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Doug Wolter: No arbitration for me, thanks

I don't begrudge today's best professional athletes earning multi-million dollar contracts. We've come a long way since Joe DiMaggio reached the first $100,000 contract in 1949.

I don’t begrudge today’s best professional athletes earning multi-million dollar contracts. We’ve come a long way since Joe DiMaggio reached the first $100,000 contract in 1949.

If you can get it, more power to ya. I’m a great believer in the law of supply and demand.

But sometimes, I have to confess, I just don’t understand. Last week a Mr. Caleb Joseph, a 30-year-old major league catcher, lost his arbitration case with the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles graciously offered Joseph, who earned $523,500 in 2016, a raise to $700,000 for 2017. But Joseph thought he should have more: $1 million, in fact.

Now, what’s most interesting to me is the fact that Joseph set a major league record last season. Indeed, he established a new record for most at-bats and plate appearances in a season without having batted in a single run.

In 132 at-bats, he compiled a batting average of .174, with three doubles and no ribbies.

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Could you hit that well? Well, yes, maybe you could.

Most of us live in the real world. The real world means slaving away at our routine jobs for 40 hours a week or more, and doing it quite well, thank you. And doing it, in many cases, for at least 12 times less than for what Joseph pulled down in 2016.

If I had had the kind of year as a sports editor that Joseph had in 2016, I’m pretty confident I would not be seeking a raise, and I certainly wouldn’t go over the head of my employer in order to get one. Rather, I’d be lying low, and if my services were retained for the next year, I’d be jumping for joy that it wouldn’t be at a 35 percent pay cut.

This is one of the interesting differences between the real world the rest of us schlubs operate under, and the celebrity world that spins according to a very different drummer.

Caleb Joseph is a celebrity, you see. Yes, he’s not a particularly good catcher, but the fact that he’s a major leaguer qualifies him for special considerations that you and I don’t have. He can ask for a million dollars without reservation. Why? Because he’s part of an organization allows him to make outrageous requests.

America is infatuated with celebrity. They are professional athletes, and they are entertainers.

Anybody can become a celebrity. All it takes is to become famous. And it doesn’t even have to be for the right reasons. Even bad entertainers are adored, usually the moment they become well known.

It’s fascinating to me when I hear of Americans ready to start a revolution over the money corporations make, but there is so little consternation over what our more fortunate citizens make playing a game or lip-syncing a worn-out song into a microphone. Maybe it’s just me, but have Beyonce, Mariah Carey or Lady Gaga really contributed so much to the world that we should be turning over so much of our hard-earned dollars to them?

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Because I’m a sports fan, I tend to give athletes a pass. But when I really think about it, maybe I should be a little harder on them, too. Some of them, at least.

I see that according to USA Today, the Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw will make $33 million next season on a seven-year $215,000,000 contract. He’s one of MLB’s best pitchers so, OK, let him enjoy it.

It gets a little more iffy when you’re a member of the Minnesota Twins, who floundered to a 59-103 record in 2016. I heard many Twins fans wish that Joe Mauer, 17th on the MLB salary list at $23 million, could be traded. Glen Perkins, who makes $6,500,000, is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery after pitching two innings in 2016 with a 9.00 ERA. Phil Hughes, making $13,200,000, went 1-7 with a 5.95 ERA last year. His contract extends to 2019.

In 2015, the average MLB salary broke the $4 million mark for the first time. I’m not gonna feel sorry for any of ‘em.

It’s hard to go begging, also, if you belong to the National Basketball Association. In the 2016-17 season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a payroll of $129,487,297. Next year the aptly-named Portland Trail Blazers will disgorge $134,395,949. TV viewership continues to rise, and the salary cap will, too, which means that LeBron James’ nearly $31 million-a-year salary will soon look like chump change.

In the NFL, times are tough, apparently. According to a story I read online, only -- ONLY -- 20 players on the 2015 Super Bowl-winning New England Patriots made at least a million dollars last season, which means that more than half of them had to squeeze by on less than seven figures.

The article says NFL careers are short, so players ought to be making more. My response: Give them a microphone and teach them how to lip-sync.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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