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Geography, taxes, octopus and other things that don’t matter in free agency

Dec 7, 2012, 11:32 AM EDT


A commenter this morning said that the Cleveland Indians make sense for Nick Swisher because he’s from Ohio. I love that stuff.

Swisher was born in Columbus and lived here as a kid and then moved to his father’s hometown of Parkersburg, West Virginia where he went to high school. But he did come back and go to Ohio State, so let’s give him Ohio as his home for argument’s sake. Columbus is about 135 miles away from Cleveland. Or roughly as far as Springfield, Massachuesetts is from New York City. Yet, for some reason, I don’t see anyone talking about guys from there being good fits with the Yankees.*

The point isn’t to pick on that commenter, though, as a lot of people say things like that. The point is to note just how useless it is to cite such things as where someone grew up as having significant influence on multi-million dollar free agent decisions.

CC Sabathia is from California. Mark Teixeira is from Maryland. Cliff Lee is from Arkansas. Roy Oswalt has a farm in rural Illinois. All of these were supposed to be factors in where they signed or where they steered trades, but none of it mattered. Indeed, I can’t think of a a major free agent or a player with no-trade protection for whom such geographical concerns were dispositive in recent years.

Griffey to Cincinnati  maybe? Of course that was 12 years ago and probably had more to do with spring training homes than anything else. Javier Vazquez famously wanted to be east so he could fly to Puerto Rico easier. I recall Matt Williams needing to be in Arizona for family reasons at the end of his career.  But apart from that stuff, I’m drawing a blank.

Add geography to state income taxes, where the player’s wife likes to shop, Johnny Damon’s love of octopus and any other number of soft factors like that to the pile of things that are fun to talk about as we fill the time during the hot stove season, but which really don’t matter.

It’s the money and the winning, usually in that order, which make the difference. Everything else constitutes about a half of a percent of the determining factors.


*Spare me your “Massachusetts is culturally different than New York” stuff. I know it is. But Cleveland and Columbus are culturally different as well. Remarkably so, as are just about any two other places that are separated by that kind of distance east of the Mississippi river.

  1. paperlions - Dec 7, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    What about Pie? Pie has to account for at least 1-2%, doesn’t it?

    • fanofevilempire - Dec 7, 2012 at 11:51 AM

      depends on what kind of pie………………

      don’t tell Craig.

    • davidpom50 - Dec 7, 2012 at 11:54 AM

      I think you mean cake. Cake should count.

    • eshine76 - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:03 PM

      especially pot pie…

    • albertmn - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:18 PM

      I think pie should count for a little over 3.14%

      • El Bravo - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:06 PM

        Pi, motherfucker!

      • seeinred87 - Dec 9, 2012 at 9:39 AM


        It’s obvious by the thumbcount on your post that people didn’t get it.

        Well done, though.

    • historiophiliac - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:16 PM

      All desserts should count — but to different degrees. There should be a complicated dessert scale that weights these things. For example, blueberry pie and the Cubs should rank somewhat higher than key lime with the Marlins…but would probably lose out to key lime and the Rays…which would probably rank lower than Boston creme in Boston. Really, there’s a whole chart to be made here. (and I haven’t even touched the cake or adult dessert selections)

      • indaburg - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:30 PM

        Rays’ Key Lime definitely beats out Boston Creme. Where would NY Apple Pie rank? It’s getting a little old although somehow it still gets served.

        Don’t forget the ice cream.

      • historiophiliac - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:33 PM

        a la mode makes it a whole other ballgame — but I’m guessing NY/Apple Pie is the mean. NY/Bananas Foster = A-rod money.

      • proudlycanadian - Dec 7, 2012 at 2:49 PM

        Adult desserts? Yummy!

    • Caught Looking - Dec 7, 2012 at 5:18 PM

      Pie is minor league.

      Pirates signed Felix Pie to a minor league contract.

    • pjmarn6 - Dec 8, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      Craig Calcaterra has made another mindless statement.
      Some facts that “SILLY CRAIG” has omitted there are seven states without a state income tax.
      South Dakota

      And among CRAIG’S LIST OF STARS who lives there for example, Rodriguez and Jeter. If these people lived in new Jersey, Rodriguez would have to pay over $3 million dollars or 8.97% of his wages from the Yankees. Jeter would have to pay $1,420,000 dollars on his $16,000,000 salary.
      “SILLY CRAIG” believes these sums to be chump change as he believes that where people choose to live with huge salaries. Maybe Craig believes that $1.4 and $3 Million are peanuts. Maybe he pulls down $50 million a year and paying $4.5 million and the $17.5 million that the IRS would be receiving from him is again peanuts, but a hell of a lot of professionals incorporate themselves in Delaware and other states that don’t tax corporations either. Again “SILLY CRAIG” fails his economic’s test.

    • fredverd - Dec 8, 2012 at 6:03 PM

      Especially to the upper crust in the Big Apple! And remember, Pi are not squared…

  2. fanofevilempire - Dec 7, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    I just wasted my timed reading this!

    oh boy…………..

  3. Alex K - Dec 7, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Excuse me, Jason. I got this one for you…

    It is about the money, stupid!

    • Jason @ IIATMS - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:26 PM


      Of course it is. Always is. Unless it’s because of the groupies. But that would make an even worse acronym.

      • paperlions - Dec 7, 2012 at 2:10 PM

        I already mentioned groupies….why are so many people talking about deserts?

      • historiophiliac - Dec 7, 2012 at 2:17 PM

        he he deserts

  4. seattlej - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    I’ve never been there, but the impression of Ohio that I’ve gotten from Ohioans over the years is that once you get out, why in hell would you ever go back?

    Additionally, this calls for an Ichiro quote: “To tell the truth, I’m not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to,” Ichiro said. “If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying.”

    • ezthinking - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:26 PM

      I guess getting packed butt-to-gut in a Tokyo subway is more fun for Ichiro than the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Kind of explains why he liked NYC, I guess.

      • nategearhart - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:36 PM

        Why the hell are you comparing public transportation with a tourist attraction? By your logic, maybe he just likes the Imperial Palace more than the Cleveland RTA? Make sense?

      • ezthinking - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:42 PM

        Exactly, nate.

      • seattlej - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:03 PM

        Yes. I’m sure that having the Rock and Roll HOF in Cleveland is a huge factor in most players’ decisions about accepting an Indians offer…

      • historiophiliac - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:30 PM

        That’s a great opening for your new slipstream novel “Ichiro and the Yankees.” I hope there’s life-like robots. Zombies are sooo 2012.

      • Jason @ IIATMS - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:53 PM

        I prefer the reference heard here in NYC: “nuts-to-butts”. Graphic and awfuller. Which is why I avoid the subway at all costs.

  5. lewp - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    “The point is to note just how useless it is to cite such things as where someone grew up as having significant influence on multi-million dollar free agent decisions.

    So Craig, you mean the heat in Texas isn’t a factor?

    That’s what you indicated earlier in one of your posts.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:15 PM

      Offer me top dollar on the free agent market and I bet I make it work.

      • lewp - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:22 PM

        “Personally, though, I would gladly pay $30 million to not have to play in the Texas heat.”

        Craig Calcaterra

      • Jeremy T - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:28 PM

        Craig, I think you need to stop making flippant remarks. People seem to think you actually mean the things you say.

      • indaburg - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:42 PM

        Funny you mention that Jeremy. I was about to post the definition for “flippant.”

    • angrycorgi - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:21 PM

      He also is saying state-income-tax rate isn’t a factor. That’s essentially saying that player SALARY is not a factor. Craig lives in his own little world of self-contradicting senselessness.

      Here is a person who touts a convoluted mathematical figure like WAR as a stat that should decide the MVP, yet can’t grasp how $180M > ($180M – ($180M * .133)). Go figure. 😉

      • Jeremy T - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:30 PM

        The tax rates are way more complicated than they seem, though, since they get charged the rates of whatever state they’re playing in for road games. Obviously, a team plays more games in the team’s home state than everywhere else, but the states of the other teams in the division affects how much take-home pay that the player gets, too.

      • angrycorgi - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:34 PM

        The tax rate is more complicated, but the base logic is sound. Playing 81 games at home at 0% state tax rate beats playing 81 games at home at 13.3% tax rate. You’ll also get 0% state tax rate playing in Seattle, so a few road games in the ALWest will also be lower in tax.

      • ezthinking - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:35 PM

        Because your formula leaves out state sales tax, property tax, cost of living, tax filings in the other states you play, offseason home, tax shelters, how the salary is paid, personal serve options, endorsement opportunities, how good your accountant is, color of the uniforms, the minor league team, spring training home, distance to the ballpark, schools, strip clubs, friends, family, distance to the In-and-out Burger, announcers, percentage of dipshit fans, bans on sexual toys, national lottery access, coaches, teammates, manager, GM, …

      • ezthinking - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:38 PM

        FYI – a portion of your state tax rate is deductible on your federal taxes, be it sales tax or income tax.

      • paperlions - Dec 7, 2012 at 2:17 PM

        The reason he said tax rates are not a factor is because there is no evidence that any player has EVER made a decision based on the tax rate. No player has ever taken a lower salary from a TX team that would have resulting in more take home pay than their salary from CA, NY, or MA. Ever.

        He is not saying that the taxes don’t affect a player bottom line, only that they don’t affect a players decision making process…because there is no evidence that it does….and a LOT of evidence that it does not.

  6. jase44 - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:19 PM

    I could see it maaayybbee weighing in if it’s a Canadian who has Toronto as an option. Or if a guy is at the end of his career and wants to be close to a home base but in general the all mighty dollar will trump just about any other factors

  7. deathmonkey41 - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    I bet concentrated UFO abuductions in certain areas serves a role in some player’s decisions. I mean, what good is all that money if you have to spent most of the time being anally probed by green guys?

  8. hk62 - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Roy O’s farm is NOT in IL – its in Wier, Mississippi, – Craig

    And I will say (in support of your argument) that C Beltran picked NYM over HOU when the actual post tax money was going to be better had he stayed in Texas (endorsements aside).

  9. angrycorgi - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    I do agree that hometown proximity and goofy stuff like that usually does not play a serious role in these decisions. Thats just media trying to spin up a story.

    • historiophiliac - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:01 PM

      unless, of course, it’s about anti-Yankee hostility 😉

  10. Stiller43 - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    Isnt it octopi?

    • El Bravo - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:08 PM

      When plural, of course. Although, most don’t know this fact, that if you have exactly four optopi, it is actually called an octopussy.

      • El Bravo - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:09 PM


  11. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:37 PM

    AJ Burnett blocked a trade to California because of geography issues. Javier Vazquez told west coast teams not to bother making offers during his last free agency period. These are 2 recent examples where we know the story. Don’t forget Pujols turned down (supposedly) more money from Miami to play for LA too. It does matter to some guys.

    • indaburg - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:45 PM

      Pujols went to play for the Angels because God told him to. We’re forgetting God factors into these decisions too, just as much as money and octopi and pie. Heathens.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:57 PM

        Joan of Arc should have been a sports agent

      • historiophiliac - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:00 PM

        also the fact that they wouldn’t agree to a no-trade clause…doesn’t seem so stupid now, eh?

      • indaburg - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:05 PM

        God told Pujols not to sign with a team that won’t give no trade clauses. God is such a kick ass agent.

      • historiophiliac - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:20 PM

        Big Dog is all-knowing.

    • astrofaninkc - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:07 PM

      If I remember correctly, didn’t Burnett block the trade because it was too far from home and his wife was afraid of flying and still wanted to be able to attend games?

      Not a correction, just having trouble remembering.

    • jwbiii - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:08 PM

      Burnett’s wife doesn’t fly and they live in western Maryland. When he played in Toronto, he had a clause in his contract that she would get a couple of limo trips per season. Pittsburgh is ideal for them.

    • kevinbnyc - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:25 PM

      Pujols could have had a year in Miami before jetting off to Toronto with the rest of Marlins North. Poor decision really.

  12. Stiller43 - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    And i would think it would at least have a small effect. When you grow up there, generally your family is from the area and it may be where you have settled your grown up family as well….plus you may have grown up rooting for the team.

    Obviously other things (how competitive the team is, money on the table, playing time) are probably larger factors, but if the latter things were even across the board, im going to my child hood team.

  13. amhendrick - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    I remember when Mike Hampton signed with the Rockies because of the good local school system.

    • Jason @ IIATMS - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      and hospital system, it seems. especially for arm rehab.

      wait, no they don’t.

  14. kkolchak - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    I remember hearing on numerous occasions that Mark Buehrle was a cinch to sign with the Cardinals once his time with the White Sox was up since he was from the St. Louis area. Instead, he jumped at the money in Miami, and we all know how well that worked out for him.

  15. angrycorgi - Dec 7, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    According to, the cost of living in Los Angeles, CA is 37% higher than in Fort Worth, TX.

    • El Bravo - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:10 PM

      Yeah but LA is at least 37% better than Fort Worth, TX.

      • mazblast - Dec 7, 2012 at 5:30 PM

        Depends where in LA. Not all parts of the area are equal.

  16. billyboots - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor both chose to end their careers as Twins because it was their home. And didn’t Joe Mauer just take the Twins over the Yankees and/or Red Sox for similar dollars because he wasn’t motivated purely by the money?

    • kkolchak - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:36 PM

      Mauer took exactly $184 million of the Twins money–not exactly what you’d call a hometown discount.

      • billyboots - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:49 PM

        I guess this is more what I was thinking of:
        I know he took a lot of Twins money, but he could have gone elsewhere and got just as much if not more.

  17. Marty - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Can someone tell my why a JD holding blogger would know what factors pro athletes use in determining teams to sign with?

    Net income and where you live is a factor. That is taxes and geography. True for executives, true for pro baseball players.

  18. jaydoubleyou22 - Dec 7, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    You sir, are a professional moron. You say that money is the most important thing and then say that taxes don’t matter. I’m pretty sure money in pocket = gross pay – taxes…

    Oh, and in the same day you posted that taxes could make a 30 million dollar difference for Greinke. How could you make an argument that $30 million in tax savings is insignificant while at the same time saying that money trumps all?

    Seriously, has your brain been amputated? Sometimes I feel like you act stupid on purpose like the insecure girl who wants attention, but I’m staring to think that you really were born that way.

    • hackerjay - Dec 7, 2012 at 5:21 PM

      I think that there is the possibility that when looking at contracts that players just want to have the biggest contract in terms of pure dollars. Professional players are extremely competitive and I think the size of the contract is just one more thing to compete over.
      Let’s be honest, when it comes to $150 million versus $180 (and I doubt the difference is really that large), you’re set for life either way. In the case of going to the Dodgers, you’re set for life and you have the biggest contract ever.

      I don’t know if any of that is true, but it does seem that way to me.

  19. phillyfan75 - Dec 7, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    Actually, as with most things, it probably depends on the player. Many just take the most money they can given they can only be paid to play baseball for a limited time. Some players have accepted less money to stay with a team they’ve been with because that’s where they want to be. Others may take a little less to be in a particular region or league or ballpark or for some other reason. It’s just as silly to be entirely dismissive of other factors as it is to think speculate about such factors.

  20. jessethegreat - Dec 7, 2012 at 2:23 PM

    What about brad radke staying in mn? Twin cities were about 3 hours closer to his home in Eau Claire than Milwaukee. He would have definitely gotten more money to go elsewhere, but he chose to stay close to home.

    • ThatGuy - Dec 7, 2012 at 2:39 PM

      Must just be Minnesotans(Eau Claire is a snowflake away) that geography has an effect. Radke, Mauer, Winfield, Molitar, Parise(NHL), Suter(NHL)

  21. thebadguyswon - Dec 7, 2012 at 2:45 PM

    Jered Weaver would probably disagree with you, Craig.

  22. Roger Moore - Dec 7, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    ISTR that Jim Thome asked to be sent to the White Sox so he could be with his sick father, though that was a trade rather than free agency.

    I suspect this kind of thing is going to be more common with players who are past their peak earning years. A player who’s finally getting a big payday is going to be strongly motivated to make the most out of it, even if it means moving to a place he might rather not be. But if he’s on the down-side of his career and looking at short term contracts for a fraction of his peak pay, he may be more inclined to think about staying close to his family, in a place with nice weather, or what have you.

  23. mazblast - Dec 7, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    If the player takes the bigger gross money, it’s “proof” that money is the primary factor.

    If the player takes less gross money, it’s “proof” that it’s not about the gross money, it’s about state income taxes, city income taxes, real estate taxes, sales taxes, weather, “livability”, proximity to family, team level of competitiveness, etc.

    The one sure thing is that the same amount of money goes a lot farther in Texas, Washington, or Florida, or just about any other state than it does in NYC, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc. The issue for each player is whether that’s a major factor in his decision.

  24. brandedthefirst - Dec 8, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    71 huh👀

  25. stlouis1baseball - Dec 12, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Pie trumps cake. Always.

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