Aspiring doctors, lawyers:
Try third baseman!

Dec 25, 2006 3:58 AM

So you have a 6-year-old son, or a 6-year-old grandson, and have high hopes and aspirations for him.

Like the old story about the proud Jewish grandfather, walking down the street with his two grandsons, and a neighbor stops to comment on what fine, handsome kids they are. "How old are they?" the neighbor asks, and the grandfather replies, "The doctor’s eight, the lawyer’s six."

Perhaps you would opt for a physicist, or a nuclear researcher, or a Wall Street stockbroker or analyst, or a rocket scientist. Or, perhaps a Hollywood star, or a television news commentator.

Get over it.

Try to raise the kid to be a third baseman.

We offer this suggestion seriously and after much consideration. And, oh yeah, after reading final figures released by the Baseball Players Association.

They announced that the average salary for a major league player rose 9 percent this year, the biggest jump since a 12.8 percent increase five years ago.

So what was the average salary?

A hundred thousand?

Two hundred thousand?

Half a million?

Sorry. The average major leaguer in 2006 earned $2,699,292.

Think about that a minute.

Try to relate it to the salaries of presidents, or senators, or governors, or college professors, or airline pilots, responsible for 200 or 300 lives every time they take off, or a commanding general, or even worse, a Secretary of Defense, who can send 10,000 men to hell with a smile.

Or a guy on the streets of Baghdad, who may get his head blown off every time he takes a step.

How do you justify $2.7 million average salary for anyone?

The baseball guys do it this way: "The increase in the average salary is a reflection of the growth in overall industry revenues, and that while the sport still faces economic challenges, the increased average is a reflection of the talent on the field."

Really?

You mean the ability to hit a ball or catch one, to throw in a straight line. That’s worth $2.7 million a year?

If you’re Alfonso Soriano, left fielder of the Chicago Cubs, you are paid $10 million a year to do this, and probably net closer to $17 million with endorsements, bonuses and all the rest.

If you’re Vernon Wells, who was paid $4,470,00 to play center field for the Toronto Blue Jays this year, and then signed a seven-year extension contract calling for $126 million, you are in the company of kings. Beyond most kings. Kings are common these days. Good center fielders are not.

Wells case was revealing. He and his agent decided that $126 million was a nice round number. "We came up with this number," Wells told the Toronto Star. "We stood by this number, and if it was met, it was something we were going to do."

As it turned out it was met, without argument. With things not going too well, Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey and general manager J. P. Ricciardi decided they needed Wells. So instead of arguing back and forth, they picked up the phone and said okay. And Vernon Wells had his $126 million.

If you are Carlos Lee, patrolling left field for the Houston Astron, you have to get along on $8.5 million a year. What a sacrifice.

And of course, skewing the numbers, is the man on top: Alex Rodriquez, playing third base with a 10-year contract for $252 million, signed six years ago. Largely because of A-Rod and the Yankees, third basemen had the highest average salary — $5.87 million — with first basemen right behind at $5.78 million. Starting pitchers, somewhat surprisingly, make only a pittance — $4.87 million a year.

In all, there are 11 players in the majors with $100 million contracts now. One hundred million dollars! To play a game.

So get over this nonsense about Harvard or Yale, MIT or Stanford, Cal Tech or Princeton. Go with the flow.

Get that kid into Little League. Who knows? He may be a natural third baseman, and he won’t need a degree, four long years or more in school, or even have to speak English.

If you treat him right, he may even keep you in the manner you would like to get accustomed to ”¦ forever.