The Most Grossly Overpaid Athletes of 2011
Athletes earn big money because they generate big money. In many cases, the ginormous salaries are justified—pro athletes are the best in the world at what they do, and every week millions of people watch them and buy their jerseys and trading cards, their personal brands and the products they endorse.
But all too often, things go awry. Athletes get injured and can't deliver their talent. They underperform. Or they just sucked in the first place and their potential was overestimated.
Click on to see who got shackled with the golden handcuffs in 2011.
Important Note: This is about how much athletes got paid THIS YEAR and THIS YEAR ALONE. This is not about how much they get paid over the life of a contract.
Honorable Mention: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
2011 Salary: $23 Million
OK, Manning has proved that he is worth every penny as a QB since the team can't win a game without him. But $23 million for sitting on a bench for a few hours each Sunday? Couldn't the guy at least carry a pom-pom?
15. Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels
Brad White/Getty Images
14. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
2011 Salary: $17.25 million
Not worth it because: Sanchez is getting paid like the big boys, but his stats aren't big-boy stats.
Check out this well-argued piece from Forbes writer Tom Van Riper: "Sanchez tops list of NFL's most overpaid." Sanchez's stats have only gotten worse since that article was written back at the start of the season.
13. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
Leon Halip/Getty Images
12. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
2011 Salary: $13 million (base) + $1.4 million (signing bonus) = $14.4 million
Not worth it because: (1) He is literally the very definition of overpaid in at least one "dictionary." (2) He ranks 20th in passing yards. (3) He's thrown just as many interceptions as he has touchdowns so far this season. (4) He's just too damn injury prone.
11. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
2011 Salary: $23 million
Not worth it because: The guy can't stay healthy; he played just 82 games this year. That means he was paid over a quarter million dollars PER GAME.
10. Ville Leino, Buffalo Sabres
Dave Sandford/Getty Images
2011 Salary: $4.5 million
Not worth it because: In his first 20 games as the new center for the Sabres, Ville Leino got just two goals and three assists. He's already whining about wanting to return to his old position of left wing. About the only good thing you can say about him is that he isn't as much of a waste as Tim Connolly was. Which brings us to... (see next slide).
9. Tim Connolly, Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Laham/Getty Images
2011 Salary: $4.75 million
Not worth it because: Another guy who is always hurt. He only played nine games out of the first 20. Has just two goals and five assists.
8. Rashard Lewis, Washington Wizards
2010-2011 Salary: $18.9 million
Not worth it because: Averaged just 11.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 57 games last season.
During the lockout, Lewis was often singled out as a prime example of an overpaid player.
7. Fernando Alonso, Formula One
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
2011 Salary: $42 million
Not worth it because: (1) Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion, only makes a little more than a quarter of what Alonso makes. (2) He hasn't been ranked No. 1 since 2006.
6. Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
2011 Salary: Wait for it, wait for it...$18.4 million
Rant: OK, so the guy is in his second season, and there wasn't much choice to paying Bradford what he got paid. Still, you know the system is effed up when a guy who does stuff like this, and who has only put up two wins, makes more than Tom Brady.
5. Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
2010-2011 Salary: $18.5 million
Not worth it because: In the simple yet profound words of Grant Bisbee, editor at Baseball Nation: "Uninspiring mediocrity is something fans will tolerate from an overpaid player. Abject suck is not."
Perhaps if Captain Quirk spends less time crooning and more time improving his game, he won't be on this list next year.
4. Tiger Woods, PGA
Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
2011 earnings: $62 million
Sure, most of that money is coming from endorsements and not a salary, but when a company pays you big bucks to make its product look like a winner, don't you have to be a winner?
3. Danica Patrick, NASCAR
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
2. Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
1. Samuel Eto'o, Anzhi Makhachkala
2011 Salary: Approximately $546,000
Not so much, you say. Not that impressive. Oh, well, allow me to finish the sentence:
Approximately $546,000 PER WEEK.
Overpaid because: He's playing for a team that no one outside of the North Caucasus can pronounce, in a war-torn republic that no one has heard of. Since when have obscurity and wealth partnered up?