|Friday, November 30
Updated: December 2, 8:49 PM ET
'Drew Bledsoe, who makes $103 million, ...'
By Mark Kreidler
Special to ESPN.com
Not long ago around Foxboro, Mass., Patriots coach Bill Belichick reaffirmed his decision to stick with a less-experienced quarterback named Tom Brady over a more-experienced veteran named Drew Bledsoe. Belichick's basic conviction was that Brady, at this time, gives New England its best possible chance to win games.
I mean, it's not like we don't know exactly how much Drew Bledsoe makes. You rarely get through a sentence of any story about this quarterback "controversy" -- overused word of the year in sports, "controversy" -- without being duly informed that Bledsoe is under contract for $103 million. (Maybe when your signing is announced in "Jerry Maguire," you waive your right to secure personal financial information.)
And it isn't so much the number but the implication that is startling here. The suggestion seems to be that Belichick's decision is fraught with peril because Bledsoe makes rather a lot of money. Wow, is that what it is? I thought Belichick's decision was a tough one because in Bledsoe the coach is bypassing a quarterback who once took the Patriots to the Super Bowl and who, by almost any account, is not yet finished in the NFL.
But, shoot, maybe it's the money. We need to ask A-Rod about this.
You remember A-Rod. He once had a full name, Alex Rodriguez, and a life that did not include daily mention of his $252 million contract. This was before Rodriguez (a) became a baseball darling, which (b) prompted the employment of the nickname among people who have never met him yet consider him almost like family, whereupon (c) he said he wanted to really think about winning championships, and promptly (d) bolted playoff-perennial Seattle for last-place Texas for, let's see here, $252 million.
It is important to note that A-Rod's contract is not for $253 million, neither for $251 million. We know the number. It is ingrained in our baseball consciousness. Rolls right off the tongue, really: McGwire hit 70; Denny McClain won 30; Pete Rose had 4,256; A-Rod makes $252 million.
In a numbers-collecting society, the preoccupation with sports salaries is perfectly understandable. It is also an intellectual disaster on stilts. It clouds conversations, taints points of view. Who can see clearly the extent to whether Jason Giambi might actually help the Yankees when the thrust of every story is New York's offer of upward of $145 million vs. Oakland's standing offer of $91 million (not $92 million, not $90 million)?
You get the feeling that Giambi might soon be joining the ranks of those known more by money drawn than production rendered. It's a shame, really. The guy is a wonderful hitter, a great teammate, a life-loving person and a phenomenal quote. But the minute he signs the deal in New York, he will also be known as one of the seven members of the Yankees who combine for an annual salary of $100 million.
That's a phrase I read somewhere, the one about the Yanks and seven players making $100 million. Come to think of it, I read it everywhere. Reading the stories about Giambi, one might get to wondering whether there is any reason at all, beyond the cash, that he might move to New York.
The chance to play first base where Gehrig did, in Yankee Stadium, as a left-handed hitter batting about three feet from the the right-field porch? The chance to win championships? The chance to experience New York from a multimillionaire's point of view? To play for Joe Torre? To play with Jeter, Williams, Clemens, Rivera, Mussina? To play first base where Gehrig did, in Yankee Stadium, as a left-handed hitter ...
But, shoot, maybe it's the money. We could ask Shaq and his $120 million contract about it, or Chris Webber and his $121 million contract (not $122 million, not $120 million). Don't tell anybody, but Alex Rodriguez actually had a fabulous season for the Texas Rangers. He played his usual great shortstop and put up another rack of eye-popping offensive numbers. It appears the only number people can recall is $252 million. It's no pity for Rodriguez; it might be a pity for the fan (reporter, broadcaster) who can't get past it.
From a distance, it looks like Bill Belichick is trying to win some football games with the Patriots and perhaps even sneak into the NFL playoffs, and the Pats are 6-3 with Brady as the starting quarterback. And so even with Bledsoe finally healthy again after an early-season injury, Belichick is sticking with Brady on the basis of, frankly, wins and losses.
Of course, that's only from a distance. Up close, Bledsoe is a man standing on the sideline despite a $103 million contract, and Belichick is the coach who makes upward of $2.5 million a year to make decisions such as these. You never really read how much Brady makes. But, quite naturally, that could change.
Mark Kreidler of the Sacramento Bee is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.