The High Price of Championships:

By Jan Hubbard

One of the more impressive athletic feats over the last few weeks was turned in by Alex Rodriguez, who demonstrated that no matter what the situation is, he is totally focused on getting laid.


In Game 1 of the American League Championship series last week, Rodriguez was replaced in the eighth inning because of acute incompetence. In similar situations in the past, players have kicked walls, thrown bats, smashed water fountains and generally made a spectacle of their displeasure.


Not A-Rod. After going 0-for-3 at the plate and leaving six runners stranded in a game the Yankees would not only lose 6-4 but also lose Derek Jeter to injury, Rodriguez tried to hit a home run with two women near the dugout, sending them a baseball and asking for their phone number. Presumably Rodriguez was shooting for something more uplifting than a platonic relationship.


Here’s a guy on the fifth year of a $300 million contract not that interested in what’s happening on the field. But perhaps we should be more understanding.


A man does have his needs.


After going 2-for-16 against Baltimore and 1-of-9 against Detroit, speculation is that Rodriguez is headed out of town. A number of publications have quoted sources saying Miami has interest, despite Rodriguez hitting only .272 during the season. At age 37, he is obviously on the downside of his career.


But someone will take Rodriguez and continue the shaky practice of employing severely overpaid players. The results on such endeavors are mixed.


The Yankees have a roster full of expensive players and the most expensive payroll in baseball at $197 million. In one way, they got their money’s worth. Their 95 victories were the most in the American League this season.


But in the ALCS, they were swept by the Tigers, who benefitted in part from signing free agent Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract last off-season. If the Tigers win the World Series, it will be money well spent. But they have to win. Simply getting there is not a good payback – even though compared to the Angels, it is great.


The Rangers’ main rivals in the West spent savagely, giving Albert Pujols a 10-year, $254 million deal and C.J. Wilson $77.5 million. The result? Third place in the AL West with no playoffs.


Meanwhile, the Cardinals didn’t even miss Pujols, although it should be noted they are not exactly a team that doesn’t spend. St. Louis ranks ninth in the majors in total payroll at $110 million so the Cards are not opposed to paying huge money to their players. They simply took a stand that they weren’t going to make that sort of commitment to a 32-year-old player and although there is still ample time for the Angels’ investment to work out, it looks overdone about now.


That is more often the case than not. Consider the Phillies and Red Sox. They had the Nos. 2 and 3 payrolls this season at $174 million and $173 million. Philadelphia finished with a .500 record and the Red Sox finished 24 games under .500. They were the most reckless spenders since Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne stumbled onto large cash in Dumb & Dumber.


From a broad perspective, we do know that spending has paid off this year. The four teams in the two league championship series were all among the top nine in payrolls.


Interestingly, the other six teams that made the playoffs were all in the bottom half of the league in payrolls – Atlanta (16), Cincinnati (17), Baltimore (19), Washington (20), Tampa Bay (25) and Oakland (29).


So this year at least, it paid to be a big spender.


But you look at some of those deals – Pujols, Jose Reyes ($100 million in Miami) and A-Rod – and the production hardly seem worth the money. With all due respect to A-Rod’s considerable seductive skills, if you’re going to pay guys outrageous money, you’d rather have them scoring on the field instead of off it.