Serious Question: Is A-Rod’s Salary Making Him Go Blind?

by evanmcmurry

Little is as satisfying right now as watching Alex Rodriguez go 0-for-everything while he swings his bat like a four year old trying to chop down a Redwood. There’s something existential to a guy like Josh Hamilton flailing: Hamilton’s addictions, his caffeine-induced-vision-problems, his poorly-timed chewing habits all suggest a man whose extreme talent has jarred him out of sync with the universe. No such quasi-noble explanation exists for A-Rod, who, as he makes more than the entire Tampa Bay roster, is paid too suprahumanly to be this humanly fallible.

I had a conversation with someone the other day who asserted that A-Rod only cared about money to a certain point and after that his pride kicked in and mandated that he try as hard as possible. I asked the dude what proof he had of this, or if he could think of any other players who had played well or poorly at A-Rod’s salary. But the problem is A-Rod has no equal in earnings; Tiger Woods is the only comparably-paid athlete, and we all saw what happened to him. Indeed, far more likely than A-Rod’s money having little impact on his hitting is the chance that his money is having an extraordinary effect on his performance, one we can’t even begin to measure because we’ve simply never paid an athlete this amount before. I’d wager $300 million $10 that A-Rod himself doesn’t have the slightest inkling to what extent his atmospheric salary is warping his career.

Given the increasingly absurd contracts being bestowed upon free agent sluggers, we’re about to find out just how much money corrupts a player’s performance; with Pujols having a lackluster 2012 and Carl Crawford crumbling upon impact with Fenway turf, the initial data doesn’t look rosy. I argued a few weeks back that slugger salaries are becoming a mini-bubble that threaten the financial viability of the sport. But never mind the effect the ballooning salaries will have on ballclubs: what if there’s an annual amount a ballplayer simply can’t handle? For all we know, when you pay an athlete as much as the Yankees pay A-Rod, they stop being able to see the ball at all.

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