Wizards

Schmidt: A-Rod was cursed once he got big contract

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Schmidt: A-Rod was cursed once he got big contract

There was a time when Alex Rodriguez was touted as the guy who could relieve us of Barry Bonds as the home run king. He was young, healthy and an MVP contender every year.

If anyone deserved $30 million a year, it was him. That's a stretch - ``deserve'' $30 million a year. Maybe discovering a cure for cancer, world hunger or global peace, but not playing baseball. Who's worth that number? Surely not a baseball player. Funny, Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise gets the same for a movie, no one raises an eyebrow.

No discussion about Alex Rodriguez can be complete without the subject of money. For an athlete who dedicates his life to his craft, the size of the paycheck is a major factor. No one has ever refused money or given money back. Athletes are entertainers, some ridiculously high-paid entertainers.

In a perfect world, entertainers would not be allowed to make more money than doctors, police officers or anybody whose work made a difference to society. Ours is not a perfect world, so things get out of balance. Something like a young super-athlete, who played baseball for an eccentric owner, in an era when expanded TV, media, Internet and general economic growth seemed evident, was part of a perfect storm.

Alex Rodriguez was cursed. At the time he had no idea, none of us did. That contract changed him and baseball and has been a burden to many. A burden under which he has to play, fans have to watch and baseball has to exist. Alex Rodriguez's career will never be appreciated.

Is the burden of money at the root of all of his problems? Alex Rodriguez, for all intents and purposes, is a good guy. His problem, at times, seems to be the perception that he comes off as insincere, insecure and even a bit fake. What mega-athlete doesn't have that side to their personality? I did. OK, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, just off the top of my head, but that's about where it ends.

LeBron, Kobe and Tiger, there's a quick three for comparison. But then the anti-A-Rod - Derek Jeter - still at a level where salary could be an issue, is beloved and respected by everyone. CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira also are on the Yankees and make over $20 million each, and they escape the daily wrath and scrutiny.

Is it money, personality or the combination that makes Alex so polarizing?

To make a point, two personal stories. After his first couple years as a teenage major league shortstop in Seattle, I met him before a golf event in Fort Lauderdale. I had retired several years earlier, he was just beginning his career, and I sensed a great respect as he addressed me as Mr. Schmidt. It made me feel old, but at the same time, he impressed me with his approach.

Fast forward to the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium in 2008 when he was one homer away from my 548 on the all-time home run chart. We were standing at third base, I was a little uncomfortable not knowing what to say, so I tried to make conversation by mentioning the home run list. He asked me if I was planning on being there to see him match me. It was sort of an aloof response to my question - to ask if I was planning on following him till he tied me was a little presumptuous and a blow to my ego. It came off as the exact opposite of our first meeting. This was 500 home runs and $200 million later in life.

I may be reading too much into these moments, Alex wouldn't even remember them. He was there to play the game, not carry on a conversation about home run records with me. Just the wrong choice of words in a stressful moment, that can happen.

Alex has a very high profile, tries so hard to be normal, and can't pull it off. No one making $30 million a year could. If he were a rock star, who'd care? He plays America's game in front of us for seven months. He can't hide.

The reason he is so polarizing lies right in this story. In him, we all see a guy who hit the sports lottery and we think, if it were us, life would be a bowl of cherries and it would be easy to be everything to everyone. If the tables were turned in that exchange at the All-Star game, I'd have said to him that I'd be honored if he were present when I tied and passed him, and I would send my jet to bring him there. Is that crazy?

So many people say to me that I came along in baseball 20 years too early. They say imagine what you'd make if you played today. My answer is simple and has two parts: I'd be Alex Rodriguez, and I'm glad I'm not.

We are alike in that we both were shortstops and moved to third base. We both hit home runs, produced runs, won Gold Gloves, won MVP awards and a World Series championship. Most of my career I was the highest or close to the highest-paid player in baseball. Over the last decade, and forever, it's him. We played under the highest pressure and expectations.

I may be one person who has walked in his shoes. Of course, it was Philadelphia, not New York. It was $2 million, not $30 million. And the world in which he lives is drastically different than mine. Make no mistake, few would qualify to be both highest paid in the game and 0 for 20 in a postseason.

I know what it's like to be right on the ball and miss it, and the few times you connect it's caught. Imagine in the ALCS opener against Detroit, bases loaded, if Alex's rope in the hole in the second inning was 6 inches to the left. He'd drive in two runs, the pressure is off and maybe none of this happens.

Instead, Jhonny Peralta dives and catches it for the third out, another failure in the clutch. In the 1983 World Series, I finished 1 for 20. But in my first two at-bats, I lined out to center field with men on base. Those balls find the gap and I'd go as far to say the Series outcome against Baltimore would have been different.

The postseason can be cruel, especially cruel to those hitters who are expected to produce and lead their teams. In baseball, players are supposed to be judged over an extended period, not a two-week postseason. Hitting comes and goes and never says goodbye. This time of year, the big, high-paid boys are supposed to hit, but most don't. Check it, there are more hitting stars who fail in postseason than succeed. Look at Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson - even worse than Alex, but who's making the headlines?

Imagine if he had never signed that contract, made a normal amount and never had a brush with performance-enhancing drugs. Imagine if there were no Internet, no Twitter or Facebook, only a couple newspapers and radio shows, and limited television exposure. Would he be today's Mickey Mantle?

But that's the reality, and because of it he has his $200 million and the pressure that comes with it. He signed on for this and now he faces challenges few if any ever have. I was never benched, never removed for a pinch hitter. The Phillies believed I was always one swing from changing a game and a series. Apparently, Joe Girardi didn't feel the same about Alex Rodriguez.

Alex seems to my eye to still be a fundamentally sound and potentially very productive hitter. Staying healthy at 37 is the issue. Age is a funny thing. I seemed to hit a wall in my late 30s. I can't explain it other than to say fastballs I used to hit a long way ended up on the warning track, nagging injuries increased, I didn't get to groundballs I used to eat up.

And as this happened, I began to doubt my ability. I had an excuse: I was old, so I retired. It happens to all of us. But in Alex's case when it does - if it isn't happening now - it won't be that easy. He will be making $30 million a year, guaranteed! For that kind of money, you aren't allowed to get old.

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Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and Alex Rodriguez have both won three MVP awards and a World Series title. Schmidt hit 548 home runs and was a 12-time All-Star; Rodriguez has 647 homers and is a 14-time All-Star.

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Wizards take out Sixers to tie season series behind Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter's hot shooting

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Wizards take out Sixers to tie season series behind Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter's hot shooting

The Washington Wizards beat the Philadelphia 76ers 109-94 on Sunday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Playoff implications: Later in the season the stakes are raised and the Wizards' win over the Sixers on Sunday night could loom large in just a few weeks.

By beating the Sixers, who had won seven straight entering the matchup, the Wizards tied up the season series with their second win. A loss would have handed Philly the tiebreaker in playoff seeding if the two teams finish with the same record at season's end.

Now that their season series is over and locked even, it will come down to their record against other Eastern Conference teams if they tie. At 22-15 vs. the East, the Wizards currently have the edge on the Sixers, who are 18-14 in that category.

The Wizards dominated the Sixers for much of the night and they did so by once again moving the ball with generosity and precision. They had 35 assists on 43 field goals. The Wizards have had 30 or more assists in five games this season and four have come within the last month.

Those four games have been part of a 9-3 surge for the Wizards since John Wall got injured. With their win against Philly, the Wizards moved to 35-25 on the season and a half-game out of third in the East. The Sixers are among several teams nipping at their heels in an increasingly crowded conference.

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Oubre put on a show: The Wizards led 67-48 at halftime and that was in large part due to Kelly Oubre, Jr.'s impact on both ends of the floor. He had eight points in each of the first two quarters, including four threes, and made several key plays on defense.

Oubre had three blocks to set a career-high by halftime, including one on Robert Covington that bounced off Covington's leg and gave the Wizards possession. He also took a charge on Ben Simmons and flashed a smile for the cameras as he sprinted back down the floor.

Oubre ended the game with 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting. It wasn't long ago that Oubre was in a significant shooting slump.

In his last 11 games before the All-Star break, Oubre was averaging just 9.4 points on 31.2 percent shooting. In three games since the break, Oubre has scored 47 points (15.7/g) while shooting 51.5 percent. It's safe to say he's put those shooting struggles behind him.

Oubre had been making his mark defensively as the Wizards closed the first half on a tear, but Sunday showed how much of a boost he can provide when he's in a rhythm offensively. He completely changed the game and helped the Wizards knock off a team that came to Washington super hot.

Porter wasn't fazed: Otto Porter did something on Sunday that likely has never been accomplished before. He hit not one, not two, not three but four buzzer-beaters all in the first half. Three of them were to beat the shot clock. Then, he hit another one to end the first half:

That shot capped an 8-1 run to end the second quarter for the Wizards and it brought a burst of energy out of the crowd. Porter had 14 points in the second quarter and shot 6-for-6 in the frame. The Wizards outscored the Sixers 37-20 in the second and Porter led the charge.

Porter finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Much like Bradley Beal, who had 24 points in this game, Porter has thrived in this second extended absence for Wall. Both Beal and Porter battle inconsistency as they adapted to being the primary focus of opposing teams back in November when Wall first went down. But this time around, they have answers to everything teams are throwing at them.

Porter's patience at the end of the shot clock on Sunday was an example of that. His confidence seems to be at an all-time high, knowing he has enough tricks to keep his opponents guessing. That was on display with under two minutes to go when he drained a three in Covington's face, turned around to stare at him afterwards and then shook his head as he trotted down the court, as if he were saying that no one can stop him. 

Up next: The Wizards are off Monday before playing back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Bucks and Warriors. Tuesday is an 8 p.m. tipoff on TNT. We will have pre- and postgame coverage of Wizards-Bucks on NBC Sports Washington Plus beginning at 7 p.m.

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Dan Fegan, former agent for John Wall, dies in car crash

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Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Caravan

Dan Fegan, former agent for John Wall, dies in car crash

NBA agent Dan Fegan, who had previously represented many high-profile NBA clients including John Wall, died in a car crash Sunday morning, according to The Aspen Times. 

According to the report, Fegan's SUV was struck by a bus while trying to merge onto Highway 82 in Colorado a little after 9 am this morning. 

The two passengers in the car - an unidentified woman and Fegan's 5-year old daughter - were airlifted to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. 

Fegan was 56.