Column: Shut up and play

Overpaid athletes cheapen the meaning of the game.

The economy is terrible. Money is tight. Everyone knows that. Everyone but professional athletes, that is. Free agents are demanding more money than ever. The amounts they think they should be paid would be ridiculous even in a time of economic prosperity.

Manny Ramirez is a prime example. He turned down a two year, $45 million contract from the Los Angeles Dodgers. That would feed, clothe, shelter and educate 174,418 children for that two-year span through the Children International charity. Nearly everyone in the U.S. would take this contract in a heartbeat and be financially secure for the rest of their lives.

Anquan Boldin is offended to the point where his relationship with the Arizona Cardinals cannot be repaired because they couldn't pay him as much money as he wanted. That's not surprising. Even when the team was on its way to the Super Bowl, sellouts were hard to come by. He still has two years left on a six-year, $23.5 million contract. Most people would agree this is still way too much money for a guy who catches balls for a living.

Not all athletes are like this. On the other end of the spectrum, there are guys such as Larry Fitzgerald, who offered to take a pay cut to help the Cardinals try to keep Boldin. Fitzgerald is clearly the better wide receiver, yet he offered to give up some of his money so his team can try to keep the second best receiver. Someone needs to explain to Boldin that he isn't going to get the contract he wants anywhere, so he should just shut up and play.

To fix the problem of greedy athletes, a couple of things need to happen. First off, Major League Baseball should not put in a salary cap. That is not the way to fix this problem, and it will only detract from the game. But, certain contract restrictions can be put into place in the next collective bargaining agreement. The rookie pay scale and arbitration restrictions for young players are a good start. Now the owners should put regulations in place regarding multi-year contracts.

Also, agent Scott Boras needs to be banned from baseball. He is a ruining the game. His clients are grossly overpaid and he drags out contract negotiations to the point where it hurts teams. They go into spring training without knowing what their final roster will be.

Similarly, agent Drew Rosenhaus needs to be banned from football. He is like Boras, only on a slightly smaller scale. Because the NFL has a salary cap, he can't operate quite as effectively as Boras. But he still manages to get his clients way too much money and make it so that the team has no money to sign other players.

Next, the NFL, like baseball, should have a rookie pay scale. Jake Long, the first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, signed a five year, $57.5 million contract with the Miami Dolphins. That was entirely too much money for someone who hadn't shown that he could handle the level of competition in the NFL.

If the salary issues are fixed, and the overly annoying agents banned, both leagues would run more smoothly. Then maybe instead of squeezing their teams for every dime, players such as Ramirez and Boldin, could shut up and play.

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