Monday, January 28, 2008

What The Hell Happened To: Albert Belle

Albert was forced to retire prematurely due to dry skin and self-proclaimed "itchy back."

Albert AKA Joey Belle is a pretty amazing guy when you think about it -- he's a total dick to everyone, got busted for corking his bat (so far, so Sammy), and was generally hated by everyone to the point where he couldn't get it done on the HoF ballot...even though he has multiple awards and accolades, including being the first player to hit 50 2B and 50 HR in the same season (not to mention a career average of .290, 37HR, 120 RBI. Filthy).

Albert joined the Sox in 1996, signing the most unusual contract in team history. Not only was he the highest paid player in baseball (really), but he played like it, too. Albert had a 27-game hitting streak in '97, and almost had a 50/50 season in 1998 with 49 HR and 48 doubles. Not only was Belle's contract unusual in size, but it also guaranteed him that he would continue to be one of the top three highest paid players in baseball every year. The Sox declined to give him the raise when other contracts shot up, and Belle left for free agency. He played for the Orioles for two seasons before playing his last game with osteoarthritis in his hip in 2001.

What the hell happened to Albert Belle?

The Orioles invoked an interesting clause in 2001 that kept Belle on the team as an insurance policy -- even though he was unable to play. Belle rode the imaginary pine for three (!) seasons so that the Orioles could recoup most of the money the had sunk into his five year contract. Belle officially declared for free agency/retirement in 2003, opting for some more rest and relaxation. Belle enjoyed fun extracurricular activities such as getting pulled over for a DUI, golfing, and stalking his former girlfriend with a GPS device. Classy.

After being inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, Albert was repeatedly snubbed over the past few years on the HoF ballot, and after not getting the required 5% in 2007, will not be on the ballot in future years (too bad, really). Most recently, Belle has been involved with a custody battle for his daughter, and he recently gave a talk in Chicago about his hip resurfacing surgery.

Belle currently lives in Arizona -- but you can bet your ass he won't be getting a Tom Tom or Garmin for Christmas.

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