Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Big Money Contracts, and the Players Who Don't Earn Them

Before I get into things, I want people to understand that I love sports. It is a passion, a past-time, a hobby, a second life; yet there is one thing about professionals sports that really gets on my nerves and that’s ridiculously high contracts to players who have “earned” them, but in reality they haven’t earned squat. I know it’s been obvious for a while that player’s contracts are getting so big, that they don’t even know what to do with most of the money, but recently it’s been a glaring issue in the NHL and the MLB.

One example is the Toronto Maple Leafs David Clarkson, who signed a 7-year $36.75 million contract with a no movement clause that’s an average of about $5.25 million per year. Now did he earn this money? Not at all. In the seven seasons with the New Jersey Devils before he signed this deal he scored more than 30 goals only once in the 2011-12 season and his career best in points is 46. Why would you give a guy who scored only 30 goals once in his life and never got more than 50 points in his career $5.25 million per year? That’s insane, it’s disgusting, it’s pathetic and the worst part is that the money is guaranteed and that is one of the biggest issues in major league sports at the moment.

Want another example, let’s look at the Montreal Canadiens who signed Daniel Briere to a two-year $8 million dollar deal after he was bought out from the Philadelphia Flyers, who are now paying him over 3 million dollars spread over the next four years just so he doesn’t play for them. He has been injured in the past couple of seasons and he is up there age wise (old for sports, not real life) but somehow he gets a high cap hit deal, because he had good numbers in the past and many Habs fans can tell you he has not earned his money with this team yet.

Don’t worry I’m not just attacking the NHL for the bad contracts given out; let’s look at baseball shall we. First I will start off with a new contract that was given out by the LA Dodgers to one of the best pitchers out there in Clayton Kershaw. Yes I just said he is one of the best, but you cannot tell me that a pitcher who will pitch 30-35 games out of 162 game season barring injury deserves a seven year $215 million contract. That’s an average of $30.7 million per year. Yes he has won in the past, but what does the future hold for him? He could get hurt, he could have a bad season, he could god forbid require Tommy John Surgery, losing a whole season and he will still make that money.

How about Vernon Wells, the former Blue Jays outfielder who signed a seven year $126 million contract? After he signed that deal he slowed down and eventually got traded away. His numbers took a hit and now the Yankees are trying to get rid of him. Has he earned that money? Numbers wise he hasn’t, his best years were behind him in Toronto before he signed this ludicrous deal!

Oh let’s not forget the Yankees signing pitcher Mashahiro Tanaka who has never pitched in the MLB and was given a seven year $155 million contract. That’s the best example of a guy doing nothing, before actually doing anything. The only smart thing the Tanaka and Kershaw deals have is an out clause at different points in their contracts. It’s a smart move by the ball clubs, but in the end the players still haven’t earned anything!

In my mind these contracts are disgusting and majority of the people will agree. The worst part is when it’s a “contract” year the athletes in different sports like Hockey, Baseball, Football etc. play their hearts out and try to stack their stats as much as they can so they can get a huge payout. When players are in their contract years they give the fans a great show and get everyone excited for the next season, but when they get over paid they usually stop performing to the highest level they could. Call it the Alex Kovalev effect, (sorry Kovy.) Kovalev was the kind of player who had tremendous skill and could change the game in a second, but he had a tendency of being selective with his skill.

It seems now that the athletes are doing their own kind of Kovy effect in all leagues, play great for one season, get a great pay out, slow down and play terribly. I understand that there are a lot of factors in poor play and not everyone does it, but you can’t deny the fact that almost every player and athlete, plays like their pants are on fire so they can get that big deal. This is one of the biggest flaws in major league sports and to quote the late Owen Hart, “enough is enough and it’s time for a change.”

One league has seemed to go into the direction of making the players earn their money and that’s the NFL. The NFL is the juggernaut of North American Sports; they make billions in revenue and are number one in earnings. They know how to promote, they know how to spend their money accordingly and they have possibly figured out the professional athlete’s contract. You see in the NFL players now have contracts that have guaranteed dollars and added money that can be earned by the player, barring injury, slumps and bad luck. The only thing that is a guarantee is the signing bonus. Take this example from the Bleacher Report:

“Take, for example, the contract signed by Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson. Johnson inked a controversial four-year extension, averaging $13.4 million to go with a $10 million signing bonus. Pro Football Talk breaks down the incentives required for Johnson to receive full payment for each year. Things such as rushing yardage and workout attendance dictate whether he gets full compensation. Simply put, if Johnson were to suffer a career-ending injury or get cut, he would only receive his $10 million bonus along with his 2012 salary of $8 million. That’s $18 million of a projected six-year, $56 million deal. Or 18 percent.”

Yes the guaranteed money can be flawed in its own way, but it forces the NFL players to earn their money every season they play. I think it’s time that the National Hockey league and Major League Baseball pick up this concept too. There far too many times that a player like Scott Gomez, Alexandre Daigle, Rick DiPietro, Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano to name a few get a humongous deal, but cannot live up to the dollars they are being given and teams pay for it and so do the fans when the ticket prices are raised to pay off the contracts.

How many of us have to earn our money before we get it? How many of us have to work a certain amount of hours before we see a dime? The answer is most of us regular people and fans, so why can’t pro athletes do the same we do earn the money while playing? Imagine if every year was like a contract year, the stats and the play in the NHL would be really high. Why can’t these leagues figure out a system where they make a base salary and then earn the rest of their money through stats and work ethic? Look at the Boston Bruins, they gave Jarome Iginla a one year $1.8 million deal but the possible bonuses he can make are up to an extra $4.2 million. Now why can’t the league adopt something like that across the board?

Right now the only pro athletes that really earn their money are CFL players and you can argue that they don’t make enough. If the big leagues tried this system maybe regular season games could be cheaper and families in Canada could go to a regular season hockey game, maybe we won’t look at the contracts with pure disgust on our face, because players won’t make hundreds of millions of dollars for nothing, because right now every time I see a “record breaking deal” I get a little sick to my stomach. Maybe one day the leagues will figure it out and stop giving a lot of money to people who didn’t earn.

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