Lucrative Contracts Could End Up Costing Baseball

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 Fans Will Pay The Price For Large Contracts

By John Ventola

Baseball is enjoying an upswing in fan interest and attendance during the past few years but the lucrative contracts being doled out to star players recently could prove to be detrimental down the line. Television and other means of revenue will help defray some of the costs, but fans will be the ones paying the ultimate price through increased ticket and concession prices, parking costs, and other expenses that will make it harder for average working families to attend games.

Giancarlo Stanton’s signing of a $325-million, 13-year deal (2015-2027) with the Florida Marlins now ranks as the highest paid contract in major league baseball

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Stanton’s $325 Million Contract Tops in MLB History

history, surpassing the New York Yankees $275-million, ten-year deal (2008-2017) with Alex Rodriguez. While Rodriguez’s second big contract, he had previously signed what now ranks as baseball’s third highest contract with the Texas Rangers ($252-million, 2001-2010), has resulted in curtailed performance due to injury and suspension for steroid use, and left the Yankees holding the proverbial money bag. No doubt, a court battle or some type of negotiation will take place to settle the remainder of the contract.

Stanton, 24, is an outstanding young player who appeared to be on his way to garner the 2014 Most Valuable Player award in the National League until he was sidelined after being hit in the face by a pitch in August. Stanton was hitting .288 with 37 home runs and 105 runs batted in at the time of his injury, leading the league in home runs, slugging percentage, walks, total bases, and intentional walks. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has jettisoned star players after two earlier trips to the World Series and shown himself to be somewhat of a financial baseball maverick, building the team one moment, and then tearing it down the next. Stanton is an ideal player to build a team around, but a thirteen-year deal (Stanton will be 37 at its end) is questionable, and Stanton has not shown that he has no residual reaction problems from being beaned. Stanton suffered facial fractures and dental damage when hit by the pitch.

Star players are just that. They stand out with their performances on the field. Hopefully, Stanton will return to his 2014 form, not miss a beat, and supply the Marlins the leader they so desperately need for their young team. How to recoup the money expended on such a lucrative contract? 325-million, that is a lot of hot dogs!

Besides the Stanton deal, the free agent market has seen some interesting recent signings. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval has been instrumental in the San

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Sandoval And Ramirez Hope To Lead Bosox Back

Francisco Giants winning three of the past five World Series titles. Sandoval, 27, signed a $95-million, 5-year deal with Boston and will try to combine with shortstop Hanley Ramirez on the left side of the Red Sox infield to bring championship baseball back to New England. Ramirez left the Dodgers for a four-year $88-million contract. While Sandoval is a solid player, he has made a name for himself by playing clutch baseball in his last two World Series appearances and parlaying them into a nice payoff. Sandoval’s .344 postseason batting average is the highest all time of players with 150 or more at bats. He also has a .426 World Series batting average in 50 at bats.

As of now Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera has committed to an eight year deal (2016-2023) for $248 million, and the Angels Albert Pujols (2012-2021)and Seattle’s Robinson Cano (2014-2023) are both currently working under ten-year contracts for $240 million. Cincinnati’s Joey Votto is making a cool $225-million for ten years (2014-2023), while lefthander Clayton Kershaw won his third Cy Young Award in the first year of his seven-year (2014-2020) $215-million contract.

As successful as the above have been, there is always a risk that an injury (particularly arm woes for a pitcher) or a drop off in performance can occur and make the deal a financial flop. Prince Fielder just completed the third year of his nine-year (2012-2020) $214 million deal. After playing eight consecutive years and not playing less than 157 games, Fielder only played 42 games in his first season with the Texas Rangers where his home run production dropped from 25 homers to three. That is correct. The Rangers basically paid eight million dollars per Fielder home run last year. Not a very good return on investment. Question remains, can the rotund Fielder get healthy and back in shape to earn his money? His contract is the ninth most lucrative in ML history while recently retired Derek Jeter still holds down the tenth spot with his ten-year (2001-2010) $189-million contract.

This writer can remember when Willie Mays became the first major league player to top the $100,000 mark in 1963. Mays and Mickey Mantle each had $90,000 contracts in 1962, but Mays topped him the following year. Guess San Francisco winning the 1962 World Series played a part in Mays receiving the higher raise.

Fireballer Nolan Ryan took his fastball to Houston in 1980 and made the Astros relevant for the first time as they won their first division title. Ryan, who had already

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Nolan Ryan Was First Million Dollar Player

thrown four no hitters with the California Angels (he finished with an unbelievable seven) before arriving at the Astrodome, was the first major leaguer to be paid $1-million annually that year, taking in $1,125,000.

Talented Albert Belle (Joey to LSU fans where he played collegiately, 85-87) led the big leagues with his $11,949,494 contract in 1999 with the Baltimore Orioles. An unusual amount, but hardly surprising. Ask anyone with any knowledge of Belle’s erratic behavior and persona. The guy was a gifted, intelligent athlete who never seemed to tame his off field beliefs and enjoy his on field talent.

There will be more signings during the free agency period as talented players try to secure a nice financial deal with a club that can best use their skill set and perhaps put a championship ring on their finger. Besides players already under contract and

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Free Agent Signings Can Be Huge

those testing the free agency waters, major league baseball is finding and signing young talent from Cuba. Yasmany Thomas, 24, signed a six-year contract for $68.5 million with the Arizona Diamonbacks. Rusney Castillo is working on a 7-year contract with the Red Sox for $72.5 million while flashy Cubans, the Dodgers Yasiel Puig, Boston’s Yoenis Cespedes, and 2014 American League Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu, are poised to rake in big contract offers with their next signings. Puig and Abreu are well on their way to stardom and big payoffs.

Meanwhile, the major league minimum salary for 2015 has been raised to $507,500 from $500,000. Amazingly utility players who can stay on a roster the whole year will be making a half a million dollars for making pinch-hitting and spot appearances. A minor leaguer offered his first contract now makes $41,400, up from $40,750, while a second year offer to a minor leaguer guarantees $82,700, a $1,200 increase from the former second year mark of $81,500.

It is great to see these wonderful athletes showcase their exceptional talents but sometime soon owners need to come together and try to hold down these exorbitant contracts. Salary caps may not be needed, but better judgment definitely needs to be exercised.

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