Baseball, more so than nearly any other sport, is known for its whopping contracts that are grandiose enough to befuddle the rest of us plebeians as to why a 20-something year old is worth the millions of dollars and years of commitment spent on an uncertain faith in another human.
Major league owners and managers wouldn’t mind getting rid of the baby along with the bathwater if they think the money could elsewhere be used to attain more wins, even though empirical evidence will show futures tend to be unpredictable and that these athlete’s bodies often can reach their climax in their early 30s.
Nevertheless, I suppose baseball’s bigwigs are justified in their reasoning because as fans we’re really the ones paying the contracts through ticket sales, merchandise and television viewing. So because we are the sport’s source of collective funding, it’s only right that teams spend this money to please us along with sating their indelible desires to perfect the craft of winning.
Contracts in baseball are exponentially and at a certain point comically larger than other major market sports across the world fans dedicate themselves unwaveringly to. Twenty-three of the 25 largest contracts in sports history have been signed by baseball players.
Giancarlo Stanton, an outfielder with a killer swing for the Miami Marlins, was this past year awarded a 13-year $325 million contract at the age of 25. And while Stanton batted .288 with 37 home runs and 105 RBIs in a 2014 season cut to only 145 games—a pitch from Mike Fiers left his face fractured in multiple spots—this kind of a franchise-altering contract commitment is the superlative of outrageous deal examples.
But Stanton is, to everyone within the Marlins organization at least, believed to be a phenom. So until his numbers wane and his production doesn’t meet the overwhelmingly high expectations set by the amount of money he’s guaranteed, the contract cannot exactly be scoffed at just yet.
Other players’ contracts around the league, and their performances following the signing of said contracts, have however become laughable for everyone except for the organizations shelling out the bulk of their cash to these busts.
And it is the signing of the 30-somethings, not the youthful up and comers, that should give sports fans a real pause.
Albert Pujols, who over the course of his career has proved himself to be one of the greatest hitters with one of the most consistent swings of all time, was in 2012 signed to an 10-year $240 million contract. Pujols numbers have slackened off considerably since signing with the Angels, and many think a .272 regular season batting average and a .167 postseason average in 2014 may make his deal one of the most shortsighted in major league history.
The Angels are still locked into seven more years of owing the aging Pujols (now 35, an ancient dinosaur in sport’s terms) $189 million (plus incentives) regardless of their feelings on his performance as of late.
The 31-year-old Miguel Cabrera’s 10-year $292 million contract might prove to be worth the cost seeing as how he earned his second straight Best MLB Player award in 2014, but the Tigers’ rationale in signing this lengthy of an extension to a player on the back nine of his career—posting his lowest batting average in six years and lowest home run total since his rookie season—is mind boggling.
The Yankees organization has more money to work with than any of the 29 other teams in MLB, but it is also practically giving it away in attempts to acquire and retain aging big-name players that are proving to be steadily falling stars.
We’ll go ahead and skip over Jeter and turn to players still on the team with hundreds of millions of dollars left to be paid over the course of quite a few years.
CC Sabathia, 34, has two years left and is owed $53 million despite a career that’s became exponentially worsened by injury. His ERA over the past four seasons is a testament to his deterioration: 3.00, 3.38, 4.78 and 5.28. For the first time since 2006, Sabathia did not pitch 200-plus innings, only throwing a total of 46 innings last year.
Carlos Beltran, 37, and Mark Teixeira, 34, both have two years left on contracts signed for $30 million and $45 million, respectively. Both of their numbers have decreased, as is to be expected with the aging baseball player.
But the one who tops them all is, of course, A-Rod. The soon-to-be 40 year old missed the entirety of the 2014 season because of his suspension over his using performance enhancing drugs. His injured hips render him nearly useless in the field, and he’s now been robbed of his third baseman spot and designated as a hitter only.
Even so, the Yankees are stuck with him for three more years, during which time he is owed the $61 million that remains to be paid out of his colossal 2007 contract.
It seems as if though none of these organizations concern themselves with anything other than the present, which is a bad business model used nonetheless by one of the biggest businesses in sports.
The need for instant gratification is usually a sign of immaturity, which is befitting for a bunch of guys who make their living playing a game.