The Mets had just played their most significant games in 14 years when general manager Steve Phillips faced a potential addition problem that didn’t equate.
It was weeks after the historic Subway World Series between the Mets and Yankees in 2000, and the biggest free agent on the market was a 25-year-old shortstop who had grown up a Mets fan in Miami idolizing Keith Hernandez.
Alex Rodriguez was the premier baseball star on the planet, and the rightful expectation was he would receive the largest free-agent contract in baseball history. Phillips, who 2 ½ years earlier had helped bring Mike Piazza to town and then later negotiated a seven-year contract to keep the All-Star catcher, knew that signing Rodriguez was probably a long shot given his budget. But after a meeting with Rodriguez’s agent, Scott Boras, at the GM Meetings, during which financial parameters were not discussed, Phillips faced the math problem of 24 + 1.
Rodriguez’s requests, such as office space at Shea Stadium and a tent at spring training to sell his own A-Rod line of merchandising, would have created, from Phillips’ perspective, a clubhouse of 24 players and one Rodriguez. And that equation, to him, didn’t spell success.