Ask Gary: Are the Bolts locking up too many?

by Gary Shelton on July 14, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Is Yzerman tying his own hands?./CARMEN MANDATO

Is Yzerman tying his own hands?./CARMEN MANDATO

Each week, the readers take over and play Ask Gary. They send in a question, or a couple, on Thursday night or Friday morning and we all talk about the world of sports. Think of it as a radio show where you don't have to be on hold. Join us and ask a question, make a comment or be funny. Send the questions to

Saturday, 4 a.m.

Do you think Steve Yzerman’s strategy of locking up his core players to long-term lucrative contracts will pay off? Were you surprised Tyler Johnson wasn’t moved, before his no-trade clause kicked in, for a bigger stronger forward?

Larry  Beller

Larry, it will pay off only if Yzerman rewards the right guys. There is no reward in giving a "B" player the contract of an "A" player. Obviously, you're giving up a certain amount of control when you tie up a guy. In essence, a general manager is tying his own hands.

That said, it's hard to complain about giving a long-term contract to Nikita Kucherov. He's a blossoming star, and from what I read about his contract, it was a bargain. But if he dips the way he did in the second half of last season, sure, it could catch up to the Bolts.

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I remember when Oren Koules, the oafish owner of the Lightning, thought he was doing a good thing by giving Vinny Lecavalier a huge contract because it gave him long-time control. But Vinny was soon just a 20-goal scorer, and it hindered  the team. If Stamkos evens off, or if Kucherov does, the Bolts would have a lot of their cap tied up.

That said, it's hard to complain about a local owner who will pay his stars the market value, isn't it? We've seen too many nickels squeezed.

Personally, I was stunned that the Bolts didn't move Johnson. I know he's a favorite of Jon Cooper because they've been together for a long time. But he's been hurt, and he's a small guy in a big man's game. I thought his was the perfect contract to move to add size before his no-trade kicked in.

Someone smarter than I am (and there are a lot of guys who qualify) once said that you can't pay everyone. There are times you wonder if the team wants to keep its core together at all costs. I'd love to see another star in uniform here.

We know this: The playoffs are hard, and there are always series where a shortcoming can catch up to a team. I fully anticipate the Bolts to make the playoffs and to be a threat next season. But they won't be the only threat. It sure would be better to see the Lightning as a little bigger, a little tougher. Wouldn't it?

What odds do you give on  the Rays new Ybor stadium ever getting built?

Jim Willson

Not good. Personally, I still want to the financial details before I decide. I know there aren't enough fans to justify a stadium on the raw cost of it, but if Tampa can come up with a plan that passes the cost onto the tourists (like  most cities have done), then it might be worth it as a community asset.

But if you listen to the comments that are being made about the stadium, it seems so many people are negative even before those plans are announced. It's like saying that dinner tastes lousy even before it's cooked. People act as if they're going to personally be asked to pay the $892 million themselves.

And maybe that's fair. If people are ready to let the Rays leave, knowing they'll never have baseball again, that's their right.

Look, it's a pretty stadium. I'd love to cover games there. But I also know that it's hard to get a stadium built. I saw Joe Robbie Stadium built. I saw Amalie Arena. I saw Raymond James.

There are always snags and threats and lawsuits and objections. There will be this time, too, even if we can find a common ground (which will be tough) for a stadium.  The same politicians who argued that the team had to be on the Tampa side will balk now that there are bills to pay (as if there wasn't going to be all along).

I'd say it's 11 percent that the stadium is ever built.

Now, let me ask you a question. Say the stadium gets built. Say everyone is happy and Tampa gets a new landmark.

But what percentage of the attendance problem is conquered? Where are the Rays in attendance then? Where is the payroll then? And if both aren't significantly better, should the stadium be built at all?

NBA Commissioner David Silver has intimated that the league is going to abolish the one-and-done rule, which from the get-go I thought was not only a mistake, but a lawsuit waiting to happen. How do you tell an 18-year-old man that you won't employ him unless he goes to college for a year? It seems to also have made a mess of the college game. What say you? Is it time to abolish the one-and-done rule?
Peter Kerasotis
Peter, you know me, and you know that I don't have a degree in labor law. I do know that a lot of unions make prospective members qualify (through an apprenticeship, for instance) before they can even become members.
So, yeah, the union can effectively not allow someone to join until it passes a a qualification. It happens with a lot of unions. Sure, the courts would get involved. When don't they? But if the league and its players' union are of the same thought, I think they could fight it. After all, there has to be some cutoff, right? You don't want a 9-year-old declaring for the draft.
Now, let's put the legality of the issue on hold for a minute. The current one-and-done rule hasn't helped either  the pros or the college game. Too many players try to take a short-cut through their college careers, and they arrive in the NBA woefully lacking in fundamentals. Essentially, many of them are still learning during their first contract.
I know the Final Four is still hugely popular, but it's nowhere as good of an event as it was when the big programs like Duke and Kentucky and North Carolina were playing with juniors and seniors.
I'll be honest. When I was in college, I earned a living working in journalism while I went to school. I learned on the job, too. And it didn't damage (badly) the newspapers for which I worked.  But I didn't make millions of dollars, and I didn't turn my first employer into a place where I was just worried about my second employer.
Personally, I wouldn't want to pass laws to enforce this. But I'd alter the salary structure to take away a lot of the contractual advantages of one-and-dones. Because as long as the NBA teams are lining up to take freshmen and sophomores, well, they're living proof that those guys are still better players than a guy who stuck around for four years at a smaller college.
In other words, I think the NBA can limit young players entering on one-and-dones. I just don't think they should.
Players with 10 or more years of Major League Baseball experience who start taking their pension at age 62 will get $210,000 a year, according to the Society of Actuaries.

Is that enough?

Scott Myers
The fans are not going to want to hear this, but probably not. It takes a special player to last 10 years in the big leagues. It should come with a special reward.
Of course, the money is so big now -- as you've shown us with multiple charts -- that unless a player is foolish with his dollars, they should have millions left when they get into their 60s. They shouldn't need any more money.
That shouldn't' matter, though. Players are in a multi-million business. They should be comfortable in their golden years.
I have always heard that baseball has the best retirement plan.  After one day in the bigs, players' health plans kick in. After 43 days, they get a minimum $34,000 a year.
How does that compare? Business Insider says this:
  • NHL players must participate in 160 games to earn an annual pension plan of $45,000.
  • NBA players are vested after three years of service. Once they turn 62, they get at least $57,000 a year. The benefit is maxed out at $1.965 million after playing 11 seasons. Players that choose 401(k) plans are matched at 140%.
  • NFL players are also vested after three seasons. They earn $470 a month for each year they played. So according to the Street, Brett Favre, who played 20 years, will get about $112,000 a year once he turns 55. The NFL's optional 401(k) plan matches player contributions at 200%. Players that participate in four or more seasons can also get a $65,000 annuity bonus.

If there is a gap for MLB players, it's after that initial qualification. You make $34,000 after 43 days, but that doesn't rise as rapidly as you'd think.

Of course, athletes make so much money compared to the rest of us (other entertainers do, too) that they can always invest in their own futures. One of the saddest stories around is where an athlete goes broke

Sports Illustrated once estimated that 78 percent of NFL players are either bankrupt or under financial stress within two years of retirement and 60 percent of National Basketball Association players are broke within five years of leaving the sport.

How much time does Sternberg spend in the Tampa Bay area each year?  Does he even own a vacation home here?

I don't think he has a vacation home. But he and his wife (and kids) seem to get down here 3-4 times a year. He's told me that he's a nightly watcher, though.

I like local ownership, too. I think it looks better, and the feeling that a guy is invested in the community is important.

But think about this. Hugh Culverhouse lived locally, and he was one of the worst owners in NFL history. Vince Naimoli lived here, and fans couldn't wait to see him go.

There are great local owners . There are solid out of town owners. (George Steinbrenner was never a local owner. The Rooneys, however, were.

Put it this way: If Sternberg was there five nights a week, leaning over a rail and yelling at the umps, how much better would the Rays be? And if the record wasn't any better, how much better would you feel about the team?







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