Where You Going? The Influence of Players' Families on Their Lives

A.J. MartelliSenior Analyst IJanuary 6, 2009

America is a country built upon freedom to do whatever makes us happy. But what if there was always someone there to tell us what they would like us to do rather than what we really want?

On Tuesday afternoon, the New York Yankees introduced their new first baseman and one of their three pricy offseason acquisitions, Mark Teixeira, at Yankee Stadium. On Dec. 23, 2008, the Yankees announced that the two parties had come to terms on an eight-year, $180 million deal. Teixeira's contract includes a no-trade clause and he was given an extra $5 million in a signing bonus.

Before Dec. 23 however, it appeared the Boston Red Sox were going to win the sweepstakes for the much sought-after free agent. The Yankees swooped in and upstaged them, as they have done many times before.

Babe Ruth, Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, and Johnny Damon were all BoSox before the Yankees lured them away to the Empire. When looking at the Teixeira situation, one can not help but think of the 2003-2004 offseason: Alex Rodriguez was literally hours away from becoming a member of "Red Sox Nation" when the Bronx Bombers came right in and stole him with an unprecedented amount of money. Teixeira's case was quite similar, as the Yankees offered $10 million more for him; the Yankees' $180 million beat the Sox' $170 million.

But what made Teixeira want to play for the Yankees in New York?

According to Teixeira's words at his introduction press conference Tuesday, it was his wife, Leigh, who told him where to go and what team to play for. "Finally she (Leigh) broke down and said, 'I want you to be a Yankee.' That's what did it for me," said Teixeira. But if the decision was up to him—and not his wife—where would he want to play? Would it be New York?

It's obvious the decision to go to the Yankees was influenced by his wife, and not solely on Teixeira. His wife impacted his decision, and she basically told him what to do. Family is always an important aspect of life; more important than baseball, football, basketball, or any other sport or line of work, in reality. But should she really hold the power over him to tell him what to do and where to play?

This isn't the first time this has happened, either.

In 2007, Rodriguez had an unrealistic season for the Yankees. He batted .314 with 54 home runs, 156 RBI, and an on-base percentage of .422. The whole baseball season almost revolved around him, as he came up with clutch hits in big-game situations.

But after the Bombers were eliminated by the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series, the focus went straight to whether or not Rodriguez would opt-out of his contract with the Yankees and become a free agent.

In mid-season 2007, the Yankees had attempted to negotiate with Rodriguez so the ugly "opt-out" scenario would not be a problem at the end of the campaign. Rodriguez was not interested, and the Yankees countered by basically saying to him, "if you opt-out, we're not chasing after you."

Low and behold, Rodriguez opted out of his deal (in the middle of the World Series, no less) and became a free agent. But where would he go?

While looking for a team that would offer him a big deal, Rodriguez weighed his options and consulted with his family. "My daughter said to me, 'Daddy, I'll miss my bedroom in New York if you leave.' That's when I knew I had to come back," said Rodriguez in his Yankeeography documentary. His daughter was going to miss her room, so he had to come back? Is that really what he wanted?

Well yes, it was. Rodriguez later said it's been very difficult to play in New York at certain times, but he wants to continue to be a Yankee and eventually retire a Yankee. Matters were resolved, the T's were crossed, the I's dotted, and Rodriguez returned to the Bronx for the 2008 season. He received another gargantuan amount of money, and remains the highest paid player in baseball history. 

It's apparent in Teixeira and Rodriguez's cases that their families affected their decisions in where they wanted to play. Is it right for an athlete's family to decide where they want to go? Imagine, if you will, that Texeira has an uneasy year in his first campaign, and has a hard time adjusting to the Bronx Zoo, much like Randy Johnson did. Would it have been easier to accept the Red Sox offer or the Baltimore Orioles' offer or the Los Angeles Angels' offer rather than listening to what his wife told him to do and having a hard time in New York?

Perhaps it is a question that cannot be answered until the baseball season has begun and there are results. However, the truth remains that athletes should make decisions for themselves rather than simply going by what others say and want them to do.

Maybe Teixeira is, simply put, "whipped."