Monday, August 23, 2010

The Ex Files: Albert Belle

Albert Belle rose to prominence with the Cleveland Indians. His offensive production was in an elite class that was matched by only a select few players. Despite his hate for the media, the numbers did not lie.

After the 1996 season, Albert signed a five year contract with the White Sox, making him the highest paid player at the time. Belle responded by putting on a hitting clinic during the first two years of that contract. He played in every single game for the White Sox during that time and established a White Sox single season record for home runs that still stands.

Belle had a clause in his contract that stipulated if he were not one of the top three paid players, he could opt out of his contract and become a free agent, if the Sox would not give him a raise. After the 1998 season, that scenario came to fruition. Albert signed a five year contract with the Baltimore Orioles for $65 million.

How did it work out? Belle put up two solid seasons with the Orioles before retiring due to degenerative osteoarthritis in his hip. He remained on the Orioles payroll for the entire length of his five year contract, while an insurance policy reimbursed the Orioles for a good chunk of his remaining salary.

As for the White Sox, they were rid of a ridiculous contract and a player loathed by the media. Carlos Lee replaced Belle in left field and helped the Sox make the playoffs in 2000. The Sox luckily missed the decline and sudden retirement of a once powerful player. Although the decision to let Albert Belle slip to free agency was unpopular with the fans, it was the correct call given Albert's health status a short while later.


Kevin said...

I once read that George Steinbrenner was set on signing Belle after 1998 and letting Bernie Williams walk, until Peter Angelos stepped up and lured Albert to Baltimore.

*slow clap*

Orioles Magic said...

Thanks for the lovely reminders. Both of you.
Oh to be an O's fan.

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