Sunday, March 01, 2009

Other people's money

Seems like the Los Angeles Dodgers didn't watch President Obama's state of the union address earlier this week. . . .

Even though the United States is staring down the abyss at the worst set of economic conditions since the Great Depression, the Dodgers have decided that a two-year contract worth $45 million for the privilege of babysitting Manny Ramirez is about right. Scott Boras, the professional sports world's greediest agent, has decided that the Dodgers are "close" to what Manny deserves and needs, but not quite close enough. Boras pushed the Dodgers' office offer the table because . . . because . . . it just wasn't enough. The Dodgers wanted to defer some of Manny's money -- pay him, mind you -- so that they could make the contract work. Boras wanted the Dodgers to pay his man all $45 million by the end of the 2010 season so that he could claim that Manny makes what he makes per season, not in installments or in deferments. Last year, Boras hoodwinked the Dodgers into signing one of my favorite Atlanta Braves of the last ten years, Andruw Jones, who, from 1996-2006 reigned supreme as the best defensive center fielder in baseball, for $36.2 million over two years, all of which was to be paid in full. I loved Andruw during his Atlanta years, but I thought the Braves did the right thing in letting him go. His 2007 season was less than spectacular; in fact, it wasn't even good -- a .222 hitting center fielder isn't something good teams, which the Braves weren't by that point, can afford to carry at any price.

So what made the Dodgers spend $36.2 million for Andruw and offer Manny $45 million over two seasons? Had the Dodgers not shipped Andruw off to the Texas Rangers -- where he's struggling so far in spring training -- and managed to sign Manny, they would have $43 million invested in the left side of their outfield before deciding how much to spend to put six more position players on the field and a No. 1 starter. What's even crazier is the seriousness with which the sports media take all this posturing and negotiation, debating with each other whether Manny is worth his gazillions every two weeks or whether he should have to wait to cash in years down the line. You would think these guys invested with Bernie Madoff.

And then there's Adam Eaton, a once prized Phillies pitching prospect, who was cut before spring training after the club decided he wouldn't be a factor this season. The Phillies signed Eaton for $24.8 million over three years before the 2007 season. Eaton returned the favor by going 14-18 with a sparkling 6.10 ERA in 51 games with the Phillies in 2007 and 2008. He was so bad by the end of last season that he was left off the roster that won the World Series. No worries for Eaton, though. He'll collect what amounted to a little over $8 million per annum while he mulls over his future.

Meanwhile, back here in Washington, D.C., the Washington Redskins, who, despite an absolute man-child moron for an owner in Dan Snyder, just laid out $100 for a defensive lineman named Albert Haynesworth. Perhaps Snyder talked the Obama administration into including his perennially disappointing team in the TARP budget or subsidizing the Redskins, who, in the eyes of their fans, are "too big too fail," sort of like AIG, except their even more incompetent. The same week that the Redskins laid out $100 million for Haynesworth, they also signed somebody named DeAngelo Hall, who was cut after eight games last year, for $54 million over six years, making him a pauper compared to Haynesworth, and another guy named Derrick Dockery for $26 million and change over five years. There have been some other signings by the Redskins, apparently, but I couldn't tell you who or what they are. The only reason I know about any of this is because the story was right above that morning's recap of the Capitals game the night before.

Perhaps we are entering, if not another Great Depression, our first Great Recession since we started keeping track of the boom-and-bust business cycles that define the American political economy. But it seems that, in the wide world of sports, the insanity of spending and spending and spending goes on without a thought to what is happening out there in the world. I guess it's a good thing that there are enough people out there who can afford to spend whatever it is they spend on tickets, concessions, parking, jerseys and whatever else it is that colors our nation's obsession with sports. As always, the cost of all this nonsense gets passed along to the fan, who is simply a consumer by any other name. The very same person who will call into a radio show and demand that his team "get serious" about signing free agents or keeping the players that make a team competitive, who tosses around other people's millions for defensive linemen, pitchers and left-wings, probably hasn't spent ten seconds demanding that his Congressman start thinking about guaranteeing health care for everyone or demanding that the president "show some respect" for the country by actually acknowledging that our economy will never stabilize until greed is brought under control and those who profit the most also stand to lose the most rather than get a free pass to try again. Other people's money is fun to spend. If only we placed as much value on education, health care and financial stability as we do on letting Manny be Manny.

1 comment:

Nathan said...
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