Why The Recession Benefits Major League Baseball

Thomas CoglianoCorrespondent IDecember 2, 2008

With the recession this country faces right now, which will very likely continue for at least the next two years, professional sports are going to be dealt a financial blow. 

Major League Baseball certainly will feel the effects of this financial crisis. Personally, the recession might be what this country needs to return to sound fiscal management [assuming of course that the hyper-stupid Congress quits bailing out failing businesses!!!].  But, I digress. The purpose of this article is to discuss why the recession might create a much needed positive to reform the game of baseball.  What is this positive?  It is...the end of big contracts!

Following the 1979 season, the Houston Astros signed free agent Nolan Ryan from the California Angels.  The Astros gave Ryan a four-year, $4.5 million contract. This made Nolan Ryan the first Major League baseball player to sign a contract worth at least $1 million a season.

Since the Nolan Ryan contract, salaries have exploded exponentially. The milestone moment came in 1994 with the last baseball strike. Since 1994, free agents have been signed for excessively high and most undeserving salaries. 

To illustrate this point further, I am going to list the top five worst free agent contracts signed since the 1994 baseball strike. Here goes:

5. Alex Rodriguez, Texas Rangers (10 years, $252 Million, 2001-2010)

While A-Rod did put up productive numbers for the Texas Rangers during the three seasons he played in Arlington, the Rangers finished in last place every season in the AL West.

With all the money the Rangers paid A-Rod, they could not invest in acquiring pitchers or younger talent.  It set the franchise backwards for several years.  To date, the Rangers still have not had a winning season even though it has been five years since they traded A-Rod to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano.

To illustrate how excessive this salary was, in 2001, A-Rod already was paid the first $1 million of his contract before his first Major League at-bat with the Rangers on Opening Day that season!!!

4. Sidney Ponson, Baltimore Orioles (Three years, $22.5 Million, 2004-2006)

Ponson had his career best year in 2003 when he won 14 games with the Orioles.  Following the 2003 season, Ponson became a free agent.  With another free agent's excessive contract expiring, the Orioles invested in buying new players.

Instead of focusing on acquiring superstar pitchers, the Orioles re-signed Ponson to an undeserving contract and focused the rest of their attention to getting big hitters like Miguel Tejada, Javy Lopez, and Rafael Palmeiro.

Ponson started the 2004 season going 3-12 for the first half of the season.  He was released from the team in 2005 for being busted for DWI.  After being released from the team, he was busted in Aruba punching out a judge and remained in an Aruban jail for a couple months. 

3. Roger Clemens, New York Yankees (One year, prorated $28 Million, 2007)

Really?  Do I have to spell out why anyone in baseball is undeserving of a SINGLE SEASON contract worth more than $10 Million, let alone $28 Million? Clemens only went 6-6 for the 2007 season with a 4.15 ERA.  In other words, he was paid more than $4.5 million per win!!!

2. Albert Belle, Baltimore Orioles (Five years, $65 Million, 1999-2003)

Belle started off okay.  He put up good offensive numbers for the 1999 and 2000 seasons, cracking 37 and 23 home runs, respectively.

Then he sustained a hip injury after the 2000 season, and NEVER PLAYED ANOTHER GAME AGAIN! The Orioles were obligated to continue to pay Albert Belle for three more years! So from 2001-2003, the Orioles were paying a player on their roster over $10 million a season for doing nothing.  It crippled the Orioles from making any moves until after the 2003 season...which was discussed earlier what the Orioles ended up doing [how history repeats itself].

1. Carl Pavano, New York Yankees (Four years, $39.95 Million, 2005-2008)

Every New York Yankees fan agrees: The Pavano signing has to be the worst in history.  While the salary may not be as excessive as the Albert Belle and the Roger Clemens contracts, at least those two were superstars of the game.  But....Carl Pavano?

Carl Pavano?

Carl Pavano?

He had a mediocre career with the Montreal Expos and the Florida Marlins.  After having one single above average season in 2004 with the Marlins, Pavano was a free agent and was heavily courted by many franchises. George Steinbrenner gave him an offer he could not refuse: a contract worth about $10 Million a season to a pitcher who had only 50 career wins as a pitcher over a seven-year professional career! In the four seasons since the contract was signed, the always injury-prone Pavano has only made 26 starts total going 9-8!!!  Pathetic!!!  Very, very pathetic!!!