Former Red Sox Frustrated by Unmotivated Players

The death of the Reserve Clause and the birth of free agency in the mid-1970s ushered in a new era of baseball that saw skyrocketing salaries and multiple-year contracts. For the players, it was a victory over the owners who had sought to limit their salaries and leaveFormer Red Sox them with no room to negotiate. Since then, however, some former Red Sox are saying that huge salaries and multiple-year contracts are leaving current players with less motivation to play as hard as they can.

I recently spoke with Jim Gosger, a former Red Sox reserve outfielder who played for the team from 1963 to 1966. Known as a line-drive hitter, Gosger played in the major leagues for a dozen years, and won a World Series with the New York Mets in 1969. Gosger told me that his years in the big leagues were the best years of his life, and that most players back then played for the love of the game. He said that many players today just don’t have the drive and enthusiasm to play because to them it’s all about the money. “There’s no loyalty to a team anymore,” Gosger told me, “We used to have to be at a certain weight when we arrived at spring training. But now look at Pablo (Sandoval). How do you even get that far overweight?” Gosger’s words echo what many other former players like him are saying today.

I sat in on a Q&A last summer with members of the 1975 Boston Red Sox World Series team that included Jim Rice. Rice said that fans would start seeing players play much harder with more motivation if they got one and two year contracts instead of the six or seven year contracts many of them are accustomed to receiving. Rice makes a good point. If you’re an outfielder with a six-year contract making $5 million a year and you want to take a day off, who’s going to stop you? You’re a millionaire, so what do you care if someone gets on your case for not hustling? For a million dollars I’d lean in and let pitchers peg me if it meant getting on base to help the Red Sox win!

Former Red Sox Players Knew How to Hustle!

A lack of hustle used to get a player benched immediately. During a game in 1977 against the Red Sox, the New York Yankees’ Reggie Jackson got yanked from the game by his manager, Billy Martin, for not hustling to field a hit. Jackson seemed to almost jog to the ball as Jim Rice pulled into second base for a double. While Jackson said he misjudged the depth of the hit, anyone watching the footage can immediately tell he wasn’t giving his best effort. It’s worth mentioning that Jackson was one of the game’s first $1 million players.  What’s bothersome to former Red Sox players and old-school fans alike is this lack of hustle makes the game less exciting, which is the last thing baseball needs. Games already last for hours, and while I love every minute of it, I’d love it even more if I saw outfielders diving for catches, or a hitter run his butt off trying to beat out a bunt.

Daniel Nava and Dustin Pedroia: Two Different Salaries, Same True Grit

Daniel Nava

Daniel Nava is a powerhouse for this Red Sox team, making great plays on the field and at the plate. There is something rather surprising about Nava. He earns approximately $100,000 above the league minimum salary. Nava rakes in just $505, 500, while his fellow teammates earn millions of dollars. Some of those players are strong contributors, too, while others have their moments.

Heading over to baseballplayersalaries.com’s website further confirms Nava’s contribution and earnings over the course of the season. The people behind the website calculated that for the 109 games that he has played in thus far, he earned $4,637 per game, and for 107 hits he has earned $4,724. Nava is a lock for a hit in almost every game in which he plays, though. Currently, he is in a bit of slump. Numbers do not lie, though, as his batting line is .292/.380/.432. He is a versatile in the field, too. He has played different outfield position, and even accepted first base duties. Nava’s contract is not up for arbitration until 2015.

As a point of comparison, Dustin Pedroia earns $10,000,000, and is set to earn $12,500,000 next year after his 8-year contract extension penned in July. He earns $76,923 per game and $65,359 every time he makes contact with the ball while at the plate this far this year. He has more hits than Nava, at 153 over 130 game appearances, but he is more than well compensated for his on the field activity.

Why is this worth mentioning? I believe there is a lesson to be learned about motivation, drive, and hard work.

Daniel NavaOne could say well this year was his time to shine. Another may say that he is seeking a raise. These thoughts may be true, but watching how Nava plays, he seems to love to work hard at the game he loves.  For him, I believe it’s all about work ethic, a woefully lost personal trait in modern day life.

The whole team has been grinding out wins throughout the season.  Nava has been a big part of some of those wins. We can all learn a lot from this year’s Red Sox. If we show up on the field, or in the boardroom, with something to say or do, then you have the ability to be successful.

Putting in time, effort, and the fortitude to push through obstacles and injuries will win games and move you forward in your career. After all, this combination of talent, skills, and grit seem to have worked well for Dustin Pedroia.

Let us hope that Nava, and all the other grinders out there, are noticed and properly compensated for “A plus” work.