Bottom of the ninth, two out. Full count. Your team is up 4-3 with the bases loaded and the wind blowing softly out to left center. Here`s the pitch, a fastball low and away. The ball is hit, a soft blooper to right field. Your outfielder strolls lazily over to make a routine fly ball catch and end the game, and what does he do, but let the ball drop right through his glove and roll through his legs. He sees the runners almost at home plate and doesn`t bother to relay it home. As he walks off the field he has a big grin on his face and is laughing and joking with the opposite team. Meanwhile you are damning him to eternal hell and cursing the fact that he`s a baseball player who doesn`t care and is getting paid more in a year than you will make in a lifetime. He is looking at a big fat paycheque to reward him for his error, and you are looking at yet another year without any postseason success. How many times have you screamed at the TV in anger, "I can`t believe this guy is getting paid $10 million." Well the following is dedicated to you, the fan, who pays these guys their wage. Without further ado, here are the most overpaid players in baseball today, by position C Javier Lopez age:32 2003 salary: $6 million
The catcher position is perhaps the hardest to pick a grossly overpaid player, but Lopez takes the prize for his inconsistency. He played in only 109 games last year, and although pitching is the biggest post season problem the Braves are faced with year in and year out, Lopez tends to make fatal errors at critical moments. He was 4 for 15 last year in the playoffs with 2 HR however he tends to forget to guard the plate properly when a close play is relayed in from the outfield. At $6 million you might say the money could be better spent elsewhere, but with the recent signing of Greg Maddux to a 1yr/ $14 million contract, the Braves must have postseason success this year in order to justify Lopez`s paycheques.
1B Carlos Delgado age:30 2003 salary:$19.4 m
This is possibly the worst contract ever signed by any major professional sports team in North America, and Blue Jays management have made it no secret that they are eager to move Delgado. Being the second highest paid player in the league and the biggest investment ever made in one player for a Canadian sports team, the numbers just don`t add up. On a team modeled on the low budget success of Oakland and Minnesota, the Jays cannot afford a salary like this, however with the Raul Mondesi salary situation, it will be a tough sell to owners in Toronto to swallow more money.
2B Bret Boone age:33 2003 salary: $8 million
Bret Boone had a breakout season two years ago, and cashed in on it: with a fat 3 year/$24 million dollar contract extension from the Mariners. When you are the highest paid player on a small market team big things are expected: Boone hasn`t delivered, despite driving in 100+ rbi`s for the third straight season. When you bat behind a player like Ichiro Suzuki, who gets on base 4 times out of ten, these numbers are hardly worth his $8 million salary. Boone must improve his concentration and bring down his errors, also he must start to be a factor when the games really start to matter come August. In the toughest division in baseball, the Mariners may have trouble justifying his contract if he doesn`t bring up his production level.
SS Rey Ordonez age: 32 2003 salary: $6 million
Rey Ordonez finds himself in a bad situation that can only get worse. With the Devil Rays luring Lou Pinnela from Seattle to turn around their struggling franchise, big things will be expected of Ordonez. With a reputation as a choke artist, Rey played in 144 games last year yet he had just one - count it - one home run all season. On a team with an average age of just 25.9, he is one of the veterans on the team, yet has just seven years in the majors himself. Six million for this guy? If Rey doesn`t shape up, look for Pinella to ship him out to a contender early in the season.
3B Robin Ventura age: 35 2003 salary: $8.5 million
Robin Venturas numbers from last season (.247, 27 homers, 93 rbi) are vastly inflated by the fact that he plays on the premiere team in baseball. A workhorse who started 141 games last year, Ventura has a great upside but is regarded by most baseball experts as nothing more than an average shortstop whose best years are behind him. At age 35 he offers little more than consistency and hard work in a clubhouse full of veteran leaders, but at $8.5 million he is hugely overpaid.
LF Manny Ramirez age: 30 2003 salary: $16.67 million
Some people are of the opinion that Manny`s best years are still ahead of him, and if he can remain relatively injury free over the next few seasons that may just be the case. Ramirez will play on a strong BoSox team in dire need of a playoff run in the tough AL East this season. In a division widely expected to be dominated by the New York Yankees, Boston will need him to get back to his prior good offensive production, and at $16.67 million the team has a right to expect it from him. Manny must avoid embarrassments such as the earring incident at the Red Sox`s Triple A affiliate last season, if he can put the silliness behind him look for him to have a great season.
CF Ken Griffey Jr. age: 33 2003 salary: $12.5 million
Injuries have plagued Griffey Jr.`s career since a nightmare move to his childhood dream team, the Cincinnati Reds. Last year Griffey was a respectable .264 but managed just 8 homers, however perhaps the most telling stat of Griffey`s year was that he played in just 70 games. At age 33 Griffey has the time and the ability to elevate himself back into the good graces of fans across the world, and be considered one of the games greats again. Only time will tell if Griffey can overcome his injury problems, but after the last two stinker seasons, his scheduled $12.5 million salary is just too much to expect a team like the Reds to absorb and remain competitive.
RF Raul Mondesi age: 31 2003 salary: $11 million
Acquired for the stretch run last year by the Yankees Raul Mondesi brings plenty of ability and a big salary to the most storied clubhouse in baseball. Following a disappointing first half in Toronto JP Riccardi got rid of him in a blatant salary dump deal. Mondesi went just .232 with a mere 26 home runs and 88 rbi`s last season. Riccardi is forced to pick up half of Mondesi`s salary so at $5.5 million the Yankees have a reasonably priced right fielder, but at $11 million total this salary is absolutely ludicrous.
DH Frank Thomas age: 34 2003 salary: $10 million
Purists needing ammunition to support their petition to get rid of the designated hitter need look no further than our man Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox. Thomas went .252 last season with 28 homers and 92 ribbies. Entering the fourteenth year of his career his presence will bring leadership to a young White Sox team that is even odds to win the AL Central. If any team can unseat the Twins in that division the White Sox are it, but they will need Thomas to step up to the plate and show what he is capable of.
RHSP Kevin Brown 38 $15.714 m
Injuries plagued Kevin Browns season in 2002, and a swift bounce back is in order this year if he wants to justify his huge contract with the Dodgers. In a division featuring the hated Giants and the superb pitching staff of the Diamondbacks, Browns injury troubles will deal a huge blow to the Dodgers hopes of making the playoffs if they resurface. Brown spent much of last season re habbing his arm and threw a few games for the teams Triple A affiliate Las Vegas. Brown has shown determination during the stretch run of last season and most of the current off season to show that he is not a big-contract flop, and if he continues the pitching with that attitude it can only be good news for the Dodgers faithful.
LHSP Mike Hampton 30 $8.5m
Mike Hampton suffered from the curse of Coors Field, after signing a massive deal with the Rockies a few years ago his batters faced - to home runs conceded ratio has exceeded that of any player in MLB history with more than 100 appearances. Hamptons injury problems haven`t helped and his reputation of giving up the all important homer in a critical situation is hardly not well deserved. Perhaps the most telling factor of Hampton`s contract woes is the fact that during the off season he actually offered to "give back" some of the money paid to him. In a tough division in which the Rockies have had trouble pulling the trigger on big name trades, Hampton must rebound and find his pre - contract form if the Rockies are to be competitive in 2003.
RP Kelvim Escobar 26 $4.25m
One of three Blue Jays signings on the list, this wild closer is a perfect example of a team overpaying because they have no other option than the one presented to them. When Kelvin comes to the mound to close out a game, one things for sure - something memorable is bound to happen. Escobar has shown flashes of brilliance in recent times but as a part of a young bullpen whose ace is Roy Halliday, mistakes must be cut to an absolute minimum. Escobar is a shining example of everything that is wrong with baseball players today: an overpaid whiner who is simply a hired gun, and will play wherever he is paid the most. - Paddy McCarthy is a contributing writer to North America`s number one sports and gaming information site, majorwager.com.