Why has retirement turned into a negotiating tool?

We’NFL Divisional Playoffs - Arizona Cardinals v New Orleans Saintsve heard many things used as tools to increase or manipulate contracts in professional sports but I’m having a tough time understanding why retirement is among them.

In recent years players have used the threat that they would retire as a reason that teams should pay them more money. Recently it was said that Johnny Damon had told friends he would retire if he couldn’t get an appropriate contract and then yesterday Kurt Warner came out and said that he was thinking of retiring since football was simply not fun anymore.

My thoughts? Fine go away already.

Don’t use the threat of retiring as a negotiating tool. I can’t even understand why threatening to retire has even worked.

Are these athletes foolish enough to think we won’t simply replace them. We can buy other jerseys, hang up new posters and yes we can cheer for a different player occupying your old position.

Don’t tell me how the game isn’t fun and then turn around and sign a huge contract. I suppose it’s not just the players who are at fault here. After all if any of these organizations had the balls to stand up and say here’s the offer take it or retire I seriously doubt we’d be witnessing this still.

If a guy wants to retire then you aren’t bidding against another organization. You’re bidding against his sofa and daytime soaps. Now I know that Hope Brady is still an attractive lady but I don’t think shes got the goods to compete with the desire to still play sports and lets be honest she ain’t going to pay anyone the greenbacks to watch her show.

Instead you are trying to convince the athlete he still wants to pay. So far the only way anyone has been able to do that is with money.

Before I go any further I think we have to understand the difference between using retirement as a tool and saying you are going to retire.

Current Baltimore Raves safety Ed Reed came out and said he was thinking of retiring following the Ravens playoff loss citing nagging injuries. Reed is also not guilty of using retirement as a tool. Reed (like teammate Derrick Mason) has a contract for next season. Reed’s contract actually runs though 2012 with salaries of $6 million, $6.5 million and $7 million. Simply put there is no way Reed would be able to top those numbers with any club even if he was a free agent.

Now for an example of a player trying to milk retirement.

The last time Kurt Warner wanted a contract he wanted two years instead of the one Arizona was offering. Warner, who has blinded people into thinking he doesn’t care about money, threatened to retire leaving Arizona with Matt Leinhart as their starter. In essence Warner was gloating to them ‘pay me or play the reason you brought me here in the first place.’ The result of course was Arizona giving him two years on his deal and now he’ll go out and do the same thing to them this season.

There’s been conflicting reports whether Johnny Damon would actually retire. Not long after it was first reported everyone was pretty much trying to prove otherwise and other acquaintances of Damon have even squashed the rumor. I for one don’t doubt that Damon said it. After all Damon hasn’t found any teams interested in taking him for the $10 million he asked for at the beginning of the winter meetings. He’s still asking for that amount as recently as last week.

Sure there have been others as well.

Astros WorkoutMaybe they all have learned from Roger Clemens who retired as a member of the  New York Yankees in 2003 only to sign with the Houston Astros in January of 2004. Sure that first year he got only $5 million but the $18 million he got in 2005 after threatening to retire was eye popping. Actually Clemens asked for $22 million (as he said to match his uniform number) while the Astros were going to offer $13.5 million in their case for arbitration.

Clemens again said he was retiring following the 2005 season, and surprise surprise he didn’t. After months of everyone expecting him to come back it was announced on May 31 that he was coming back. Clemens’ contract worth $22,000,022 would be prorated netting him $12.25 million for 19 big league starts.

Next year same thing. This time to the Yankees. The deal with the Yankees would be prorated from a total of $28,000,022. Clemens made $18.7 million that season in total despite not pitching in the big leagues until June 9. Clemens finished the year 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA costing the Yankees just over $3.1 million per victory.

It figures to only get worse.

I’ve never known a person outside of sports with the ability to make their employer pay them more with this threat. Actually I’m willing to bet most employers would see this as a easy way to avoid paying you severance and to discontinue your benefits. So why is this option now on the table in the lucrative market of professional sports?

These professional clubs need to put a stop to it. They are the only ones who can.