The Breakdown: There goes the ceiling |

The Breakdown: There goes the ceiling

summit daily news
Summit County, Colorado
Sports editor Bryce Evans

I tend to avoid math – of any kind – the way I would a dark, barroom hallway with Ben Roethlisberger at the end of it. That is to say, I want nothing to do with it. I mean, that’s one of the reasons I’m a writer.

On rare occasions, though, I do have to pull out the seventh-grade level equations and figure some things out.

For instance, upon hearing of the Philadelphia Phillies signing first baseman Ryan Howard to a five-year $125 million contract (which is tacked on to the $39 million he’s already owed for the next two seasons), I felt like crunching a few numbers.

Now, I quickly gathered that the $25 million per season it breaks down pegs Howard as the second-highest paid player in baseball. Heck, I didn’t really need math for that, the TV told me.

The hefty lefty will make more than three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols – arguably the best player on the planet – in addition to Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, Mark Texiera, Roy Halladay and, well, everyone not named Alex Rodriguez.

And if you want a “real-life” comparison to put the doughy slugger’s dough in perspective (here comes the math!), it would take someone of my pay scale more than 800 years to earn Howard’s annual salary.

Not bad for a guy whom very few analysts would consider a top-10 position player in the Majors. Really, he’s a borderline liability at first base.

Although, he’s a heck of a hitter.

In this case, numbers don’t lie: Howard has played only four full seasons in the Majors and in each he belted more than 45 home runs (58 in 2006, his first full season) and drove in more than 136 runs. He’s also shown some durability, playing in more than 159 games in three of those four seasons.

Pretty incredible.

But there are also these numbers: He’s only a .279 lifetime hitter with an on-base percentage of only .373. He’s had at least 181 strikeouts in each full season, and he’s already 30 years old.

Oh, and there’s the whole “heavy slugger theory” of big guys having more dramatic falloffs toward the end of their careers. Even after (reportedly) shedding 25 pounds over the past two seasons, Howard still is listed at 255 pounds.

The longevity here doesn’t look so hot.

The reason I find this a bit alarming really has nothing to do with Howard, though; it’s more about what this means for future signings.

When you look at a team paying ridiculous money to a guy who will likely be past his prime, you wonder what other stars are going to begin to get.

Pujols, who has better numbers than Howard in nearly every category and is one of the best defensive first basemen in a long time, will be a free agent next summer. He’s the same age as Howard and is a much better overall athlete, who should age quite a bit better.

After the Howard signing, Braves manager Bobby Cox was asked how much he thought Pujols was worth. His answer: $50 million a year, and he wasn’t kidding.

I’m sure Pujols will be paid more in the range of Rodriguez’s $33 million, but it’s still a pretty insane number.

And then you take into account every player who – like Howard – are simply the best player on their team, and we could be seeing a pretty big increase in annual salaries in the Majors.

Really, math isn’t even necessary to realize the ceiling for salaries was just blown clean off.

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