dream has come true!

Schwarz - But for others, winning certainly isn't everything. Show them the money and they follow dollar signs out of town, leaving championship contenders behind. No longer is the ring necessarily the thing. For some, it's family that matters most. Raising kids takes priority over raising a banner.

Fred McGriff, .318 batting avg., 19 HR, 61 RBI in 2001 - Family's family. They just told me, whatever you want to do, we're behind you.

Schwarz - This week on Outside The Lines, we examine the dilemma facing professional athletes who must decide whether to stay or to go, leading many to wonder, what's the deal?

Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance.

Joining us from ESPN Studios, and sitting in for Bob Ley - Mark Schwarz.

Schwarz - For nearly three weeks, Fred McGriff held the Chicago Cubs hostage, choosing to toil in obscurity for his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Privately, baseball executives said, they were appalled. Writers scratched their heads, and considered scratching McGriff off their Hall of Fame ballots. Cubs fans could not believe McGriff had declined an invitation to the 2001 Pennant race, that he chose last place over first. The prop over Wrigley, Cuban sandwiches over deep-dish pizza?

But consider this - Fred McGriff was earning $6.25 million to play a kids game in his hometown where he resides in his dream house with his wife, his two young children. Meanwhile his recently widowed mother comes to most every home game. Now cynics might say that athletes make enough money to make any family issue disappear. Yet more of them seek to put no-trade clauses in their contracts. One's family can be the top priority or perhaps the ultimate negotiating tool.

Bob Holtzman now, on McGriff and others who say there is no place like home.

Bob Holtzman, ESPN Correspondent - For the past 15 seasons, Fred McGriff has been the model of quiet excellence. He's hit more than 400 home runs in 38 different ballparks, and he's won a World Series. McGriff has also been traded five times.

McGriff - Well I've been playing a few years, so I think I have the right to have a little control on what's going on.

Holtzman - Over the past couple of weeks, McGriff made headlines for something that had very little to do with baseball.

Greg Vaughn, Devil Rays outfielder - He was getting ripped for choosing family over going to play a game of baseball, you know what I mean? I think society's -- I mean, that's crazy. What's first, isn't family first?

Holtzman - McGriff's family is in Tampa, where he'd been playing for the past three-and-a-half seasons. He came to the expansion Devil Rays because he was a Tampa native who grew up selling soft drinks at Buccaneers games. For McGriff, this is home. And despite the Devil Rays having the worst record in baseball, he chose to reject the trade to the first place Chicago Cubs earlier this month.

McGriff - I've been blessed to be at home to see my family. My father passed away, but my mom gets to see me play every night that we're in town. Little stuff like that you've got to think about. So, that's where I'm at right now.

Holtzman - But after two weeks of talking with his family, McGriff changed his mind. He decided to waive his no-trade clause, board a plane, and accept the trade to the Cubs.

Andy MacPhail, Cubs General Manager - I think talking it over with his family and seeing the situation that we're in, made it more, you know, evident to him over time what he should do.

Michael Tucker, Cubs outfielder - He's at home. He's in Tampa, he grew up in Tampa. It's a -- his family is there, his mom's there, you know, the kids are growing up there. That's an ideal situation for a lot of players to be in. But for him to change his mind and say, OK, well I want to go see Farber and help them win. I think people want to commend him for it.

Holtzman - It's a dilemma more athletes than ever are having to deal with, and trying to avoid. This week, running back Terrell Davis agreed to restructure his contract, taking less money, so the Broncos could afford to sign their top draft picks. What he got in return was a no-trade clause. The Colorado Avalanche resigned center Joe Sakic earlier this summer. One of his demands was a no-trade clause. The Avalanche agreed. And the only reason that the A's and first baseman Jason Giambi haven't agreed on a new deal is because Giambi wants a no-trade clause. The A's call Giambi's request a deal breaker.

For some athletes, the priorities are changing to something beyond wins and losses.

Scott Brosius, Yankees third baseman - The game is more fun when you're winning. And when you're on a team that has a chance to win, it's definitely more fun that way. But there also comes a time, too, where you have to start thinking about, you know, when your kids are school age. It's not very fun when you are spending a month or two months or more away from your family.

Vaughn - I have kids, you know, and I have a family and I want to have some type of stability so I know what's going on in my life. I mean, I think I should have a little bit of say if it's dealing with Greg Vaughn, you know what I mean. So that's why it was important for me to have that in my contract.

Holtzman - Ranger's first baseman Rafael Palmeiro also has a no-trade clause. In fact, he chose to return to Texas, because he and his family make their home in the Dallas area.

Rafael Palmeiro, Rangers first baseman - I sacrificed money to be at home, and to get that no-trade clause is something that's very important for me and my family. It gives you peace of mind to know that you are going to be in that location with that team for as long as the contract. And if they do want to trade you, or they have a deal, then they have to ask permission. And it's got a lot of value to it.

Holtzman - We sometimes forget that moving is hard, even for millionaires, especially when a city has become home. There was no greater example of that then last year at this time, when the Orioles traded outfielder B.J. Surhoff to Atlanta.

B.J. Surhoff, traded to Braves - If you are good at playing well, people -- other people want you to come to their team. Bad part is, when your team doesn't play well, that sometimes means you're going to move on somewhere else.

Holtzman - McGriff got the news he'd been traded here in Texas on Friday. But instead of flying directly to Chicago to join his new team, McGriff chose to skip a game, fly back to Tampa, and spend the weekend with his family. He'll report to Wrigley Field later today.

McGriff - Now I've got two months, to see what I can do, see if I can help the Cubbies make the playoffs and we'll take it from there. And I can control my future a little bit. Better I control it, than to let somebody else control it for me.

Holtzman - For the next two months, McGriff's future will be in Chicago, the road to Wrigley a rocky one, detours caused by a no-trade clause. It's a journey more professional athletes are choosing to take.

For Outside The Lines, I'm Bob Holtzman.

Schwarz - And by agreeing to go to Chicago, Fred McGriff receives an extra million dollars, and next year his $6.75 million contract is guaranteed, and it's his option rather than the team's. How did the Cubs also get it done? Well, Cubs manager Don Baylor promised McGriff his kids could be batboy, batgirl at Wrigley and offered the family several trips into Chicago and on the road.

So how difficult is it for millionaires to move? Joining us from Montreal is Braves outfielder B.J. Surhoff, traded a year ago this week by the Orioles. And as you just saw, in Bob Holtzman's report visibly upset about having to leave his family. Also joining us from Baltimore is Ken Rosenthal, baseball writer for the Sporting News, who recently questioned the competitive spirit of Fred McGriff in an article entitled, "McGriff's Trade Refusal Leaves Him Short of Haul."

Ken wrote, "He could have made a case for Cooperstown, but unless there is a mitigating circumstance yet to be revealed, he probably can forget it now. A Hall-of-Famer doesn't refuse a last-to-first offer."

Well Ken, do you think sentiments like yours had any influence on McGriff accepting the Cubs offer?

Ken Rosenthal, "The Sporting News" - No I don't. And I think what this ultimately came down to, and Fred alluded to it, was control. He was going to lose control of his future when that no-trade clause expired at the end of the year. Now the Cubs basically gave him an option for next year and an option for the year after. And he has control again. And that was a big thing for Fred McGriff.

Schwarz - So was this, in your opinion, more a matter of McGriff insuring his future, his future earnings rather than anything to do with his family from the start?

Rosenthal - No, I'm sure the family considerations played a very big role in his mind. But, I think, ultimately what it came down to was that issue of control. And he needed some time, quite evidently, to get his thoughts together on this. And obviously he made a decision that I think will really allow himself to set himself up very well in the future.

Schwarz - B.J. welcome, thanks for joining us from Montreal. We saw in the piece that Bob Holtzman did, just how upset you were to get the news that you were being traded from your home of Baltimore. Can you describe how you felt to learn you were being traded from a fourth place team to a first place team, given your family situation.

Surhoff - Well that wasn't really a consideration, whether I was going last to first. That was totally off the side. I was traded -- I was told right after the deadline. I wasn't, I was told on Saturday night -- and I got traded on Monday -- that I wasn't, that nothing was going on. I thought I'd made it through the deadline. And there was a period where, you know, I waited 14 years to become a 10-five guy, and I essentially would have been one, once I got through that deadline. And, you know, then I would have been to dictate where I do play the rest of my career. And I'd planned on playing the rest of my career in Baltimore, and it didn't work out that way.

You know, I had to go and transform myself from being where I was with my wife and my kids, in a situation that I wanted to be in. To one that I, all of a sudden, had to change right away. And fortunately, I've been treated very well here.

Schwarz - When Fred McGriff was going through this decision process for the last 19 days, and you may have heard some of the criticism he received, how did you react to his process?

Surhoff - I sympathized with him. It was a very tough situation. Everyone can speculate, and say different things about it, and question his motives. But nobody knows what's really going on inside his head except for him, and how he feels about playing where he played. Yeah, they were in a real tough situation down in Tampa, and your chance to go to first place. And really, that's the only thing that makes it alluring to leave, is to go to a first-place club.

And even though I was going to a first-place club, it was still very, very difficult. And you feel like you're being rented, in a way, and you don't have a choice. They say, when you made a choice to play somewhere, and all of a sudden someone changes that on you, it's a little bit different. And when you play as long as we have, and you finally get that chance to control your career, you don't want to give it up very easily.

Schwarz - B.J., your situation was made, perhaps, more difficult because one of your children, Mason, is autistic and he was being treated remarkably in Baltimore at a special program. Did that make it even more difficult for you to consider leaving your family behind?

Surhoff - Well, we have four kids. And everything we do we try and base it on our family life. Yeah, he's got very, very special needs. And the people that have worked with him there have been fabulous, and he's made strides beyond where we thought he'd ever be. And he continues to do, and that was part of it. But, the consideration of my other kids, and my wife, and everything else, and the fact that we lived there and decided to make that home had a lot to do with -- was very much involved also.

Schwarz - Ken, can you begrudge a guy like Fred McGriff who has earned the right to waive, to prevent all trades by terms of service. And something negotiated in his contract when he refuses to leave a city like Tampa, no matter what place the Devil Rays are in, and no matter what place the Cubs are in.

Rosenthal - No, I think what I wrote was a little bit misconstrued by readers. And that's no one's fault but my own. What my point was, is that he, I think, is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate. By going to Chicago, I think he can enhance his candidacy considerably, being in a pennant race again, being possibly in a post-season. Being with a team with a chance to win its first World Series since 1908. I don't think you can begrudge a guy for that. But I think you can say, hey, there will be professional sacrifices, perhaps, if he makes that personal decision.

Schwarz - Well you know, guys always get ripped in the media for doing things that are clearly not in their family's best interest. Guys get ripped for being disloyal to their hometown. Can we have it both ways?

Rosenthal - That's a good question, and I think that's certainly a fair point with McGriff. But, in the end, he did take the trade. And he did receive significant inducements. He got a million dollars extra, as you mentioned. So, I think he got the best of both worlds. And it's a very unusual situation, no doubt, but it worked out, I think, to the best of everyone involved.

Schwarz - B.J., you talked about the timing. As you mentioned, a couple of months later, you would have been a 10-five player who would have been able to reject any trade. You would have been in Baltimore for the duration. How difficult was it for your family to have that separation thrust on your so suddenly.

Surhoff - Well it's probably been just as hard on me. But the burden gets thrown on to your wife and to any people that might be helping with your kids, you know, extended family members. It gets real difficult for them, but it's just as hard on us. I'm used to being very, very involved in my kids lives day to day. And now all of a sudden that was taken away from me. And that was a big adjustment for them and it has been a huge adjustment for me.

Schwarz - In a moment we'll have more with our guests, B.J. Surhoff in Montreal, and Ken Rosenthal from the Sporting News in Baltimore, when Outside The Lines continues. When a professional athlete contemplates a change of scenery, is family first, or is it ultimately money that talks?

Palmeiro - There are just some players that are just going to go to the highest bidder, regardless of where it is. But, you know, in my case, I had to figure out what was more important for me and my kids. You know, being in school and being in that period now where they are doing a lot of school activities and playing baseball games and things like that, that I'd missed in the past. I thought it was very important for me to be here in this crucial time of their life.

Schwarz - Only twice in his 13 NBA seasons has Mitch Richmond's team finished with a winning record, starved for a ring, Richmond gladly accepted the veteran's minimum, a below market $1 million deal with the world champion Lakers and instant contention.

Mitch Richmond, entering his 14th NBA season - Everyone wants to win a ring. I think you look across the board and you look at the Hall of Famers who have played this game, a lot of them haven't achieved that. And one thing I haven't achieved is just playing in the post-season. And I just, you know, welcome the opportunity to come in with the Lakers, and really try to contribute in a new way.

Schwarz - By contrast, Chris Webber chose to stay with the team that could pay him the most, the Kings, even though he had all but called Sacramento a remote wasteland with no soul food.

Schwarz - Now, Ken Rosenthal, $123 million later, Chris Webber is back in a place with a team that he has said in the past that he didn't think they could win. He could have easily signed on, like Richmond did, for the middle class exception of $4.5 million a year, to be with Shaq and Kobe and guarantee himself a shot at a ring. Is it just that $122 million buys happiness no matter where you are?

Rosenthal - Well I think his actions speak whatever, louder than whatever words he might choose to explain this. Alex Rodriguez is another example in baseball. He goes to the Texas Rangers, tells everyone. Well, they've got a really good team in place, and they've got a great farm system. And obviously that was not the case. He took the money. I have no problem with an athlete making that decision; I have no problem with an athlete making the decision that Mitch Richmond made. It's a very individual, personalized thing. But, at least tell us what it is about.

Schwarz - What about that B.J., you hear certain superstars say that they want to win. And Alex Rodriguez, probably the best example from baseball. But when you are paid $25 million a year for ten years, are you basically talking out of both sides of your mouth?

Surhoff - I don't think so. I don't think -- there's no doubt Alex wants to win. I think they get off to a tough start this year, and everybody knew they were going to struggle a little bit in the pitching department. They weren't as deep as they have been. And there was some questions about their team. I don't have any doubt about Alex, he's a winner. He doesn't have to prove that to me or anybody else. Everybody in the league would love to have them on their team.

But everybody's got different ways of approaching things. Obviously you're going to negotiate the best contract you can, and then you have to take all the other things into consideration. A lot depends on where you are in your life. Me, later on in my life, I'm looking for more stability. Or my willingness to be away for a year or two and get that chance to win.

Or it might be a different situation if I were 25, 26, and I'm going to go uproot everything I have and go make a full commitment somewhere. So a lot depends upon where you are in your life, and what's happening. And what you are looking forward to, and whether you are trying to cut ties, or whether you are trying to move on. So there is a lot of things that go in to everybody's decision. And everybody wants to be quick to jump, and know what's going on. But, obviously we play for money and we do the best we can that way. But things change. And everyone's got their own view on things, and how it works for them.

Schwarz - How much, B.J., does money alter priorities in professional sports? In other words, if you're a free agent, and you want to win and you want to do what's best for your family, how difficult is it to really be true to yourself when people are throwing more money at you than you can believe?

Surhoff - Well that's a very difficult question. I was never really in that situation. Every time I was a free agent, all my offers were very, very similar. So, I didn't have one outbidding the other, and never had to make the decision based on solely money. And I never wanted to be in that situation. I made a move back in '96 for many other reasons.

Obviously I tried to negotiate the best contract I could. And then from there I made decision based on what I thought was going to be the best for me and my family and my professional career. And the same in '98. I played in a place where I loved being, and I wanted to play there. And I ultimately came back to that decision, and you know, that was one reason why I was so disappointed I got traded. Because I loved playing where I was. Not everybody loves that.

And then, you know what, some people find out that they had it better before they left, and they find the patches aren't greener. So, you know not all decisions come out for guys, and they learn later on, hopefully, you move on from there.

Schwarz - I know it depends on where you are in your life. But if you can, rank these in order of importance to you, when you are considering where you want to be - money, family, and ability to win the World Series?

Surhoff - Well the first two are important to me. The money, obviously, you want to do the best you can, so that's number three of the three. And then somewhere, you have to find a happy medium in the first two. And again, a lot depends on where you are in your life. Of course we all want to play to win, but you have to be willing to make the sacrifices to win, too. And, you know, I always felt that as one of the reasons -- again, back to Baltimore.

The reason I was disappointed I got traded, was because I had gotten with the mindset that we were going to rebuild, and it wasn't going to take long. And I was going to be part of it. And I wanted to be there to help turn it around again.

But now I'm in a situation where I'm winning, but they are sacrifices for me on the other end.

Schwarz - Ken, how rare is B.J. Surhoff, to put money at the bottom of his priority list?

Rosenthal - Well, I think what B.J. says is very true. Each athlete at different stages of his career and life would make a different decision. But, I think increasingly we see guys make decisions based on very personal motivations, whether it is the ring, whether it is the money, whether it is family. And they've gained greater control in sports over the last decade or so, and these no-trade clauses are a good example of that. And that control enables them to make the decision that they would like to make.

Schwarz - B.J., we're told that about 10 to 20 percent of all major leaguers have no-trade clauses in their contracts. Given management's reluctance to agree to those, do you see more players receiving them in the future?

Surhoff - No, I think -- I would be very surprised with 10-20. But then again, there is different types. I had a limited no-trade, where I was, and, you know, I was -- there was inquires about me waiving my no-trade last year. And not everybody has the blanket no-trade. You might be able to pick and choose a couple of teams, or situations, or have maybe an oral agreement. Or some sort of written agreement about if something goes on, they'll let you know and see if you'll, you're willing to take advantage of it.

But I think it is going to be a very tough thing for people to get. But you know, when you want to play, it becomes a sticking point of whether someone wants to make a commitment to you. If I'm a free agent and I'm 25, 26 year old, I'm going to sign a six-year deal; I want to make a commitment to you. I want to see the commitment come back, and I think that's where the give and take comes.

Schwarz - Right, for the Arizona Diamondbacks signing Steve Finley, the no-trade clause was a deal breaker. They gave it to him against their will, and now Steve Finley is a Diamondback.

I want to thank you, B.J. Surhoff, for joining us before your game against the Expos. Also, Ken Rosenthal from Baltimore, thanks for being on Outside The Lines.

Coming up, a look at what you said about last week's program on major changes in the minor leagues.

Schwarz - A week ago we examined the changing face of Minor League Baseball, and whether it faces extinction in small towns with Depression-era ball parks.

A fan from Clinton, Iowa wrote - Minor League Baseball has a place in small cities like Clinton, Iowa. The minors has enhanced my love of baseball. I will not let anybody take Minor League Baseball from Clinton. Nobody will, not even during my last breath. And I plan on living at least another 50 years."

You can send in all of your letters and mail to us. The address for the online Outside The Lines is For more on today's topics, and our library of streaming video and transcripts, our e-mail address

Schwarz - And speaking of Fred McGriff -- weren't we? -- tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN his Cubbies debut at Wrigley under the lights. Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire will be there, too. It's the Cubs and the Cards, "Sunday Night Baseball" tonight at 8:00. Matt Morris against Julian Tavarez.

Well, thanks for watching Outside The Lines. Remember, you can find us 10:30 a.m. every Sunday morning on ESPN.

"SportsCenter" is next with Suzy Kolber and Rece Davis. I'm Mark Schwarz; we'll see you next time.

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