FLYING THE FRIENDLY SKIES?

How the latest chapter in Carlos Correa ordeal could've been solved at an airport

What a crazy free agency period for Carlos Correa. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

In less than one year, Carlos Correa has gone from being the coveted linchpin of one of the greatest infields in baseball history and a World Series champion to being regarded as damaged goods and playing in relative obscurity for a losing team in a secondary sports market.

This despite having one of the best seasons of his career in 2022.

How on Earth did that happen?

Last March, Correa turned down a five-year, $160 million offer from the Astros, the only team he had played for during his seven-year career. The Astros play in air-conditioned comfort in front of an average crowd of 33,000 adoring fans in Top 10 market Houston.

Instead he signed a three-year deal with the Minnesota Twins for $105 million with opt-outs after each year, which he exercised shortly after the 2022 season ended.

The Twins play in an outdoor stadium in the coldest climate in the Major Leagues. Their average attendance last year was 22,000 fans. Minneapolis-St. Paul is a Top 20 market and not nearly as diverse as Houston.

Despite Correa hitting .291 (well above his career average) with 22 homers, the Twins finished 2022 with a 78-84 record, out of the playoffs. The Astros, in case you haven’t been keeping up with the news, won the World Series with Correa’s replacement, rookie Jeremy Pena, becoming a fan favorite in Houston.

Back on the market for 2023, Correa received a mammoth 13-year, $350 million offer from the San Francisco Giants shortly before Christmas. That offer was rescinded after the Giants found an undisclosed (at the time) problem during Correa’s routine physical.

That’s when the New York Mets swooped in with a 12-year, $315 million offer. But the Mets also backed out over health concerns.

On Wednesday Correa finally re-upped with the Twins, this time for a six-year deal for $200 million. His value plummeted six years and $150 million in one month. Tesla stockholders said, hey, we feel your pain.

That’s three separate deals over one month and each time Correa’s price was marked down. That’s not baseball. That’s Nordstrom Rack.

The problem and cause of Correa’s descending value is his surgically repaired right ankle. In 2014, then a 19-year-old sensation, Correa suffered an ankle injury sliding into third base. He had surgery, which included the insertion of a metal plate in his leg. He went on to a productive, at times spectacular, tenure with the Astros.

Here’s the part of the story that I find most interesting. How wasn’t it well known that Correa has been playing all this time with a metal plate in his leg? That didn’t become widespread knowledge until last year when he slid hard into second base and felt numbness and vibrations in his leg. After the game he told reporters about the metal plate.

That was the first I heard about it. And this is a culture where nothing is private and every excruciating detail about an athlete’s physical and mental health is fair game in the media.

I have a friend who’s in my travel group. He had hip resurfacing surgery a few years ago, which involved placing a metal cap over a bone in his hip joint. Now when he passes through TSA security at the airport, he sets off the metal detector every time. It never fails. Then he is patted down and felt up by TSA agents.

I’m not saying that Correa kept his metal plate a secret. I’m saying fans didn’t know about it.

Correa is a big deal. He flies a lot, with his team, on business, for promotional appearances, on personal trips. Teammates, including former teammates (especially one) who may hold a grudge against the Astros, never let it slip that Correa has a metal plate in his leg? Fellow travelers at the airport never heard the metal detector go beep?

I asked a friend who flies with a professional sports team, do players go through airport security, including a metal detector, like the rest of us?

I was surprised, the answer is no. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

“We have a private terminal with private parking at the airport. There is security, but they only pat down a small number of us at random. We don’t go through the typical metal detector that regular travelers do,” he said.

I also asked someone who travels with a major college football team. Same thing.

“We get on a bus together on campus and go straight to the plane. When we land, we get on another bus that takes us to our hotel. ESPN will show the team getting off the bus at a stadium or hotel. That’s the bus that meets us at the plane. You’re asking if the players and coaches and school officials go through a metal detector. We don’t.”

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DeMeco Ryans looks like the Texans' choice as the next head coach. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

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