Published on November 30, 2021

The View from my Seat

For Yuli, money isn’t everything

By Ernie Williamson
The Bulletin

I have a new hero.

It’s Yulieski Gourriel Castillo.

He is also known to baseball fans as Astros star Yuli Gurriel or “La Pina” a nickname given him because of his unusual pineapple-shaped haircut.

There is a lot to admire about the veteran slugger.

He defected to the United States in 2016 after an illustrious career in Cuba. He made his major league debut that same year after signing a 5-year $47.5 million contract with our Astros.

With Yuli at first base, the Astros have contended every year and won the World Series in 2017.

He finished the just-completed season with a .319 batting average, becoming at 37, the sixth oldest player to win a batting title.

He also won a Gold Glove for fielding, the oldest player ever to win the award for the first time.

What makes Yuli a hero in my eyes, however, is that in an era when athletes in all sports seem willing to forsake their teammates and fans in a race for more money, Yuli seems to value loyalty as much as dollars.

Yuli’s original contract ended at the conclusion of the 2020 season. He was a free agent and could have played elsewhere. Given his age, he could have sought one last big payday.

Instead, he took a 20 percent pay cut and signed a $6.5 million contract for 2021 that included an $8 million salary for 2022 at the club’s option.

Why would Yuli take a pay cut for 2021? Maybe he figured his age would not make him that attractive in the open market.

I prefer to think he just likes Houston and the Astros. His words indicate that.

“It’s the team that I dreamed about, honestly,” Yuli said when signing his 2021 contract.

“I never thought there’d be so much chemistry between the players and the coaching staff. It’s just a perfect situation.”

Isn’t that refreshing? An athlete who values the team. How many of us would take team over money?

Earlier this month, a few days after losing to Atlanta in the 2021 World Series, the Astros wisely picked up the option for the 2022 season. Yuli signed the contract that will give him the slight raise to $8 million next season
What a deal for the Astros: They are getting a batting title winner and Gold Glove winner from a player who took a pay cut.

Again, Yuli didn’t talk of money on the day he signed the contract.

“2021 season was super special,” he Tweeted. “To my teammates, front office and staff, our fans and our families GRACIAS."

Now don’t get me wrong. Although Yuli gave up some money, he won’t be sacking groceries in retirement. Most of us would love to have his salary.

But when you look at salaries of other major league players you realize what a bargain the Astros have and how much Yuli may have sacrificed.

For instance:

-There are 20 players earning more than $25 million a year.

-There are more than 100 making at least $10 million a year.

-Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout is the highest paid baseball player, earning $37.1 million per year.

-New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is second at $36 million.

- There are 14 players making more than the entire Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team.

And none of these players won both the American League batting title and a Gold Glove this past season.
But “La Pina” did.

Yuli, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman have played in 73 career playoff games together, the most of any four players in MLB history.

Altuve and Bregman will be in Houston at least three more years, but Correa is a free agent.

As of this writing, it is reported the Astros have offered Correa a 5-year contract worth $160 million.

That may not be enough. It is speculated that the Correa price tag might be a 10-year contract worth $300 million.
We are lucky to have Yuli. Carlos, we need another hero.

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com. Or, send letters in care of The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516)