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LEEInks list: Famous holdouts in Boston sports history

08.05.10 at 7:46 am ET
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We’€™ve heard it before. ‘€œIt’€™s a business.’€ That line is tossed around every now and then to remind fans that sports are in fact not a perfect world. As much as we want athletes to play for the love of the game, it’€™s just not how the world of professional sports works.

Sometimes, players aren’€™t happy with the amount of money they’€™re making. Sometimes, it’€™s the team’€™s fault for not paying the player market rate and disrespecting them in the process. Regardless, when the situation manifests, players let their dissatisfaction be known. Some make it more public than others, however.

With NFL training camps up and roaring, there are numerous players across the league who are holding out. Patriots guard Logan Mankins is one of them, being steadfast this preseason in his belief that he deserves a long-term contract. He’€™s just one of many local athletes who have held out due to contract unhappiness. Let’€™s count down the 10 most significant holdouts in Boston sports history.

10. Larry Siegfried, Celtics

After winning the title in the 1967-68 season, the Celtics had to deal with their starting point guard refusing to report to training camp. Siegfried was unhappy about his contract and represented the first holdout in team history. His teammates, including Bill Russell, were not surprised by the move because they felt Siegfried was unpredictable. Not only was money a problem, but Siegfried didn’€™t want to be traded to Atlanta. After eight days, he reached an agreement with Red Auerbach to increase his salary.

9. Joe Thornton/Sergei Samsonov, Bruins

In 2000, the Bruins had two of their three leading scorers from the previous year holding out in Thornton and Samsonov. Thornton led Boston with 23 goals and 37 assists, while Samsonov was third on the team with 19 goals and 26 assists. General manager Harry Sinden didn’€™t want to deal with the holdouts, vowing that players who missed camp would have their offers decreased ever day. Boston finally signed the center and the left winger to three-year contracts, bringing back a large portion of the offense.

8. Richard Seymour, Patriots

After being a Pro Bowl selection in his first four seasons in the NFL, Seymour held out in the 2005 preseason because he felt his salary was too low. As one of the best defensive ends and overall defensive players in football, Seymour wanted to be paid as one. New England though, only offered a $1.2 million increase and the resulting $4 million for the 2005-06 season was below market value (the average of the top five salaries for defensive ends was $6.7 million). Fortunately for both the Patriots and Seymour, the contract dispute wasn’€™t a dragged-out process as both sides were able to come to an agreement fairly quickly.

7. Deion Branch, Patriots

Branch was one of the more famous Patriots holdouts because the situation epitomized New England’€™s mindset of holding each player to his value and not overpaying. Branch’€™s dispute started in June as the wide receiver rejected the Patriots’€™ offer of a $4 million signing bonus and a $4 million option bonus payable in 2007. Branch wanted a deal similar to what his former teammate David Givens received with the Titans, a five-year, $24 million contract. Unrelenting, New England let the holdout continue before issuing a statement saying Branch could seek a trade. After grievances were filed, Branch’€™s feel-good career with the Patriots ended when he was traded to Seattle in September of 2006.

6. Jason Allison, Bruins

After coming to the Bruins in 1997, Allison didn’€™t have the longest career in a Boston uniform. A season after being the fourth-leading scorer in the NHL, Allison began a holdout that forced the Bruins to trade their captain. In October of 2001, Allison was sent to the King for forwards Glen Murray and Jozef Stumpel, both of whom started their careers with Boston. Los Angeles signed Allison to a three-year $20 million contract, something which the Bruins weren’€™t willing to give. (Skip to 1:20 mark).

5. Mike Haynes, Patriots

In 1983, Haynes’€™ agent sued the NFL for $5 million when the league blocked his trade to the Raiders in October. New England went back on a promise to make the All-Pro the second-highest-paid defensive back after signing other players to new contracts. Haynes settled out-of-court and played the final six weeks of the regular season with the Raiders under a new contract, while the Patriots were awarded a No. 1 draft choice in 1984 and a No. 2 pick in 1985.

4. Roger Clemens, Red Sox

After winning the Cy Young Award and American League MVP in 1986, Clemens walked out of spring training in 1987 instead of accepting a 29 percent raise in salary to $440,000. The Rocket was 28 days short of the three years of service needed to qualify for arbitration, giving the Red Sox leverage. Clemens was stubborn throughout his holdout and finally signed a two-year contract after the commissioner got involved just before an exhibition game against Harvard. Clemens didn’€™t receive the increase in salary that he was looking for, but he accepted incentive bonuses that he would reach after earning a second Cy Young Award.

3. John Hannah/Leon Gray, Patriots

In 1977, standout linemen Hannah and Gray staged a publicized holdout, and the Patriots went 1-2 to being the season. Both Hannah and Gray, however, experienced backlash and felt alienated by the situation. Gray, a two-time Pro Bowl tackle, was traded to Houston for a pair of draft picks, while Hannah finished his career with New England. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1991 after playing in nine Pro Bowls and making the All-AFC team 10 times.

2. Carlton Fisk/Fred Lynn/Rick Burleson, Red Sox

Even huge fan favorites such as Fisk and Lynn were holdouts at one point. During their contract dispute of 1976, however, fans started to get on the three players. Lynn didn’€™t hold back in telling fans how he felt about the abuse, flipping them the bird on a few occasions. The three young superstars were named ‘€œthe Kapstein connection’€ because they were represented by Jerry Kapstein, who was the Scott Boras of his time (interestingly, Kapstein now works in the Red Sox front office). Even after the players signed, the Red Sox got off to a slow start and they finished in third place, 15 1/2 games behind the Yankees.

1. Babe Ruth, Red Sox

Many people know (and crucify) Harry Frazee for selling Ruth to the rivaled Yankees, but how many people know that Ruth held out after the 1919 season, which was a major factor in his departure. The Bambino demanded $20,000 per year ‘€” twice as much as he was making during the season. Frazee, however, already had given Ruth bonuses after the 1918 and 1919 seasons. Tired of putting up with Ruth’s selfish behavior and stuck in a tight financial situation, the Red Sox owner chose to sell Ruth to New York for $125,000, which was a substantial figure at the time.

Read More: Babe Ruth, Carlton Fisk, John Hannah, richard seymour