Must be nice to just sit around on a bench all year and do nothing while getting paid millions of dollars, right?
Well, maybe not for professional athletes.
Granted, those players who can pull off the feat of making bank for doing nothing have it pretty good. Whether they're injured or just benched for being terrible, they barely work, and yet their incomes still exceed that of most Americans by several million. It's not fair, but you'd probably trade places with them…or would you?
The thing is, the fans and the media are all over these guys. Once, they may have been America's sweethearts, but now, they're basically vilified for being lazy (which they're probably not—just useless) and cheaters (which they're not—it's not their fault their GMs were dumb enough to propose the contract).
Here are those select few in sports who have managed to make obscene amounts of money for doing nothing.
By all indications, the Los Angeles Angels should be the best team in baseball. It's true that sometimes it takes time for the chemistry to develop and the bats to get hot, but the more days that pass, the more we begin to think the Angels may be afflicted by 2012-13 Lakers Syndrome.
Or as it's perhaps more commonly known, 2012 Boston Red Sox Syndrome.
As it stands, the Angels are in fourth place in the AL West. Their record is the fourth-worst in all of baseball. Yet given the fact that they have arguably two of the best hitters in the game on their roster, this shouldn't be happening.
But as all of us know too well, sometimes it simply does.
Albert Pujols signed for 10 years and $240 million in 2012; last season, he hit .285, which isn't bad but is well below his career average of .323. This year, he isn't faring much better, hitting .237 and slugging .407 through 30 games. Then there's the notoriously streaky Josh Hamilton, who signed for five years and $125 million this offseason but is hitting an abysmal .208 with two measly home runs.
Hopefully things turn around soon, or else the Angels will have a hard time justifying that $137 million payroll.
It wasn't his fault. He had neck surgery, and everyone knew it would keep him out of the NFL for the entire 2011 season.
But when you think about the fact that Peyton Manning made $23 million in 2011 to do nothing except sit on the bench while the Colts went an NFL-worst 2-14, it's a little bit hard to stomach.
The Colts' hands were tied. Up until the 2011 neck injury, Manning had been one of the best quarterbacks, if not the best, in the NFL. He was worth every penny the Colts had paid him up to that point, and he deserved to be paid like it. There wasn't really anything Indy could do during that one season except wait for it to be over and then cut him loose.
In Manning's defense, at least he offered the illusion of working during that year. He could always be spotted on the sidelines, sometimes wearing a headset, chirping in the ears of Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky.
In the NBA, it's always a risk to sign an aging veteran and expect him to be significant component of your team. It can go one of two ways: He can exceed expectations, a la Jason Kidd in 2012-13, or he can kind of flop, like Rasheed Wallace in 2009-10.
The Boston Celtics signed Wallace in the hopes that he would provide some veteran experience and at least a hint of defensive fortitude. They also hoped that he would gel with fellow veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to help return the Green to the title contender they had been just a couple of years prior.
'Sheed got along with everyone—that was no problem. The problem was that, on the court, he was useless. He seemed to have no idea which plays were being called at any given time, and worse, he didn't seem to care. His offensive rebound rate that season was worse than any other center in the league. He attempted to turn it on for the playoffs, but the Celtics needed him long before then.
Celtics homer Bill Simmons said it best when he wrote:
"Lazy" isn't a strong enough word. He always seems to be standing in the wrong spot. He constantly forgets to box out. His hops are long gone, so balls routinely bounce over his head to opposing players. When matched against a hustler like Anderson Varejao, it's like watching a golden retriever fight off a Rottweiler.
The New York Jets tried to make it exceedingly clear in the 2012 offseason that Mark Sanchez was their guy. It didn't matter that they had acquired Tim Tebow. It wouldn't even matter if, somehow, the second coming of Joe Montana showed up in East Rutherford.
Mark Sanchez had the team's utmost support, and to prove it, the Jets gave him a five-year, $58 million deal.
The only problem was the team's seemingly misguided confidence. Perhaps the Jets thought it was a fluke when their trusty quarterback ended the 2011 season with three consecutive losses, which backed the team right out of the playoffs.
Unfortunately, though, the 2012 season confirmed all of their worst fears about Sanchez. He posted the worst season of his career, going 6-9 as the starter before being replaced by the third-stringer. Bet that was worth $7.8 million.
Tennis players seem to draw a huge following, fast—especially female tennis players. If you're cute, you make it moderately far in one of the majors and you date an equally exotic celebrity, people will hail you as the next Serena Williams.
According to CNN circa 2002, Anna Kournikova somehow raked in $10 million annually despite the fact that she had never won a professional singles tournament. It's not difficult to see why she could sell; people who had never watched tennis in their lives knew who she was because she was in Enrique Iglesias videos and tabloid magazines.
But seriously? Think of all of the tennis players who have fared so much better than she has on the court—and who have actually won a title—but who have faded into anonymity. Not Kournikova. Her overrated and overpaid legend will live on forever.
Stephen Jackson really didn't have to do anything this year. He doesn't even have to show up for the playoffs, and he still gets his $10 million.
Jackson has always been a wild card. Sometimes he pans out, and sometimes he totally backfires—to the extent that he gets released for pretty much decimating team chemistry.
The San Antonio Spurs, who earned the second seed in the West this postseason, waived Jackson six days before the conclusion of the regular season because, according to USA Today, he may not have "bought into the system and culture" in San Antonio.
Jackson, therefore, ended the 2012-13 campaign having contributed 6.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game in 55 games. The Spurs may have won 58 games this season, but they did it in spite of Jackson—and he still made $10 million. Must be nice.
When the Boston Red Sox brought in John Lackey in the 2010 offseason, they expected him to be the X-factor that would take the team to the next level and return it to title contention. As we know now, that didn't happen—but why would the Red Sox think that he, of all people, would be the missing piece?
Lackey was the "prize" of the free-agent market in 2011, but that's not saying much—and it certainly doesn't mean he was worth the bloated five-year, $82.5 million deal he signed. That much became readily apparent when he revealed he needed Tommy John surgery after going an unimpressive 12-12 in 2011.
Lackey didn't pitch a single inning in 2012, but he made $15.25 million. He got paid ace-ish money when Boston signed him in 2010, yet he has somehow gotten away with posting a .519 winning percentage since he arrived.
Lackey was also a substantial component of Boston's historic collapse in September 2011, in which he went 2-3 and posted a whopping 9.13 ERA. Those are some ace numbers right there.
When Ben Gordon was with the Chicago Bulls, he posted respectable numbers. In those five years, he averaged 18.5 points and 3.0 assists per game, and the Bulls made the playoffs four times.
It wasn't until he signed a five-year, $50 million contract with Detroit in 2009 that he started going downhill.
Primarily as a reserve, Gordon, who had been one of the top free agents on the market when he signed with the Pistons, saw his per-game numbers steadily decline from 2009 to 2012. In 2010-11, he averaged a career-worst 11.2 points per game, and the Pistons haven't made the playoffs since they signed him.
Finally, in June 2012, they admitted the signing was a colossal error in judgment by banishing him to the Bobcats, where all potential goes to die.
Carl Crawford loves to complain about the allegedly shoddy treatment he received from the big bad media while he was a member of the Boston Red Sox, issuing his latest tirade just two weeks ago.
Poor Carl Crawford. His life must have been so hard. He was on the books to make $142 million over seven years for hitting a baseball for a living, and when everyone realized he could no longer hit it, they got mad. Imagine that.
The truth is, Crawford couldn't deal with the pressure that accompanied the transition from a small-market club where no one expected anything of him to one of the largest-market clubs in the game. Where most players would have seen that as an opportunity to show even more eyeballs what they could do, Crawford chose to blame anyone but himself for the fact that he hit a meager .260 with 75 RBI and just 23 stolen bases in 161 games.
And all he got was $33.5 million and a bunch of meanies yelling at him. Poor guy.
Americans are somewhat desperate to cling to a countryman who shows any potential whatsoever with a ball and a racket. It's understandable; they want someone who can compete with the Federers, Nadals and Djokovics of the world.
But it's very possible that Andy Roddick just wasn't that guy—no matter how badly we wanted him to be.
There's no shame in the fact that Roddick's off-court earnings far exceeded what he made on the court. Plenty of athletes make their livings primarily through endorsements. But when the discrepancy is as glaring as it is in the case of Roddick, it's hard to avoid asking questions.
According to Forbes, Roddick ranked as the 10th-highest-paid tennis player in 2012 despite the fact that he won his one and only major in 2003. The furthest he made it in a major in 2012 was the fourth round. Last year, he made less than a million dollars on the court, but off the court, he made over eight times that primarily through deals with Lacoste and Babolat.
You can't fault him for making money for looking good in a Lacoste shirt.
When he's actually on the field, Darrelle Revis is a game-changer. In 2008 and 2009, he registered 11 interceptions, two touchdowns and 92 tackles, establishing himself as the game's most feared and revered corner.
But last year, he wasn't on the field. And last year in particular, the Jets really, really needed someone on the defensive side of the ball to help them compete in the AFC East.
As soon as Revis went down with a season-ending ACL injury in Week 3, it was pretty much a given that New York would struggle. Injuries had taken their toll on the team already, and Revis was one of the few guys the team couldn't afford to lose.
For the rest of the season, Revis watched from the bench (or the comfort of his own home) as the Jets had one of their worst seasons in recent memory, going 6-10 and missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
The worst part of it was, while he watched from afar, Revis got $4.5 million to do nothing.
It's not Hedo Turkoglu's fault the Orlando Magic were terrible this year. That can be attributed to a variety of factors, but mostly Dwight Howard's departure. He left behind a shell of a team without all of the pieces necessary to build a contender.
Turkoglu was one of those ineffective pieces. All $11.8 million of him.
That was the amount of money he made to play in a measly 11 games before he went down with a season-ending injury. Once upon a time, he would have been worth money like that—perhaps around 2007, when he averaged almost 20 points, five assists and six rebounds per game—but since then, his stats have conspicuously dwindled.
According to Forbes, Turkoglu and his $11.8 million produced minus-0.6 wins for the Magic this year. That helps to explain why they went a league-worst 20-62.
Perhaps ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini said it best when, after the New York Jets cut Tim Tebow earlier this week, he wrote, "[Tebow was] fired Monday by the Jets only one year after they traded to get him—the worst personnel move in the history of the franchise."
Can't really argue with that. This is, after all, the team that "convinced" Tebow that he should come to New York, the team that traded a fourth- and sixth-round draft pick to bring him in, the team that committed to pay $2.53 million to get him.
And what did Tebow accomplish in 2012? Nothing. Absolutely nothing, unless you count the way his mere presence had a catastrophic effect on team chemistry.
Tebow threw eight passes in 2012. The Jets passed over him in favor of Greg McElroy when they decided Mark Sanchez was no longer a viable option. He spent most of the season on the bench, creating an unnecessary sideshow on a team that, more than anything, needed to stay out of the spotlight and simply win games.
Let's go to Cimini again: "It was an utter embarrassment, even by the Jets' standards."
It's only fair to start by saying that it's not Daisuke Matsuzaka's fault he was perhaps the most grossly overpaid baseball player to ever walk the planet. He was like a mythical pitching creature that GMs—especially Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman—couldn't help but bid on like they were at a live auction, desperate to outdo each other.
Well, the joke's on Theo. The acquisition of Dice-K remains one of the most boneheaded moves he has ever made.
Sadly, the Red Sox won the bidding rights to Matsuzaka in 2006 over the Texas Rangers, New York Mets and Yankees by posting $51,111,111.11. From there, they signed him to a six-year, $52 million contract.
For the first two of those years, Dice-K was useful; for the next four, he was embarrassingly terrible. In the midst of combating a slew of injuries, from 2009 to 2012, Dice-K went just 17-22 with a 5.53 ERA while making $36 million.
The most laughable season of all came in 2012, when he went 1-7 with a career-high 8.28 ERA. And he received $10 million for it.
Joe Johnson is a lucky man. He's lucky that the Brooklyn Nets righted their once-sinking ship in 2012-13 and managed to seal up the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. He's lucky his team didn't implode like the L.A. Lakers, because if it had, we'd all be talking a lot more about the fact that he got paid $19.75 million this year to be underwhelming.
Like so many other trades and acquisitions that occurred during the summer of 2012, Johnson to the Nets looked like a great move at the time.
Has it been catastrophic? No, but it's worth noting that he registered 16.3 points per game this season, his lowest average since 2002-03, and didn't at all live up to the player who averaged 22.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game from 2006 to 2010 with the Hawks.
Brooklyn managed to disguise Johnson's bloated contract—and the fact that he only produced 1.5 wins for the team, according to Forbes—by putting together a good season. But if the Nets had another crack at these trade negotiations, they likely would've avoided them.
Let's study these numbers carefully. When you see that a quarterback has earned $40 million during his career—and you know that quarterback is only 27—you'd probably assume that he's had a nice little career thus far.
Most likely, you wouldn't expect that the guy making $40 million has actually started a total of 25 games while posting a 7-18 record and throwing a grand total of 18 touchdowns to 23 interceptions.
It's harder to be mean to JaMarcus Russell than it is to be mean to some of the other college-stars-turned-NFL-disasters because he is legitimately trying. He's still attempting an NFL comeback and is working his butt off (literally) to get back into shape. But make no mistake: The Raiders look like morons for paying a guy that much money to do so little. He hasn't even been on the field since 2009.
This move ranks among one of the worst all-time excisions by an NFL general manager, and the mere mention of Russell's name still sends Raiders fans into fits of hysteria. Imagine how the guys signing his paychecks felt.
It's hard to accomplish the feat of going from one of the most universally beloved athletes in Boston to one of the most universally detested in about seven months, but Tim Thomas accomplished it. Here's how.
First, he revealed himself as a member of the Tea Party and refused to go to the White House with the rest of his team to meet President Barack Obama.
Then, he decided to take a year off from hockey in 2012-13 but wouldn't retire, so the Bruins were forced to pay his salary and/or trade him.
Thomas was once spectacular, and he could never have gotten enough love from Bruins fans because he almost single-handedly delivered the Stanley Cup to Causeway Street in 2010. His performance during that playoff run was legendary, but come on, don't put your team in a bind just because you can't decide whether it's the right time to retire. Don't take $5 million to sit on your butt for a season while you mull over your future.
Eventually, the B's had to trade Thomas and his cap hit to the Islanders midway through the 2012-13 season.
When you sign any player—no matter who he is or how great he once was—to a ginormous, record-breaking 10-year deal when he is already 32 years old, you're probably going to get burned.
The Yankees are probably the only team that could have afforded to make a mistake like this, and in their defense, it wasn't a mistake in the beginning. Despite all of his social shortcomings, steroid use and bungled PR moves, Alex Rodriguez did help them win a World Series in 2009.
But when you sign a player for $275 million, you probably hope for a little more than one championship ring.
For the first two years of his deal, A-Rod justified his salary as much as anyone can justify a $59 million salary. It wasn't until 2010 that the disaster started setting in. From 2010 to 2012, A-Rod hit well below his career average, and in the last two years, his home run totals have decreased by about half. He has undergone several surgeries, most recently to his left hip, which will keep him out until at least the All-Star break.
So the Yankees can just sit tight while they pay a guy $28 million for (maybe) half a season (if they're lucky enough to get him back by then).
Now, we come to the NBA's version of JaMarcus Russell—except instead of being terrible at his sport, he has just experienced more bad luck than anyone on the planet. Either that, or he is just the most injury-prone human alive.
Many expected Greg Oden to be the next LeBron James (not in terms of skill, but in terms of effect) when he became draft-eligible in 2007. Unfortunately, nobody—especially not the Portland Trail Blazers, who selected him first overall—expected him to be one of the biggest busts in NBA history.
It started with a right knee injury that required surgery prior to the start of his rookie season. Oden missed the entirety of the 2007-08 season, and then he hurt his foot in his 2008-09 debut. Two weeks later, he returned, but in February 2009, he had to miss another three weeks because of another knee injury.
In December of that year, he hurt his left knee and ended up needing surgery on it, which ruled him out for the rest of that season. Finally, in November 2010, he required another surgery on his left knee, which brought an abrupt end to that season.
Two more knee surgeries later (two more!), he was waived by the Trail Blazers.
So to recap: From 2008 to 2012, Oden played in 82 games. And he got paid $23 million.
Poor, poor Portland.
When last summer's Dwight Howard trade saga finally came to an end, it was Andrew Bynum who wound up being the odd man out. When Superman arrived in L.A., Bynum went off to Philadelphia, and he pretended to be OK with it while Sixers fans reveled in the good fortune of receiving the second-best center in the NBA.
Nobody is reveling any longer—except possibly the Magic, who avoided acquiring him.
Just prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, Bynum experienced a slew of knee problems, starting with a bone bruise that kept him out of the start of the year. He exacerbated the problem when he suffered a bowling injury. Yup.
Months later, after more pain and more swelling, Bynum decided to undergo season-ending knee surgery on both knees, and that was a wrap on his first year as a Sixer.
And for his "season-long sick day," as Yahoo! Sports' Kelly Dwyer called it, Bynum will receive all $16.9 million he is owed.