It's not about the money ... Sometimes it's the perks

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Hotel suites. NBA tickets. Maybe even a motor home.

When it comes to baseball stars, sometimes it takes more than millions of dollars to complete a deal. Once in a while, the quirks and perks can make all the difference.

Take Roger Clemens. If the Houston Astros really want to tempt him out of retirement, they should consider offering him a contract that features his lucky number.

The Rocket wore No. 21 for most of his career. And when he signed with Boston a decade ago, it was for $21,521,000 -- with a signing bonus of $621,000.

"The importance of No. 21 to Roger was best illustrated when he built his house and asked me if I could get the post office to have his address end in 21," agent Randy Hendricks said.

To help entice Japanese shortstop Kaz Matsui this month, the New York Mets added this extra: two translators, one for him at the ballpark and another for his family. Total: up to $100,000.

A benefit in Nomar Garciaparra's contract could soon come into play. If the shortstop is traded and sells his Boston-area home for less than the appraised value, the Red Sox must pay the difference.

Sorry, no Winnebagos

Traveling man Rickey Henderson once tried a novel approach. He wanted the Mets to give him a Winnebago.

"We obviously did not get it," agent Jeff Borris said.

Yet when Arizona lured free agent Randy Johnson in late 1998 with a four-year deal worth more than $52 million, Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo tossed in a neat treat. He gave the 6-foot-10 pitcher a pair of half-season tickets to the Phoenix Suns, also owned by Colangelo.

"When the money is almost equal, it's the other little perks that might get it done," said agent Keith Miller, a former major leaguer for the Mets and Kansas City. "It's an accommodation."

"You have to be a premium player to get them," he said. "When I played, I just hoped to get a single room."

Need some space

Now, baseball's labor contract guarantees every player his own room on the road. Curt Schilling, Greg Maddux and some All-Stars get hotel suites.

"It went from an extra perk to now that's it," said Chicago White Sox executive Roland Hemond, who's worked in pro ball for more than a half-century.

"There's a tendency to ask because it's a status symbol. They think it's a benefit, and it may be a detriment," he said. "Guys used to spend a lot of time talking baseball with their roommates. You don't have that anymore."

Recently retired Mark Grace's contract provided him with a golf club membership and Phil Nevin's cost of joining a country club is covered. Kazuhiro Sasaki gets $50,000 for a personal trainer.

Of course, special treatment is not unique to ballplayers. The entertainment field is full of pampered performers.

The Rolling Stones' contract rider assured them a snooker table at concert venues, singer Christina Aguilera specifically got Flintstones vitamins and Boyz II Men requested two dozen black towels.

Former Houston reliever Charlie Kerfeld once asked for -- and received -- 37 boxes of Jello in a contract provision. All the better to play pranks on his teammates, he said.

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