News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 13, 2011

LIZ CIANCONE: Pujols’ gift list overflows — for now, at least

Liz Ciancone
The Tribune-Star

---- — It’s going to be a Merry Christmas for the Albert Pujols family this year!

After all the bickering and dickering, Big Al has a 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels for $254 million. Of course that breaks down to a measly $25.4 million a year, but it’s more than I will make in 10 lifetimes and it adds up to new bicycles for the Pujols kids this holiday.

Naturally the St. Louis fans are disappointed in Albert. The Cardinals pitched in with an offer “in excess of $200 million” over the next 10 years, apparently relying on Albert’s loyalty to the team which gave him his first job in the big time. But $54 million is $54 million and Albert is getting to the point in the aging process where every injury may put an end to his playing career. Sure, the St. Louis fans are disappointed, but since when are the pros run for the amusement of fans?

I’m not sure how I feel about it. The basic fact is that, in my opinion, professional sports figures as a group are generally overpaid in terms of what their careers are contributing to the welfare of society. It brings to mind the Roman emperor (Nero, I believe), who observed that if you give the public bread and circuses, it wouldn’t notice that you were pilfering from its pocket.

On the other hand, it’s hard to feel sorry for franchise owners who are banking untold millions, raising ticket prices, paying those huge salaries and pleading with taxpayers to build them new stadiums with no quid pro quo. If there is that kind of money floating around, what’s wrong with a Pujols or A-Rod or any other superstar from getting his while the bank vault is open? Even superstars get older and run out of steam and once the big money starts downhill, it’s back to an orange and a candy bar in the kids’ Christmas socks.

I can’t feel sorry for the millionaire players, but can drum up even fewer tears for the trillionaire owners.

Albert must still pass a physical before it’s a done deal. No word on fringe benefits. Suppose he’s hit by a wild pitch? What happens if he breaks a leg or an old injury flares up? Who pays for hospitalization and rehab? I hope Mr. and Mrs. Pujols are putting a few dollars back during the fat years.

Oh yeah. Who pays moving expenses?

Liz Ciancone is a retired Triubne-Star reporter. Send email to opinion@tribstar.com.