Bucks for Brawn

Having 252 dollars would make someone pleased. Having $2,520 would make someone party. Having $25,200 would make someone average. Having $252,000 would make someone comfortable. Having $2,525,000 would make someone rich. Having $25,200,000 would make someone retire.

And having $252,000,000 would make someone Alex Rodriguez.

On December 11, Rodriguez, the ex-Seattle Mariner, ex-free agent shortstop, penned a 10-year, $252 million contract with his new (now broke) team, the Texas Rangers.

If Texas doesn't file for Chapter 11 first, Rodriguez will bring home a mere $21 mil per year through 2004, a respectable $25 mil in '05 and '06, and then an it's-about-time $27 mil in the final four years of the contract. This makes Rodriguez, called A-Rod by baseball folk, the highest paid athlete.

Oh, no wait. Correction. German Formula One racer Michael Schumacher earned a $27.6 million driver's salary in 2000, making him, not A-Rod, the top annual breadwinner. But in fairness, auto racing's an individual sport, while baseball is a team sport.

And remember kids, there is no "I" in t-e-a-m.

But A-Rod has shown us there certainly is a "me."

Rodriguez claims to be a "team player" and says his decision to join the Rangers "revolves around baseball." But evidence points otherwise.

Incidentally, A-Rod visited with the Rangers last month but was reportedly disinterested. In fact, he claimed he hadn't given much thought to playing for Texas at all.

That was before the big bucks came a-knockin'. Funny how a couple hundred million clams can change a man's mind.

Because a week ago Monday, the new and financially-improved A-Rod was suddenly very interested; he hailed the Rangers, saying, "Texas just made it real easy for me." Further, he made sure to include in his contract a clause that guarantees he'll be the highest-paid player in baseball in the final two years of his pact.

Think about some unarguable team players of the past: Larry Bird, Walter Payton, and Don Drysdale, to name a few. Think those guys had any such clauses? No way, because those guys never thought of even having such sickening contracts as A-Rod's.

But - guess you can't fault the guy. Who is crazy enough to refuse $252 million? But then, who (besides A-Rod) is arrogant enough to demand it?

Someone's to blame for this absurdity.

That man would be Rangers owner Tom Hicks.

Hicks purchased the team three years ago from a group of owners that included President-elect Bush. Hicks' tab for the entire organization was $2 million less than he'll be paying A-Rod. Only time will tell if Rodriguez was a smart buy. (However, don't count on W. to name Hicks his Secretary of Commerce. Or Treasury Secretary, for that matter.)

Apparently, Hicks' money grows on tumbleweeds, for A-Rod wasn't the only big-bill free agent he's signed this off-season. Texas has also inked first baseman Andres Galarraga for $6.25 million per; third baseman Ken Caminiti for $3.25 million; and pitcher Mark Petkovsek (who?) for $4.9 mil.

But (here's hoping) having high profile, high-priced free agents doesn't translate into championships, or even wins. Just ask the NFL's Washington Redskins.

Yet Hicks supporters would say that he knows what he's doing. After all, he put the pieces in place for the Dallas Stars, the other team he owns, to take the Stanley Cup in 1999.

Speaking of hockey, on the day A-Rod signed with the Rangers, Wayne Gretzky and his buddy bought the Phoenix Coyotes NHL franchise for a paltry $87 million. Put in perspective, according to's Steve Wulf, "That means A-God (Wulf's new name - and a good one - for the empowered A-Rod) can buy two hockey teams and still get back $72 million in change."

And more hockey gossip - 'tis the season, after all - did you hear that Mario Lemieux will be playing again, back with the Pittsburgh Penguins? That's news because Lemieux was retired, and because he happens to own the club. The classy Lemieux will get paid, er, pay himself, rather, only the league average: $1.41 million. Geez, if A-Rod owned the Rangers, it would be hard to imagine how much he'd allot himself.

Actually, it's quite hard to imagine how much he makes now.

To talk in terms you might understand - ignoring inflation, if you brought home exactly $75 grand after taxes, you'd need 3360 years to make what the 25-year-old A-Rod will in 10 (pre-tax).

To say A-Rod has bankroll is a laughable understatement. To say his contract - not counting incentives, mind you - approaches the Gross Domestic Product of several small nations is more accurate.

Pay Day: It's not just a good candy bar; it's what sports are all about anymore.

And money hunger will destroy sports, eventually, just like it destroys everything else. Because eventually, when we get enough snuff and sense, the fans - the ones who ultimately foot the bill for these excessive contracts through raised ticket, merchandise, and concession prices - will have had enough.

When that sad day comes, we will look back on this $252 million "ideal" as the beginning of the end.

And we will say, "Thanks Tom Hicks. Thanks A-Rod."

"Thanks A-Lot."


Win By A Nose

Avatar Star, Foolin' Sam, and Chichasawhatchie - just a few of the retired race horses up for adoption through a new program initiated by The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's Blackburn Facility. The goal of here is to help both retired race horses and prison inmates start new lives. Adopting one of these retired thoroughbreds saves it by allowing the prisoners retrain them for introduction into a new home. For the inmates involved, it is a way to retrack their lives, learn marketable skills for work after release and develop a new sense of resonsiblity. The sponsorship, gaged at about $3 per day is billed as a "win-win situation" by the foundation. Anyone interested in adopting a horse can call the Racing Foundation at (732) 957-0182

More Dirt on Clooney

Thank god for the Internet, it stalks George so we don't have to. The Internet Movie Database dug up that big George hates the make-up chair. For the upcoming Coen Brothers film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? Clooney did his own make-up. "I would just take dirt, Mississippi dirt and rub it on my face before we'd go and do the scene. Make-up chairs make me crazy and I don't really like them, plus you wanna just look dirty anyway, so it's perfect. You know I did it in Three Kings where I'd just pick up dust and rub it in my face and just go. There's something really mechanical looking when someone comes over and gives you a little patch of dirt here and a match there. It sort of takes all the fun out of it. Now I get to roll around in the dirt and it's pretty fun not having to grow up so you don't want to have to spend time in the make-up chair." Clooney added, "I had a big whole patch of grey in my beard so I'd take a ball point pen, a Bic ball point pen and just fill it in!" What a filthy, filthy man.