Long before Shohei Ohtani was getting so much of his salary deferred with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the same thing was happening in Toronto.
It just didn’t get anywhere near this kind of attention.
The year was 1985. The pitcher was Dave Stieb. The contract signed with the Blue Jays was the longest and one of the richest in baseball history. Almost 40 years ago, the Jays signed Stieb, their magnificent right-hander, for 11 years and more than $16 million in total.
That may not seem like such today, but it was breathtaking money in the first great years of the Jays.
What makes the Stieb contract relevant now is that his agent — Bob LaMonte — insisted at the time that a good portion of Stieb’s salary would be paid to him after his career was over — not while he was playing. It was really the first time a baseball contract had been structured with deferred payments and structured to avoid heavy tax implications.
The Jays used the same formula to later sign pitcher Pat Hentgen, also a Lamonte client, to another long-term deal.
The Ohtani deal, listed at $700 million US in so many publications, actually works out to be far less than that in terms of real dollars and what the Dodgers will have to pay.
Two sporting accountants, one of them a baseball lifer, tell me the Dodgers’ real money payout on Ohtani will be less than $500 million, which makes the deal work for both the baseball club and the player long-term.
Ohtani, I’m told, can earn somewhere between $30 million and $50 million a year in endorsements in Japan and around the world. His take home from the Dodgers this season, relatively small at $2 million a year, is pocket change in the big picture for the once-in-a-lifetime talent.
While Stieb is long gone from baseball his agent, LaMonte, remains, primarily as the single largest agent to NFL coaches and executives today. Among his clients are NFL coaches Andy Reid, Zac Taylor, Sean McDermott, Brian Daboll and Sean McVay.
THIS AND THAT
And this from television’s Casey Pratt on Twitter: “I heard the A’s offered Ohtani $1 per year for 700 million years.” That one is worth repeating … Kyle Dubas is a smart man and quite a good hockey person. But he’s absolutely clueless when it comes to media relations and circumstance. Returning to Toronto, Dubas did not make himself available to local media. He played the same hide-and-seek game when the Leafs played in Pittsburgh late last month. Frankly, I don’t care if he talks to me or not. I always got along with him. But I do care if he talks to you. He was the Leafs GM. He was the person you trusted to build your hockey team. Then he went to work for Pittsburgh after saying he wouldn’t work anywhere else. It was a big story then. It’s a big story now. With explanations, emotions and holes missing from all of it. Hockey, like all sports, is entertainment. This is the entertainment business. That’s the part Dubas doesn’t seem to get. He’s part of that entertainment. Pretending to be otherwise is choosing to ignore a part of your business … Understand this about the Leafs: Dubas didn’t draft Morgan Rielly. He didn’t draft William Nylander. He really had nothing to do with the drafting of Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner. All of that he inherited. He did make the giant free-agent signing of John Tavares, which financially strangled the Leafs in challenging economic times. And he did make several solid deadline deals, such as bringing in Ryan O’Reilly last year. But his team never found its way anywhere close to where he wanted it to be … In his 19th season in Pittsburgh, Sidney Crosby remains one of the best players in the NHL. He’s pulling a LeBron James of his own kind. He’s a Hart Trophy candidate. And yet, the Penguins are not in a playoff position. Tells you how thin the Pens are, with Crosby lighting it up and so much of the rest of the team struggling along … Department of Kind of Funny: Dubas, who has never won anything, giving a vote of confidence to his coach, Mike Sullivan, who won two Stanley Cups with Matt Murray in goal and one of them with a top defence pair of Brian Dumoulin and Ron Hainsey. Shouldn’t it be Sullivan giving Dubas a vote of confidence? … The great Oilers teams, with Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr and friends never won nine games in a row. The late John Muckler explained: “Those ’80s teams couldn’t go nine games without finding a party.” They did win five Cups, though, four with Gretzky.
HEAR AND THERE
One day apart in 2019, the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup and the Toronto Raptors won an NBA championship. Then Kawhi Leonard left for Los Angeles and the Raptors have never been close again. And then Doug Armstrong made his largest mistake as GM of the Blues, not signing his best player, defenceman Alex Pietrangelo to a long-term deal. Like Kawhi, Pietrangelo left for Vegas in free agency. Unlike Kawhi, he won another championship. Both teams have since fired their title-winning coach … Lesson No. 1 as an NHL general manager: If you have a great defenceman, you keep him. No matter what the price. You can’t afford not to … By my unofficial count, there are about 15 A-type stud defencemen in the NHL. Pietrangelo has won two Cups. Same with Drew Doughty, Same with Victor Hedman. Kris Letang has three, although was part of only two, really. Cale Makar has one with more to come. The recent Cup-winners in reverse order had Pietrangelo, Makar, Hedman twice, Pietrangelo in St. Louis, no one on the 2017 Penguins, and before that, it was Letang, Duncan Keith, Doughty, Keith, Doughty and Zdeno Chara. Going back further, in reverse order: Keith, Letang, Nick Lidstrom and the combination of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer were all Cup champions and huge difference-makers … The Maple Leafs haven’t had one of those defencemen since Borje Salming in his prime. And who is the best Oilers’ defenceman today? … As Mark Kirton lives and struggles with ALS, he never stops working to try and make life better for those who have this horrible disease. The work he has put in to involve all Canadian NHL teams in raising money for ALS research is remarkable only if you don’t know Kirton, the former NHL player. From his wheelchair and with his hands now limited, he is still capable of almost anything. The man is an inspiration every day of his life. You can support a charity this worthy of support at https://www.alssuperfund.ca. Please do so.
SCENE AND HEARD
How thin is the baseball free-agent market now that Ohtani has signed with the Dodgers? Well, the next best buy on the open market, after Cody Bellinger, is probably Jays third baseman Matt Chapman. And he’s not exactly an offensive force. The Jays, who are in on everyone and everything, read the reports and listen to the rumours, have apparent interest in Bellinger, J.D. Martinez and Jorge Soler or, if necessary, trading for former star outfielder Christian Yelich. It’s looking as if the Jays will have to make some kind of pitching-for-hitting deal in the winter if they’re to upgrade offensively in any real way … Apparently, there’s a house for sale on your street and Mark Shapiro is bidding on it. And someone else will certainly buy it, but know this, he’ll be close. So there is that … Saturday night should have been Basketball Night in Canada. In one corner, Oke City Thunder’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Canada’s 2023 athlete of the year. In the other corner, Jamal Murray, NBA champion with the Denver Nuggets. This should be — or should have been — must-see TV … SGA was a terrific choice as athlete of the year over Connor McDavid, golfer Nick Taylor and swimmer Summer McIntosh. My bet: McIntosh will be the Canadian star at the Summer Olympics in Paris and win the Northern Star (formerly the Lou Marsh) Award next year … Stuart Skinner got blasted in goal the other night and in his post-game interview explained rather calmly how well his team played and how badly he did for the Edmonton Oilers. Ilya Samsonov got blasted in goal against the rather hapless Columbus Blue Jackets, the worst team in the Eastern Conference. He said nothing post-game. He is intentionally hidden from the media. Never thought a Brendan Shanahan team would do that. No player was ever more available post-game, pre-game, in between games than Shanahan … Under the Department of Really Dumb: Moving the Washington Capitals and NBA Wizards to Virginia. Washington is a great city with a great downtown. Years ago, the Caps played in suburban Maryland. That didn’t work well, either … Another difference between Canadians and Americans: We say offside. They say offsides … Fred VanVleet leads the NBA in time on the court in his first season at Houston … Wonder no more about the 21-year-old Quinton Byfield. He’s well on his way, with 22 points this season for the very strong Los Angeles Kings.
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AND ANOTHER THING
So, I’m a little more confused than usual. Is Easton Stick the new starting quarterback with the Los Angeles Chargers, or is it in my garage, beside my frozen hockey bag? … Doesn’t it make sense for Bill Belichick to be the next coach of the Chargers? Apparently, he won’t be in New England next season … Tyler Bertuzzi had 10 points in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs with Boston last April. Playing first or second line with the Maple Leafs this season, he has just nine points and only one in the past 11 games. But not all is lost, Leafs fans: His analytics tell you he’s having a good season … Vladimir Guerrero Jr., is a 22-1 pick to win the MVP award in the American League next season. The favourite is Aaron Judge at 11-2 … Has the holiday season turned everyone crazy? Or, how else to explain how the calmest, most sensible, most logical athletes out there — Patrick Mahomes, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Steph Curry to name three — have all thrown rather public tantrums of late? … We understand Draymond Green doing stupid stuff. That’s what he does. That’s what he’s always done. He needs help now and then, and now again … But Mahomes, Giannis, Curry? They’re the ones you want to grow up to be like … By my calculations, Kadarius Toney has cost the Kansas City Chiefs two games this NFL season. If Mahomes is going to be frustrated with anybody, he should be frustrated with Toney … Hockey Canada has its some of its big-name advertisers back, and still we don’t know precisely what it has done to bring credibility back to the organization? And we still await answers on the 2018 sexual assault story? … Was Darko Rajakovic a bad hiring as coach of the Raptors? A coach needs to put his stamp on a team, give them an identity and a way to play. The Raptors drift from night to night, rarely looking like the same team two games in a row? It’s his first season and his first shot as an NBA head coach, but it’s hardly impressive to date. The second game against Atlanta at home on Friday, with a chance to put distance between the two teams, was almost embarrassing … Also unimpressive: The Raptors farm team is 2-12 in the G League… Isn’t D.J. Smith starting to look like a dead coach walking these days with the Ottawa Senators? … If you look close enough at the picture of Toronto FC celebrating Major League Soccer’s best record in 2017, you will see Brandon Aubrey not in uniform, but right beside captain Michael Bradley. Aubrey was the first-round pick of TFC that year, but never quite found his way in pro soccer. He now kicks for the Dallas Cowboys, with 30 field goals tried and 30 made in his first NFL season. He’s hit one from 60 yards, another from 59. The kid is basically incredible … Happy birthday to Donovan Bailey (56), Ken Hitchcock (72), Dave Poulin (65), Manny Pacquiao (45), Vincent Damphousse (56), Craig Berube (58), Paul Tracy (55), Chase Utley (45), Stone Cold Steve Austin (59), Orlando Franklin (36), Mo Elewonibi (58), Jerome Pathon (48), William (The Refrigerator) Perry (61) and Eugene Levy (77) … And hey, whatever became of Garret Sparks?