Mark Buehrle took a calculated risk when he chose more cash from the Miami Marlins in lieu of no-trade protection. It blew up in his face when the Marlins dealt him a double-punch in November -- not only did they trade him to Toronto against his will, but he would be forced to make a difficult decision once 2013 rolled around, because the Buehrles love pit bulls, and Ontario enforces a province-wide breed ban on them.
The Buehrles had a few options, none of them nearly as close to workable as merely having to move to the next county, like he did in Miami. They chose the most surprising one, as Jerry Crasnick writes:
The Buehrles had three options: 1) They could live across the U.S. border in Niagara Falls or Buffalo, N.Y., and Mark could commute roughly 90 minutes each way to Toronto; 2) They could leave Slater in someone else's care for the entire season; or 3) Jamie Buehrle could stay behind in St. Louis with the rest of the family while her husband heads north to pitch for the Jays.
After lots of internal debate and anguish, the Buehrles chose Option 3, which means Mark will spend his 14th big league season in Canada while Jamie lives more than 800 miles away with 5-year-old son Braden, 3-year-old daughter Brooklyn, Slater and the family's three vizslas, Drake, Diesel and Duke. As the family settles in for spring training in Dunedin, Fla., Buehrle is struggling to accept the idea that togetherness is short-lived and he will be coming home to an empty house in April.
It's an unusual choice, and not the one I'm guessing most (if not all) of us would make. Jamie Buehrle tried to relate it in a way the dog-neutral person could understand, which turned into the biggest point of contention here:
"A lot of people have said, 'We'll just keep Slater for you,'" Jamie says. "To me, that would be like if we moved somewhere that only allowed boys. I wouldn't leave my daughter behind. Six or seven months is a lot of time. Slater would adjust. He's real easygoing. But I don't want him to bond with someone else. He's our dog. That wasn't really an option."
It's certainly a dilemma, but in order to choose the option that allows dogs, they also chose the one that doesn't allow the parents to live together, which is a strange equivalency. Given that they cited their family's comfort with Ozzie Guillen as a big selling point to go to Miami even without the no-trade clause, it's somewhat incongruous that they're willing to live apart now.
Then again, choosing this arrangement makes a stronger political point. If one of their ultimate goals is to end abuse and discrimination against the breed, they might be working against themselves if they gave up their dog. Even if it were only a temporary arrangement, they might think they would be lumped in with all the other people who gave up on their pit bulls, only the Buehrles have the money and prestige to find willing takers.
So they can't be accused of being hypocritical. Whether it has an impact over the next three years is questionable, because it might be difficult to advocate effectively in Ontario if they're full-time residents of Missouri. History tells us it's mildly difficult for visitors to tell a country how it should be run.
I'm allowing for the possibility that the Buehrles are ruthless political geniuses. Part of Jose Contreras' problems in New York were pinned on trying to adjust to a new culture while being separated from his family. Buehrle is entering the first year of a three-year, $43.5 million contract. If he goes 0-4 with a 7.19 ERA in April, he can say, "I'm trying to adjust to a lot of different things here, but I know it would be easier to come to grips with "OK Blue Jays" and milk in bags if my dog were here."
One of Canada's largest corporations owns the Blue Jays. Rogers might be able to pull some strings.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent...
That's "sextension" instead of "extension" because I would like to have sex with this news.
You can't draw a perfect connection between Hernandez and Buehrle. They're at different levels with regards to talent, and they're also at different stages of their careers.
But Hernandez was in a similar situation. He loves pitching in Seattle, he's never wanted to play anywhere else, and that flew in the face of persistent rumors that the Mariners couldn't afford to not trade him. If his deal is completed, it will be the second long-term deal Hernandez has signed, and he's never come close to the open market either time. He's not making any kind of real sacrifice by signing the largest contract ever given to a pitcher, but the point is that he's done all he can to ensure that he will stay in the place he wants to play.
Unlike Hernandez with the Mariners, Buehrle wasn't going to get a competitive offer from the White Sox for his final big payday, so he was smart to go elsewhere. But he bypassed the option of guaranteeing himself a preferable playing situation for more money, and he's paying a different kind of price.