What a splendid holiday the family of Albert Pujols will have, celebrating the former St. Louis slugger's ten-year, $254 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels.
Actual contract specifics have not yet been spilled to the general public, but it is safe to assume that Pujols, who will be 32 in January, will receive his peak earnings over the next four-to-five years, with the millions tailing off towards the end of the deal in 2021.
Now, there is little, if any question as to whether Pujols should be the highest paid player in baseball, let alone sports. Right now he does trail Alex Rodriguez by roughly $31 million total dollars, although I suspect as the next couple of years pass, Albert will pass A-Rod with respect to his single season salary.
For in 2010, A-Rod's yearly stipend peaked at $33 million, and by 2017, when the third baseman is 41 years old and close to the end of his career (and contract), he will only generate $20 million for that final season. Unless, of course A-Rod has some Satchel Paige-like kryptonite within him that allow for home runs and and RBI beyond the pale of human ability.
And again, not that either A-Rod or Albert have not earned their paydays.
Furthermore, by the time the contract comes to fruition, Albert might be overpaid, but his salary will likely be ho-hum in the scheme of baseball things as the price of younger players increases with time, inflation, and front office desparation.
Probably no better example of this is with Pujols' new teammate, Angels flychaser Vernon Wells, who was paid $26.187 million for his .218-25-66 2011. Or Jason Bay, who got $18.125 million this past season for .245-12-57 totals. And though Bay's salary was a chunky $8 million plus change less than Wells, as time passes average player salaries will simply make these prices run of the mill. (They also sort of suggest that in a relative sense that Bay, with his terrible year, was a bargain compared to Wells.)
Now again, I believe players--in fact all of us--should indeed be paid for our success and contributions. But, I also have to wonder where this will all end, for much like the crazy housing bubble, somehow teams will not be able to pay an average salary exceeding $10 million. For today, the Yankees lead the Majors with an average per capita pay stub reading $6.736 million.
At some point, this craziness will have to peak or stop or teams will simply price themselves out of the reach of the bulk of fans who can attend games where now an average ticket price to Yankee Stadium is $51.83, second only to the Bombers' arch rival Red Sox, whose fans parceled out an average of $53.38 for the privilege of viewing their team.
Of course, I do have to wonder those regular social questions like who would be willing to regularly shell out $50 for tickets, another hundred-plus for dogs and beer, and maybe even $30-$50 more for gas and parking to attend a game. Or at least how often most fans can afford to take their families to do this.
Not to mention what does one do with $30 million a year? I don't think I would know where to start, and believe me, if I could have anything, I would own a half dozen more guitars, but nothing that would make me want to dump my Rickenbacker as my #1 electric, my Gibson L-110 as my #1 acoustic, or my Hofner as my #1 bass (and amazingly, my #2 bass is a 25-year old G&L 2000 that cost $100 on Ebay). So, having the extra axes would be fun as a collector, but as a player, well, it would make very little difference.
I would love a Porsche Boxster. I might only buy True Religion Jeans instead of the Lucky Brand that I really like pretty well. But, these desires could barely cut into a salary of $1 million, let alone one 30 times that much.
I guess at some point I would like to think we can all figure out a way through this idea that money is what makes us: that money is not just power, but that which defines our contributions to society, let alone our happiness.
Still, congratulations Albert. You do deserve what you got. But, again, during this holiday season, you have to be shaking your head wondering what kind of a crazy world would pay you $156,790.12 to get your body out on the diamond for nine innings worth of work.