OBSERVATIONS: When a $60 million baseball contract was ‘absurd’

By Hal McCoy

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, awaiting the start of the USFL and the XFL. Really? Well, something has to take baseball’s place this spring.

—When was a $60 million baseball contract exorbitant?

Well, former Miami Herald sports columnist Edwin Pope said this in 1998: “Baseball has taken leave of its senses. Someone should put a net over them when they pay $60 million to Gary Sheffield. There is no way they can recoup that kind of outlay.”

There must be a way. What would Pope, now deceased, say about the $340 million deal the San Diego Padres gave Fernando Tatis.

And how about the $350 million contract the Washington Nationals offered 23-year-old Juan Soto, enough for him to purchase his native city of Santo Domingo.

And he TURNED IT DOWN. At the advice of his agent, Scott Boras (who else?), he decided to wait until he is eligible for free agency so he can get enough money to purchase his entire native country, the Dominican Republic.

As of last count, there are eight players with contracts worth $300 million or more that includes Mike Trout’s 10-year $365 million deal, Mookie Betts at $360 for 12 years, Giancarlo Stanton, Francisco Lindor, Bryce Harper, Corey Seager, Gerrit Cole and Manny Machado

Mr. Pope, with all due respect to one of sports journalism’s icons, you were wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong again.

—How starved are we for positive baseball news when the Cincinnati Reds sign an ordinary journeyman pitcher to a minor league contract and it makes the front page of the sports section, adorned with a photo?

The Reds signed 31-year-old right-hander Zack Godley, who appeared in all of two games last season with the Milwaukee Brewers (0-1, 16.20). From 2015 to 2019 he pitched for Arizona.

He has had a modicum of success — 15-11 with a 4.74 earned run average in 32 starts for the 2018 Diamondbacks. Since then? Nothing. He was drafted in the 50th round in 2008 by the New York Mets.

Stop the presses!

—The New York Yankees are retiring Paul O’Neill’s No. 21 in August. Nobody can argue O’Neill’s accomplishments in the Bronx, but the Yankees carry this number thing a bit far.

O’Neill’s ’21’ is the 21st number to be retired. They are going to have to expand Monument Park to the size of Central Park. So far they haven’t retired ‘BB’ for batboy, but that probably isn’t far behind.

No Yankee player will ever wear a single digit number — all retired — and the Yankees may soon have to wear triple digit numbers like 101 and 132.

Retired: 1-Billy Martin, 2-Derek Jeter, 3-Babe Ruth, 4-Lou Gehrig, 5-Joe DiMaggio, 6-Joe Torre, 7-Mickey Mantle, 8-Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, 9-Roger Maris, Graig Nettles, 10-Phil Rizzuto.

15-Thurman Munson, 16-Whitey Ford, 20-Jorge Posada, 23-Don Mattingly, 37-Casey Stengel, 42-Mariano Rivera, 44-Reggie Jackson, 46-Andy Pettitte, 49-Ron Guidry, 51-Bernie Williams. About a third of these guys are not even in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

—Talk about beating a dead horse. Medina Spirit won last year’s Kentucky Derby, then died of a heart attack during a workout at Santa Anita in December.

Then, the Kentucky Racing Commission stripped the dead horse of its Kentucky Derby garland of roses. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was found guilty of rubbing the steroid betamethasone on Medina Spirit on race day.

Second-place finisher Mandaloun (by a half length) was declared the official Kentucky Derby winner and Baffert was banned from the Churchill Downs premises for two years.

That wasn’t Baffert’s first rodeo on a doped horse and maybe his hall of fame membership should be revoked.

—QUOTE: From writer/TV journalist Dick Schaap: “It’s kind of ironic that the two sports with the greatest characters, boxing and horse racing, have both been on the decline. In both cases it’s for the lack of a suitable hero.” (With guys like Bob Baffert, the sport is full of fallen heroes.)

—With no baseball worth talking about, there is more football to chat about. The United States Football League (USFL) doesn’t have a team from Phoenix, but it is rising from the ashes.

Yes, the USFL is back and plays its first game April 6 with TV deals with Fox and NBC. The team names are familiar: New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia Stars, Pittsburgh Maulers, Michigan Panthers, New Orleans Breakers, Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers and Tampa Bay Bandits.

Michigan is coached by former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher and New Orleans is coached by Skip Holtz, a son to Lou Holtz. And get this. . .tickets to games are $10 and kids under 15 get in free. Are we really in a reverse time capsule here?

If you want to read a hilarious book on the original USFL, check out Jeff Pearlman’s ‘Football For a Buck.’ He’ll have to update it to ‘Football For Ten Bucks.’

—LeBron James knows how to read the NBA standings. He checked the Los Angeles Times and saw that his Los Angeles Lakers are low-ballers. But he saw that his old team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, are in high cotton.

So, during the All-Star break, he said, “The door’s not closed on returning to Cleveland.”

If I’m the Cavaliers, I’d say, “Hey, LeBron, the door isn’t open. We’re doing fine without you, so just stay put. You’ve already left us twice, so fool us once, fool us twice, but no chance to fool us three times.”

—Everybody in the Dayton area loves Obi Toppin and what he did for the UD Flyers. And all were happy to see him win the NBA dunk contest.

Unfortunately, the competition was a dud and a disgrace. Toppin can dunk with the best of them, but his competition was weak and there were more dunks missed than Angel Hernandez calls on balls and strikes.

Whatever happened to the days of Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Muggsy Bogues in the dunk display?

—QUOTE: From former Houston (along with about a dozen other teams) star Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith: “When you are in a slam dunk contest, you try to do things that the average person would have trouble doing on a Nerf basket.” (He was talking about me. I can barely dunk a donut, let alone a basketball.)

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