- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 13, 2000

Tom Hicks has elected to spend $252 million on a ballplayer.

The 25-year-old ballplayer has made no promises to cure cancer, end poverty or take up the dimpled rights fight with the former Shadow (Jesse Jackson).

The ballplayer probably won't even pick up after the overcharged multitudes who come to watch him play.

The contract is not found in the book of revelations, and the sky is not expected to fall, although baseball's higher-ups can be forgiven for thinking the worst.

Alex Rodriguez has been deemed more valuable than several of the game's low-end franchises.

This is baseball's New World Order, and only a few big-market teams, or a maverick owner with incredibly deep pockets, are able to play.

There is a back-to-the-future quality to the game now as more and more teams get to know what it feels like to have been the St. Louis Browns. The season is over for all too many teams before the spring thaw, and worse, there is no Bill Veeck or Eddie Gaedel to lighten the tedium.

Baseball no longer peddles hope in Montreal and markets like it. It only peddles the value of belonging to its exclusive fraternity, and the value is overstated.

Take it from a vibrant metropolitan area that has been positioned outside the game's doors the last 29 years.

There is nothing wrong with getting all you can while you can. That is one of capitalism's sacred tenets. But a $252 million contract is obscene, even by the out-of-whack financial standards of professional sports, disproportionate to the contribution.

That lament has been sounded in the past, a number of player strikes ago, and baseball is on course to undergo yet another work stoppage after next season.

It must be true. Money does not buy happiness, only the threat of empty ballparks in the summer.

The two sides, labor and management, wouldn't know how to behave with restraint if their futures depended on it, and maybe it will one of these years.

Baseball lives with an unsettling truth. It is becoming more of an international game as it becomes less of a domestic one. The good is nullified by the bad, the growth offset by an erosion at the base.

The red, white and blue base funds the operation, and more funds are going to be necessary. Welcome to the $10 hot dog and the $1 mustard pack. Someone has to pay for baseball's fiscal madness, and if history is any guide, you can bet it will be you, the consumer.

Baseball did not reach this point in an instant, and the game, sturdy as it is on the field, is not about to disappear overnight. Yet the gulf between the haves and have-nots is more pronounced than ever, the economic blueprint seemingly adopted from some Third World country.

The Yankees feast on caviar, while the Expos pick through the refuse bins behind a Burger King. They are equals only in the broadest sense, faint partners in a bad business arrangement.

As for Rodriguez, he has lots of expectations to fulfill, and unless he hits 100 home runs next season, he will fail to meet them. That, too, goes with the outlandish salary figures.

Scott Boras, who is merely another agent who thinks with a calculator instead of a brain, deserves the credit or blame.

Boras praised Hicks' communication skills, and $252 million is a fairly persuasive talking point. No words are really necessary, not with $252 million on the table.

Boras also claimed to be a member of the fastest-growing group in America. He is the victim in all this, the "whipping boy" of those in baseball who do not believe in the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy and an infinite supply of Benjamins.

A baseball team and a ballplayer agree to a $252 million deal, and the ballplayer's agent feels like a victim. There must be a special place where agents go to learn their material.

Baseball's welfare is not Boras' concern. He did what he was supposed to do for his client, and it will be left to others to deal with the fallout and, if possible, restore a measure of sanity to the game.

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