Those who grew up baseball fans in the 1990s likely remember former White Sox slugger Albert Belle quite well.
The five-time All-Star and Silver-Slugger Award winner, and three-time RBI leader was as well-known for his temperament as his offensive firepower.
Today, Belle is retired but made his way into the news as he and nine other retired players – including White Sox legend Harold Baines – were selected to the Today’s Era Game ballot for the Hall of Fame. Voting for the upcoming Hall of Fame class takes place on December 9th at the annual Winter Meetings.
NBC Sports Chicago’s Chuck Garfien recently had Belle as a guest on the White Sox Talk Podcast. There, Belle reflected not only on his career and Hall of Fame chances but on recent news – including the question everyone’s wondering: Should the White Sox go after Bryce Harper and Manny Machado?
While acknowledging that going after each would show that the Sox are aiming for another pennant, Belle also appeared to take a somewhat cautious approach:
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"“If I were an owner, I wouldn’t give these guys past a five-year deal. All of these guys who signed a ten-year deal are all hurt now.”"
Belle – referring to the likes of Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols – has an interesting point in suggesting that signing these veterans to ten-year deals hasn’t worked out for their respective teams. However, as Garfien notes, Harper and Machado are both younger than Cano and Pujols at the time of their signings. This may provide more incentive in offering each a long term deal.
Whatever might be said of his exploits, there’s no doubt Belle did very well for himself financially.
In 1997, he signed a five-year, $55 million contract with the White Sox. At the time, it was the richest contract in MLB history. Indians fans clearly didn’t appreciate Belle’s perceived lack of loyalty and showered him with fake money when he first returned to Cleveland in a Chicago uniform.
An opt-out clause after two years gave Belle the opportunity to leave Chicago if he chose to do so. When the ChiSox didn’t match the Orioles five-year, $65 million contract, he left for Baltimore.
Today, Belle says he wishes he’d stayed in Chicago.
"“We had some nice young players that really came around and helped the team win the World Series. I kind’ve miscalculated thinking I was [going to] win sooner if I went to Baltimore, and should’ve stayed in Chicago.”"
Albert Belle didn’t spend the bulk of his career in Chicago, and if elected would be inducted as a Cleveland Indian. Still, his tenure with the White Sox – though short – offered memories to many fans.