American baseball’s biggest star has signed one of the largest athletic contracts ever in the States. Richard Lutz explains what it means
Now here’s a name to contend with…and a name you probably don’t recognise: Albert Pujols.
Just to give you an insight into how big a name he is in America- he is a mountain sized baseball player who has just signed a mountain sized £250m (£160m) ten year contract with the Los Angeles Angels on the west coast.
Alberto is simply about the best thing since sliced bread for baseball: a devout family man, son of an immigrant from the baseball crazy Dominican Republic who was signed originally with his local pro team the St Louis Cardinals ten years ago.
He smashed hitting record after hitting record. He is a leader on the field. He set up local medical and social charities which he loyally supports and he led his team to pick up the coveted World Series title last October. He is a big man.
But the Cardinals only offered this super star a mere $200m over ten years.
And since his contract said he had the right this year to sell his hitting and leadership skills, the LA Angels- with a massive latino fanbase- upped the ante and went for that previously mentioned mega deal of $250mgood until 2022.
So, Albert said goodbye to the only major league team he ever played for and left. Goodbye St Louis. Goodbye Cardinals. Goodbye the city that nurtured him and lay laurels at his feet. Goodbye the city by the river he faithfully ploughed so much money back into.
For an extra $50m.
Who the hell needs another $50m over a ten year period when you’re already offered $200m?
What are you going to do- open up another ISA? Add another indoor salt water pool to your mansion(s)? Buy another Porsche? Or Hummer? Or buy a whole town?
Thus it goes that American athletes, at the end of the day, no matter how worthy, how grand, how big a role model, must have their brains lodged deep into their bank accounts. Not unlike the UK footballers who can pocket around £120,000 per week for running up and down the pitch and not give much back in return.
One thing separates these athletes though. In capitalist-rich America, there is a tricky little communal financial catch for big teams who control football (NFL), hockey (the NHL) and soccer (MLS).
Each team agrees not to outdo each other and has a self imposed salary cap. In American football, it is about $120m per team per year. That means teams have rough parity between each other.
And there’s another thing they agree on: the worst teams each year in the NFL have the right to be first in line for the all important winter draft when new players from the talent rich college circuit are picked.
It adds up to a bit of equality in football, soccer and hockey in the States.
But baseball is a sport apart. Like football (aka soccer) in Britain, you buy what you can to get your best team and hang the other teams-or the sport itself.
And as the for the callow players, if their pay demands are too big, they go elsewhere.
Like Albert and his wallet.