Value of Ozzie and Forte

In the past couple weeks in Chicago, high profile contract disputes involving former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and current Bears running back Matt Forte have dominated headlines. Ozzie, who has never been one to mince words, was quite honest in his motivation for a new contract:

Money is everything besides health. Money is next to that. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, love.’ They don’t know what love means. I guarantee you, if you raise a girl where I grew up and you’ve got no money and she loves you, but you put the same girl with a guy who’s got a lot of money, I’ll bet she’ll love the guy with money. That’s the way it is. I love you, but I’m hungry.

I work in this job for money. I don’t work for nothing. Money. That’s it. The ring? [Bleep] the ring. I don’t even wear my [bleeping] rings. I don’t.

You know what I saw a couple days ago? I saw a 62-foot boat. That’s what I want, and that’s what I’m going to get. People have to pay me for that. White Sox? I don’t know. Marlins? I don’t know. But somebody will pay. I want to buy my [bleeping] boat. That’s my inspiration. My inspiration is money. That’s everybody’s inspiration.

Matt Forte was a little bit more diplomatic about his desire for a contract situation, telling ESPN 1000’s Waddle and Silvy that it is a “distraction.” He continued:

I don’t want to be the guy that holds grudges but it always sticks in the back of your mind, things like that. It’s the ugly side of the business. The NFL is a business, and that’s the ugly side of it. I just want to be somewhere I’m valued as a player.

Although Forte was much more measured in his statements, there is a good chance that Ozzie felt much the same way in addition to having an insatiable craving for a 62-foot yacht. What does it say about your current situation when another employer is willing to pay you significantly more money than you now make to ostensibly do the same job? It is natural to feel slighted, especially when the great work you’ve done at your current job is the basis of why that other employer wants to pay you more. In most of these contract disputes, which involve base line numbers above and beyond what most of us could ever dream of, it is about pride and respect every bit as much as however many yachts the marginal dollars could buy.

That being said, the White Sox and Bears are likely making sound economic decisions in not breaking the bank for Ozzie and Forte. Ozzie was already getting paid $2 million a year; the Marlins will be paying him $4 million. With this money they will get a great motivator and ticket draw as well as a volatile personality who doesn’t respond well to criticism and will invariably resist collaborating with higher-ups. Glossing over the fact that baseball manager has to be the most overrated job in professional sports, the dark side of Ozzie made it not worth it for the White Sox to give him a raise commensurate with what the Marlins were offering.

Matt Forte is an excellent football player and should undoubtedly be considered an elite NFL running back. He rushed for 4.5 yards per carry last season and has caught at least 50 balls in each of his first three years. So far this season, he is rushing for 5.4 yards per carry and already has 26 receptions for 310 yards. He is the Bears’ primary offensive weapon and there really isn’t a close second. However, NFL running backs are generally fungible and they take so much physical punishment that they have comparatively short windows of greatness. The Titans and Chiefs gave Chris Johnson (ineffective this season) and Jamaal Charles (out for the season) large extensions that they are doubtlessly regretting. In holding out thus far with Forte, the Bears recognize that the league is shifting drastically towards passing and that teams such as the Packers and Patriots have been able to thrive without elite running backs.

Therefore, while Forte’s outstanding abilities as a receiver out of the backfield make him substantially more valuable than a typical running back in today’s NFL, the Bears are reasonable to be hesitant to give any running back an extension in line with the top paid players at the position. Whether by the Bears or by another franchise, if Forte continues his outstanding level of production and stays healthy this season, he will get paid as an elite running back. The team that pays him, though, is unlikely to realize value, especially on the back end of that contract.


One Response to Value of Ozzie and Forte

  1. Stephen says:

    Good call on baseball manager. Without question, the most overrated job in sports.

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