Baseball Woes

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“It’s no secret that most of the highest-paid athletes in North American sports are baseball players thanks to a lack of a salary cap,” according to Business Insider.

As examples, some of these highest-paid players are with our local teams in Anaheim (Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton) and Los Angeles (Zack Greinke and Adrian Gonzalez). They earn more in one year (actually seven months) of playing than the rest of us do in a lifetime.

But teams with the largest payrolls aren’t guaranteed a World Series appearance. In 2012 the top four – the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox and Angels – didn’t make it there.

What does seem to matter is the length of these huge contracts.

Teams can recover from errors in player salaries if the contract is two or three years in length. What can kill management financially are contracts like Albert Pujols’ $240 million contract, which extends to 2021, and Josh Hamilton’s 10-year, $140 million contract. Do the math and that is $400 million for two players who have not exactly burned up the league.

In fairness, Pujols and Hamilton have shown signs of life lately. Other highest paid players, like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Johan Santana, have yet to play this year because of injuries.

I asked my fellow Forum writer and ardent baseball fan, Jean Hastings Ardell, for her take on this.

“Expectations have something to do with it. You get all that money and suddenly you feel the pressure to be really, really great. The fans expect it, too. Remember when Angel fans had low expectations? We didn’t do so well against most of our opponents but we owned the Yankees – low expectations, again – nothing to lose. That’s why 2002 was so sweet. At the beginning of the season the odds were 50 to 1 against the Angels winning the World Series. This spring, they were touted as favorites–a usually fatal prognosis. Hey, it could be worse, Mike. At least we’re not Chicago Cubs fans.”

As the All-Star break approaches in July, with the Angels currently third in their division and the Dodgers last in theirs, local fans are experiencing a mid-season lament–“What’s wrong with our teams?

* Is it all that that money paid to individual players per year? Too much money can make a player less hungry.

* Is it the yearly money plus the length of the contract? How can the 10-year contract player have any incentive? Incentive usually comes at the end of a player’s contract.

* Is it the inequalities of the monies paid to these stars and their teammates? How can other players not be annoyed and jealous when the slumping guy next to him makes ten times as much?

* Do the pieces of the team puzzle fit together?

So it appears, and wisdom suggests, GMs avoid long-term contracts with huge salaries. The Angels have lots of great pieces for their puzzle. But many of them haven’t aligned. And the club has given away high draft choices and choice pitching prospects.

Now it’s in a corner with all its eggs in two baskets. The Angels remind me of someone tied in a nautical knot, like a bowline. where the more you struggle, the tighter it gets.

Perhaps you’re tired of hearing me write that the Angels need a new manager. Not because I dislike him, but because Scioscia must be tired and frustrated with managing a bunch of overpaid, underperforming and oft-injured players who have lost their heart and hunger.

Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., of Newport Beach, writes Deep Thoughts for the Newport Beach Independent. He and Jean Hastings Ardell are out-of-control baseball nuts!


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