Trietley: Holding out for a $40-plus million raise

By Greg Trietly

I demand a raise.

Though technically a rookie at this level, I think I proved my journalistic skills in the challenging high school newspaper circuit — at least enough for you to respect my stipulations.

I want a few million guaranteed, along with bonuses if I write anything worth publishing, though you’ll have to speak to my agent about that.

Really, deep down I just want to start writing, once every other week over a predetermined schedule with designated rest periods.

Don’t laugh, it’s not outrageous. I have company.

First-year wide receiver Michael Crabtree remains a holdout at 49ers training camp. He believes he deserves more money than the paltry $38.25 million fellow first-round wide-out Darrius Heyward-Bey signed for.

And three weeks ago, pitcher Stephen Strasburg signed a contract worth a guaranteed $15.1 million with the Washington Nationals, the biggest deal ever for any player right out of college.

So I have my justification.

OK, OK, I’m sorry. It is outrageous. It is idiotic. Rookie contracts across leagues are out of control.

At first, Strasburg and his agent, Scott Boras — engineer of Alex Rodriguez’s famous $252 million contract — reportedly demanded $50 million guaranteed from the Nationals, according to the Washington Post. The entire Nationals team currently makes just shy of $62 million.

Logically, the Nationals should have the leverage when inking an unproven rookie. But, no, Major League Baseball gives Strasburg the edge.

In Strasburg’s corner: the option to return to college for his senior season with San Diego State. The Nationals have a so-called generational talent — along with the fanbase — and could walk out the door. Strasburg re-enters the Draft next season and gets a big-market team to pay him what Washington would not.

In the Nationals’ corner: a compensatory Draft pick from the MLB should they fail to sign him. Talk about leverage.

So, Strasburg and Boras leave the bargaining table with millions guaranteed and stipulations that include a Major League roster spot immediately.

At least Strasburg’s argument had some grounds in reality. Crabtree, meanwhile, bases his request for $40-plus million on hypotheticals. Although Oakland chose Heyward-Bey seventh overall and Crabtree went 10th, the former Texas Tech Red Raider argues he deserves more than Heyward-Bey because mock drafts slotted him higher.

Apparently, Internet projections have more negotiating power than what Oakland owner Al Davis actually does.

Crabtree received this advice from a “cousin/adviser,” according to Yahoo! Sports.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, the top pick this spring, signed a contract that gives him $41.7 million guaranteed. That’s more guaranteed than Eli Manning’s new deal pays him — and Manning has a Super Bowl ring. Meanwhile, the Jets made their first-round quarterback Mark Sanchez the highest-paid player in franchise history before the team named him the starter.

While Stafford and Sanchez enjoy their wallet-busting contracts, some are lambasting the league trend. Colts president Bill Polian told the Indianapolis Star that rookie contracts are “crazy.” Last season, seven-time Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae used “disheartening” to describe Matt Ryan’s six-year, $72 million deal.

On draft day, teams look at how signable a prospect is just as they look at his 40-time or fastball speed — Boras in baseball and Drew Rosenhaus in football notoriously drive a hard bargain. Don’t draft a player you can’t afford, teams think.

But to blame solely the players is as misguided as some of their demands. The current system pushes them to it, as a NFL contract is practically meaningless.

Franchises can terminate contracts as easily as Brett Favre retires. Without guaranteed money in a contract, one serious injury or a bad season ends a player’s financial relationship with a team. The average NFL career is just three and a half seasons.

While baseball and football struggle to get a grip on first-year contracts, the NHL, for once, has it right. The league caps rookie deals.

Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin both had base salaries of less than $1 million in their first year.

The NFL should adopt a similar policy. Teams shouldn’t be handcuffed into spending money on players who haven’t earned it. Get a rookie cap, get the player signed, get him into camp and get him ready to play. Then he can start to work toward his payday, as Crosby and Ovechkin did.

Baseball is a few more Strasburg-type deals away from needing a rookie cap as well, but the word “cap” usually causes heads to explode in those parts. But, at the least, give the Nationals some leverage.