Players kick butt in their free agency walk years and slack off later, right? Um, no.

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It’s taken as a matter of faith that players go crazy in their free agent walk years, motivated by that big paycheck. And then that, after they get the fat deal, they themselves get fat and lazy and simply cash their checks. And sure, we all can cite examples of players who seem to fit this pattern.

But as Joe Sheehan writes over at Sports Illustrated today, it’s neither borne out by the statistical data nor does it tell the whole story. And here’s a big part of the story people miss:

The concept that players play best when motivated by potential free agency is as much a tale of managerial failure as it is one of player psychology. Front offices want to blame the player for failing to meet their expectations, rather than consider that the expectations were out of line.

Sheehan cites Gary Matthews Jr.’s deal with the Angels, but there are any number of players who got rich because their teams didn’t realize they were flukes. Yet we often blame the player for his regression as opposed to blaming management for the misjudgment.

It’s a good article that, no matter how many time the subject is revisited, people seem to reject the facts and go back to what they believe to be true.  Let’s read Joe’s piece today and try to remember it, OK?