How much does $325 million weigh?
That unfathomable money was as light as the few sheets of paper that comprised the contract Giancarlo Stanton ceremoniously signed at a full-house press conference Wednesday at Marlins Park.
Now we find out the actual weight, though, because now the heavy lifting begins. The real weight is in exponentially increased expectations, in the burden of pressure and proof. And that weight is everywhere.
It is squarely on Stanton first, of course, on a just-turned 25-year-old home run prodigy who has played the role of rising star very well but now must be even better cast in the new role of fully formed superstar.
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It is on Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins owner so many fans don’t like or trust, to fulfill the pledge that convinced Stanton to stay: Spending to add more pieces, to surround the newly endowed face of the franchise with talent, to create a culture of sustained momentum.
It is on president of baseball operations Michael Hill and general manager Dan Jennings to go find the right talent to augment Stanton, to form a roster that can win a World Series.
And it is on manager Mike Redmond to make it all work, to get to October.
The pressure is on everywhere now because signing Stanton to the richest deal in American sports history, $325million over 13 years, guarantees nothing but that pressure, those expectations.
“It’s a big step for all of us,” as Redmond put it simply. “We have to win.”
“There’s tremendous pressure,” admitted club president David Samson. “Beyond that.”
The Miami Marlins have been a beige economy car.
Stanton — this contract — means they had better start to look and drive like a red Lamborghini.
The Marlins securing Stanton with a record-setting deal is not as seismic as LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining forces with Dwyane Wade in 2010.
It’s in that stratosphere, though.
How Stanton celebrated that contract this week served as a perfect reflection of the new orbit in which he finds himself. He partied on Monday night till past 3 a.m. Tuesday at the FDR nightclub at Miami’s tony, trendy Delano hotel, with friends and (according to TMZ) “some very attractive ladies.” It was further reported that a “Miami party queen named Julz” sent over a $20,000 bottle of champagne to Stanton.
The quadruple-magnum of Moet Nectar Imperial Rose Leopard Luxury Edition Methuselah was one of only 60 made, a six-liter bottle coated in 22-carat gold leaf.
That’s perfect, because when you sign the contract Stanton did, money wants to define you. It’s where people will go first — especially if your performance brings the critics forth. Many will look at Stanton now and see it spelled “$tanton.”
His deal equates to $68,493, every day, for 13 years. Can anyone really “earn” that? Must he hit 40 homers, lead the league in RBI and be an all-star every year to not be called a disappointment?
He gets all of that.
“If I don’t perform, I’m letting everyone down,” Stanton said. “This is not a lottery ticket. This is the start of new work. I obviously need to perform. It’s a huge responsibility that I’m willing to take on.”
A small, reddish scar just above the left corner of his mouth is the only evidence now of the fastball he took to the face Sept. 11. As he spoke after the press conference, standing near home plate, over his shoulder the scoreboard was filled with his huge likeness and the words, NOTHING BEATS MIAMI!
All of us who assumed Stanton would be traded within the next two seasons and gave a contract extension with the Marlins zero chance — let alone a record-setting deal — were way wrong on two counts.
First, we erred assuming he was hell-bent to play on the West Coast. “I love living here, love the people, love the environment,” Stanton said. “I like it better than L.A., where I grew up. I want to make a stamp. It’s about making a name for this team, and changing things around here.”
Second, we erred presuming Stanton saw Loria with the same wary eye many fans do. For what it’s worth (I guess it’s worth $325 million), Stanton knows Loria far better than most, and he has put his faith in the owner. He also likes Redmond, the front office changes, his teammates and the club’s direction.
Stanton is prudent, too, though. That’s why there is an opt-out clause that would allow him to leave after six years (after the 2020 season), if he chose.
The club hesitated; the opt-out was the last contractual point agreed upon. In turn, Stanton agreed to make “only” $30 million over the next three seasons, less than market value, in a back-loaded contract that would afford the club more financial flexibility sooner.
Samson likened that to the financial sacrifice Wade, James and Bosh made to make the Heat’s Big 3 come together.
Stanton said of the opt-out, “I want to make sure we keep moving forward. That was for my protection. I told them, ‘You can’t keep saying we’re going to win this year, we’re going to win this year.’ I’m sick of hearing it. I was pretty direct. I don’t want to just get paid and lose.”
The contractual structure demands action, results. In the short term, fans might expect Miami to pursue a veteran starting pitcher (with Jose Fernandez not due back until midseason) and another big bat.
The Marlins last season improved to 77 wins (from 62 the year before). “I’ll be definitely disappointed if we don’t take another step forward this coming season,” Samson said. Another Marlins official said private internal thinking is that the team will compete for a playoff spot next season and be positioned for a serious run at a championship by 2016.
I asked Samson what was the likelihood that Stanton will stay more than six years and not exercise his opt-out.
“Very high,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve ever felt like the Marlins were in a stable position.”
Said Stanton: “We’re in the right direction. There is a newfound confidence and trust.”
Skepticism borne of Loria’s unpopularity is such that even hearing Stanton say such things won’t convince everybody.
Maybe it’s time, though, to get past the animus over Loria; that’s an old horse that’s been beat hard.
Maybe it’s time for Marlins fans to try on some optimism, and see how that fits.
“Giancarlo wants to be the Derek Jeter of Miami,” Samson said. “The first face on the Mount Rushmore of the Marlins.”
He’ll have a chance.
If the $325million doesn’t weigh too much, he’ll have a real chance.
A look at Giancarlo Stanton’s contract:
13 years, $325M
Highest value for a contract in U.S. sports history
Amount earned per game over 13 seasons
Amount earned each calendar day for the next 13 years
Amount Babe Ruth earned during his entire career — which will take Stanton to earn in a week’s worth of games (adjusted for inflation, the amount would be $15,651,753).