14 Offbeat Clauses in Baseball Contracts

Major League Baseball's winter meetings just ended. As general managers return to their homes, the annual flurry of free agent signings and contract extensions is in full swing. These deals aren't just about the money, though; they're also about bonus clauses and sweet, sweet perks. Here's a list of some of the more ludicrous ones players have received.

1. Charlie Kerfeld, Houston Astros

After a spectacular rookie season in 1986, the rotund reliever who always pitched in his lucky Jetsons t-shirt needed a new contract. Kerfeld asked for $110,037.37, matching his number 37 jersey, to pitch in 1987. On top of that, he received 37 boxes of orange Jell-O in the deal. The Astros would soon regret this delicious bonus, though; Kerfeld, who was famously caught eating ribs in the dugout that season, would battle weight and injury problems and get sent down to the minors.

2. Rollie Fingers, Oakland Athletics

rollie.jpgFormer A's owner Charlie Finley never thought of a gimmick he wouldn't try, including a mechanical rabbit that delivered fresh balls to the umpire and hiring a 13-year-old MC Hammer as his "Executive V.P." In 1972, Finley offered his players cash for growing a mustache by Father's Day, thereby giving birth to reliever Fingers' trademark handlebar "˜stache. The A's went on to win the World Series that season, and Fingers' contract for 1973 contained a $300 bonus for growing the mustache as well as $100 for the purchase of mustache wax.

3. Roy Oswalt, Houston Astros

tractor.jpgBefore Oswalt made a start in the 2005 National League Championship Series, Astros owner Drayton McLane promised to make the ace's dreams come true if he won, specifically his life goal of bulldozer ownership. After Oswalt dominated the Cardinals to send Houston to its first-ever World Series, McLane came through with a Caterpillar D6N XL. Since Major League Baseball requires high-dollar gifts be disclosed, Oswalt signed an addendum to his contract, a "bulldozer clause," authorizing the club to give him his new toy.

4. Troy Glaus, Arizona Diamondbacks

arizona.jpgArizona inked the slugging third baseman signed for four years and $45 million in December 2004. As part of the deal, Glaus receives $250,000 annually for "personal business expenses," namely the cost of his wife Ann's equestrian training and equipment. Although Glaus bashed 37 homers for the Snakes in 2005, he also tied for the major-league lead in errors by a third baseman with 24, and despite Mrs. Glaus' surely improving performance in the steeplechase, Glaus had to hoof it to Toronto when he was traded barely a year after signing.

5. Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks

johnson.jpgWhen the Big Unit signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998, team owner Jerry Colangelo also threw in a pair of partial season tickets for the Phoenix Suns to lure in the lanky lefty. Seems like Johnson could have afforded his own tickets, but to be fair, when you're making $52 million over four years, it's hard to get scalpers to fall for "Can you take twenty for the pair? I swear it's all I've got, dude."

6. Carlos Beltran, New York Mets

beltran.jpgBeltran's mammoth seven-year, $119 million deal from January 2005 showed that he had all of baseball's five tools but lacked a conditioned ocular enhancer, a gadget that throws numbered, colored tennis balls over 150 mph to help players pick up the speed of a pitched ball. So he got a contract clause requiring the Mets lease the machine and retain an operator for it. However, Beltran only hit .266 in his first year with the club, so maybe a used copy of Tony Gwynn's tome The Art of Hitting would have been more cost-effective.

7. Brad Lidge, Houston Astros

lidge.jpgWhen the Houston Astros (sound familiar?) re-signed Brad Lidge in January 2007, their former closer got an incentive clause promising $25,000 for winning a Silver Slugger, given annually to the top hitter at each position. Lidge probably didn't consider this easy money; as a relief pitcher, he had only been to the plate seven times in his five-season career and hadn't seen an at-bat since 2004. Despite an erratic season on the mound, Lidge was the model of consistency at the plate in 2007, mostly because he never had an at-bat. Houston finished 13th in the National League in runs scored, though, so maybe letting Lidge take some hacks would have been worth a try.

8. A.J. Burnett, Toronto Blue Jays

jays.jpgLots of players have free-plane-ticket perks written into their contracts, but some feel that air travel really lacks that fun we're-going-to-the-prom feeling that you can only get from a long limo ride. When flamethrower A.J. Burnett signed with Toronto as a free agent in December 2005, he required that his wife receive eight round-trip limo rides from his home in Maryland to Toronto each season. That's around nine hours in a limo each way, which is enough time to move the little divider between you and the driver up and down roughly 3,500 times.

Some other interesting perks and bonuses:

dice-k.jpg9. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox "“ Dice-K's deal with the Red Sox includes a plethora of strange or excessive clauses including housing allowances and a personal masseuse, but the oddest is that he's contractually guaranteed the jersey number 18.

10. Kevin Brown, Los Angeles Dodgers "“ The seven-year, $105 million deal Brown signed after the 1998 season guaranteed twelve round trip private jet trips from L.A. to his hometown in Macon, Georgia for his family, sparing his children from cruel flight attendants' taunts about their dad being overpaid.

11. Dave Roberts, San Francisco Giants "“ The deal Roberts signed last December gives him the right to buy four premium season tickets each year. He's probably going to keep passing until management puts a decent team on the field, though.

12. Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners
"“ Ichiro's five-year contract extension from July 2007 contains some reasonable perks (interpreter, plane tickets to Japan), but also stipulates the club give him a Jeep or Mercedes SUV, filling the Japanese auto industry with a deep collective sense of shame.

13. Mark Teixeira, Atlanta Braves - Teixeira's deal for 2006-2007 (originally negotiated when he was with Texas) had a clause paying him $100K for winning the AL MVP, a tough feat since he finished the contract while playing in the National League.

14. Curt Schilling, Boston Red Sox "“ The three-time World Series champ's new deal with the Red Sox for the 2008 season not only rewards Schilling for maintaining his weight, but also gives him $1M for appearing on any voter's three-man Cy Young ballot. Take note, enterprising voters ("Sixty-forty split sound fair, Curt?")

Ethan Trex grew up idolizing Vince Coleman, and he kind of still does. Ethan co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys.

See also...

A Brief History of Stadium Naming Rights
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How Sports Owners Made Their Money
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An Unofficial Guide to Life as a Ref
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All-Star Voter Fraud
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Quiz: Mr. Burns' Softball All-Stars
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Quiz: Where Are They Now? College Superstars
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The Bud Bowl: A Definitive History

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New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long
Apeel
Apeel

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh
Apeel

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration of preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangos, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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The Curious Origins of 16 Common Phrases
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Our favorite basketball writer is ESPN's Zach Lowe. On his podcast, the conversation often takes detours into the origins of certain phrases. We compiled a list from Zach and added a few of our own, then sent them to language expert Arika Okrent. Where do these expressions come from anyway?

1. BY THE SAME TOKEN

Bus token? Game token? What kind of token is involved here? Token is a very old word, referring to something that’s a symbol or sign of something else. It could be a pat on the back as a token, or sign, of friendship, or a marked piece of lead that could be exchanged for money. It came to mean a fact or piece of evidence that could be used as proof. “By the same token” first meant, basically “those things you used to prove that can also be used to prove this.” It was later weakened into the expression that just says “these two things are somehow associated.”

2. GET ON A SOAPBOX

1944: A woman standing on a soapbox speaking into a mic
Express/Express/Getty Images

The soapbox that people mount when they “get on a soapbox” is actually a soap box, or rather, one of the big crates that used to hold shipments of soap in the late 1800s. Would-be motivators of crowds would use them to stand on as makeshift podiums to make proclamations, speeches, or sales pitches. The soap box then became a metaphor for spontaneous speech making or getting on a roll about a favorite topic.

3. TOMFOOLERY

The notion of Tom fool goes a long way. It was the term for a foolish person as long ago as the Middle Ages (Thomas fatuus in Latin). Much in the way the names in the expression Tom, Dick, and Harry are used to mean “some generic guys,” Tom fool was the generic fool, with the added implication that he was a particularly absurd one. So the word tomfoolery suggested an incidence of foolishness that went a bit beyond mere foolery.

4. GO BANANAS

chimp eating banana
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The expression “go bananas” is slang, and the origin is a bit harder to pin down. It became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as “go ape,” so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”

5. RUN OF THE MILL

If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special. But what does it have to do with milling? It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It’s the stuff that’s just been manufactured, before it’s been decorated or embellished. There were related phrases like “run of the mine,” for chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and “run of the kiln,” for bricks as they came out without being sorted for quality yet.

6. READ THE RIOT ACT

The Law's Delay: Reading The Riot Act 1820
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When you read someone the riot act you give a stern warning, but what is it that you would you have been reading? The Riot Act was a British law passed in 1714 to prevent riots. It went into effect only when read aloud by an official. If too many people were gathering and looking ready for trouble, an officer would let them know that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.

7. HANDS DOWN

Hands down comes from horse racing, where, if you’re way ahead of everyone else, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.

8. SILVER LINING

The silver lining is the optimistic part of what might otherwise be gloomy. The expression can be traced back directly to a line from Milton about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun behind the gloom. The idea became part of literature and part of the culture, giving us the proverb “every cloud has a silver lining” in the mid-1800s.

9. HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT

The expression “you’ve got your work cut out for you” comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we don’t use the expression that way. The image is more that your task is well defined and ready to be tackled, but all the difficult parts are yours to get to. That big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!

10. THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

A grapevine is a system of twisty tendrils going from cluster to cluster. The communication grapevine was first mentioned in 1850s, the telegraph era. Where the telegraph was a straight line of communication from one person to another, the “grapevine telegraph” was a message passed from person to person, with some likely twists along the way.

11. THE WHOLE SHEBANG

The earliest uses of shebang were during the Civil War era, referring to a hut, shed, or cluster of bushes where you’re staying. Some officers wrote home about “running the shebang,” meaning the encampment. The origin of the word is obscure, but because it also applied to a tavern or drinking place, it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle drinking establishment.

12. PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Pushing the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff brought the expression into wider use.

13. CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE

We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when their skills don’t even come close to being as good. In other words, that person isn’t even good enough to hold up a candle so that a talented person can see what they’re doing in order to work. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant, much less the artist.

14. THE ACID TEST

Most acids dissolve other metals much more quickly than gold, so using acid on a metallic substance became a way for gold prospectors to see if it contained gold. If you pass the acid test, you didn’t dissolve—you’re the real thing.

15. GO HAYWIRE

What kind of wire is haywire? Just what it says—a wire for baling hay. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold things together in a makeshift way, so a dumpy, patched-up place came to be referred to as “a hay-wire outfit.” It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself got easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the “messed up” sense of the word.

16. CALLED ON THE CARPET

Carpet used to mean a thick cloth that could be placed in a range of places: on the floor, on the bed, on a table. The floor carpet is the one we use most now, so the image most people associate with this phrase is one where a servant or employee is called from plainer, carpetless room to the fancier, carpeted part of the house. But it actually goes back to the tablecloth meaning. When there was an issue up for discussion by some kind of official council it was “on the carpet.”

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