HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

December 11, 2006

Free agency is a wonderful thing

By Jesse Menden

Just imagine if the services you provide for your job were in as high demand as a baseball player.

How about, as high as a starting pitcher, or as high as a left-handed starting pitcher.

Let’s say that you work for Dairy Queen. It takes a certain amount of talent, and let’s pretend that talent is in high demand.

What if, just like in major league baseball, you got to sign a contract with your employer? You could add certain clauses to the contract, such as, if you show up to work so many days, you get a bonus.

If you make 1,000 burgers in a month, another bonus kicks in.

And in the final months of your contract with Dairy Queen, you work the hardest because you know that if other chains see you averaging 1,200 burgers in the last few months, they will think you are hitting your prime, and will pay you even more.

So your contract expires, and you decide you want to be free agent.

Other fast food places like Wendy’s and Burger King are vying for your services.
Even the New York Yankees of the fast food world, McDonald’s, is knocking at your door. They will pay you above and beyond anyone else.

You just have to decide if you can compromise your morals to work for a company that has superior resources and bullies the other fast food chains.

All of these corporations need your services, and will pay top dollar for you, especially because they all need left-handed flippers.

It turns into a bidding war. All of the fast food chains are in desperate need of your skills, and will pay just about anything to get you.

Burger King offers you $8 an hour, and you will work in a new building. Wendy’s offers you $9 an hour and is located your hometown.

But McDonald’s will give you $11 an hour, and they are your best chance to make it into the “Fast Food Hall of Fame.”

Free agency in the common careers would be nice. It would be great to get the most money you can for yourself, and because most jobs are not sport-related, you would not get blamed for working just for the money, or about not having loyalty.

Okay, so the idea of having free agency for us commoners seems a little crazy, but so does some of the contracts players are signing for.

The contracts handed out to this year’s free agents in baseball are already bordering on insanity.

Just look at the money we could be signing for if we had strong unions, tons of talent, and our bosses made 10s of millions of dollars.

Take for example, one of the first signings of the offseason, center fielder Juan Pierre by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Last season’s wild card representative for the National League gave Pierre a $44 million contract over five years. He is a career .303 hitter and is speedy. But, $44 million?

As William H. Macy’s character, horse racing commentator Tick-Tock McGlaughlin said regarding a million dollar stakes race at Santa Anita in the movie “Seabiscuit,” “it makes me want to strap a saddle on my back and walk around on all fours.”

It is tempting to quit my job, lace up the spikes, and put on the eye black.

Sure, I have little to no talent, but neither does backup catcher Henry Blanco, who the Cubs just re-signed for over $2 million per year (including a nice signing bonus) to do little more than sit on the bench.

I just need to brush up on my spitting of sunflower seeds and I should be ready for the majors, and make millions of dollars.

Just take a look at some of these free agent signings that went down in the past few weeks and you will know what I am talking about.

The Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim, Calif., or wherever) signed former Texas Ranger center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. to a 5-year, $50 million contract.

Last season, he batted .313 with 19 home runs and 79 runs batted in. Those were all career highs. The Angels gave $10 million a year to a player who played well for six months in as many years.

The Oakland Athletics signed aging Mike Piazza to be their designated hitter.

They gave $8.5 million to a player that batted .283 last season with 22 HR and 68 RBI in 126 games.

By comparison, the Twins paid Michael Cuddyer $1.3 million last season to put up about the same stats (.284 BA, 24 HR).

The Chicago Cubs signed a 4-year, $40 million contract with starting pitcher Ted Lilly. He had a whopping 4.31 earned run average last year.

Even worse, the Kansas City Royals are so desperate for pitching that they signed pitcher Gil Meche last week. Here are his career numbers: 55 wins, 44 losses, and a huge 4.65 ERA.

Can you guess how much money they gave him? Somewhere around $55 million over five years.

The reigning American Cy Young winner, Johan Santana made $8.5 million last season.

And then, there is left-hander Barry Zito. As of press time, he had not signed anywhere yet, but he will soon enough. Most experts say he will become baseball’s third $100 million man this crazy offseason. Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano are the other two.

Is it possible to spend that amount of money? I guess I would start with buying brand name cans of wax beans instead of the cheaper brands.

But I won’t have to worry about that kind of money until I can learn to spit sunflower seeds and run at the same time.