The Yankees, who had said publicly that they would not negotiate with A-Rod once he opted out of his contract, went back on their word when Rodriguez went directly to Hank Steinbrenner. But Steinbrenner refused to give him the 10-year, $300 million deal he wanted. At least not guaranteed.
That’s where Buffett came into play. As I reported in my column in today’s Daily News, the billionaire suggested that A-Rod tie his pursuit of the home run record into his contract, which would add $30 million to the deal if he passed Barry Bonds as the all-time home run king.
“Hank loved it when he heard it,” said a source close to A-Rod. “This was a way for both sides to save face. It was, ‘How can we get the deal done creatively and make both sides happy?’”
The Yankees have to classify each home run as a “milestone event” for A-Rod to collect his bonuses, which are essentially marketing deals. Assuming he’s not caught up in another major scandal, you have to assume the team will live up to its side of the deal.
Still, as CNBC sports business analyst Darren Rovell told me, it’s going to be hard for the Yankees to sell the A-Rod home run quest the way they thought they would be able to three years ago.
“Any marketing around the home runs almost becomes a joke,” Rovell said. “The people that would have bought that shirt, hat or autographed ball may not buy it now. It’s going to be really hard to market this. This can’t be what the Yankees bargained for.”
Maybe Buffett will step in again and buy all the unsold merchandise. Or maybe he’ll take a new career path and become a full-time agent. Apparently, he’s pretty good.