Special to the Tribune-Star
While waiting on the doctor the other day, I grabbed an old magazine to read. Have you ever gotten in to see your doctor at the scheduled appointment time? Surely I’m not the only one that feels as if I run late with the doctor. I am on time. I know the doctor is busy and sometimes has emergencies, but I have been to different doctors, at different locations, at different times, and I can’t remember one instance when I was ushered in at the time of my appointment. Excuse me, I’m straying off my subject.
It was a May issue of Sports Illustrated and it was a look at what New York baseball teams were paying the players who were not playing due to illness or injury. The total salary of the sidelined New York Mets’ players … $32 million. But wait, the insanity is even greater in the Bronx. The total salary of the New York Yankees’ players not playing because of injury or such … $99 million. Money must fall out of the sky in New York City. The total salary of sidelined players who play for the Mets and Yankees was $131 million. Twenty-three teams playing in the National or American League have payrolls totaling less than $131 million.
I love baseball. I love the stories and the heroes of the game. I even like the old poem, “Casey at the Bat.” But to pay $131 million to players who are not playing is pure insanity. I’m not going to go into a tirade about what this could do for people who need assistance, cancer research, helping returning veterans, etc. It’s just plain nuts. Johan Santana has an injured left shoulder and will probably be out for the season. He’s getting $25.5 million. Alex Rodriguez, a Madonna reject, may get to play after the All-Star break if he is not thrown out of baseball altogether because of the PED scandal that is breaking as I write. Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter was brought back as a designated hitter before the All-Star break and he only lasted until the 8th inning and was taken out of the ballgame. He’s only making $17.1 million.
I realize it is different today. Television contracts the big city teams get help them raise their salary expectations beyond the money paid to see the team play. Babe Ruth was at one time or another in his career the highest paid player in baseball. But, it is chicken feed compared to what the guys get today.
I always have liked the game and I was never very good at it, but I understood it and enjoyed watching good players play. But is a handful of people who play the game worth $131 million while they recuperate from their injuries? Before the turn of the century and after, using this payroll as a scale model, you would have had to give Wee Willie Keeler all of Long Island.
I’m sure it paints the wrong picture for young men at elementary, junior high and high school levels, the expectations that big money awaits them if they are good enough. The truth of the matter is only a handful of players in any sport make the really big bucks. For that matter, there are only about 4,000 professional athletes in all professional sports. Youngsters today would be better off becoming computer experts.
I’m sure the next time I go to the doctor’s office I will be waiting again. Maybe I’ll read something about American athletes I can applaud. However, I’m not going to bet on it.
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.