Tanaka contract: Don’t look at the money, look at the years

Tanaka contract: Don’t look at the money, look at the years
January 22, 2014, 10:45 am
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Do the Yankees have utter confidence that Masahiro Tanaka will be a valuable pitcher for seven years? (AP)

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Masahiro Tanaka’s new contract is two-thirds the value of Clayton Kershaw’s, which is the equivalent of the value of the New Jersey Devils, and before you get your delicates all a’tangled, you must understand the following fact:

Baseball is in one of its play-money periods, where every team is getting fat and owners --  who have a level of fiscal discipline even hobos would find offensive -- use their money as a ruler in that age-old game.

And no, we don’t really need to spell it out to you, do we?

That it is the New York Yankees that did the seven-year, $155 million deed with the latest best Japanese pitcher makes for a nice stereotype, although the Los Angeles Dodgers make for a handier and more accurate target these days. But the fact that it is the Yankees, who worked so hard to get out from even part of their Alex Rodriguez burden and walked away from Robinson Cano for reasons of financial pragmatism, makes its own level of sense.

In other words, $22.1 million a year gets you a rookie pitcher from Japan who might be Yu Darvish or Daisuke Matsuzaka or anything between, and that’s considered part of an austerity plan.

The back end of all this, of course, is that as we get closer to the next collective bargaining negotiations in 2016, every owner in baseball will be shrieking through the voice of their new commissioner that the teams are hemorrhaging money, that the players’ greed is killing the sport, and that drastic adjustments must be made to save the game.

[RELATED: Yankees sign Masahiro Tanaka to 7-year, $155 million deal]

None of this will be true, of course, because none of it is ever true. But even if the game was in financial trouble, and even if belt-tightening of three or more notches was required, the only way that would be accomplished would be to cement the owners’ mouths shut, tie them to their chairs and lock them in their closets’ closets.

You see, if there is a problem here, it’s the same one the owners have always created for themselves. They’re the boys who can’t say no, the ones who know how much the audience loves the smell of burning money, the ones who get a quick buzz from being told by media people that they are admirable for spending money to improve the team.

And then, if and when a deal goes bad because a freshly enriched players doesn’t perform to market specifications, they are the ones to complain how they got hoodwinked, and that the system is essentially one-sided and unfair to the very yobbos who threw the money around in the first place.

Now how does this affect you, the savvy media consumer whose only real flaw is that you hear so much nonsense that you’re confused when someone isn’t lying to you? Well, there’s this flawless and handy plan for understanding the new baseball economy.

Don’t look at the money, look at the years.

[REWIND: Dodgers make Clayton Kershaw richest pitcher ever

The money is nonsense, and has no actual meaning to normal folks. Maybe think of it as lira, or florins, or quetzals, or guilders. Don’t use bit coin references, either, because you never know when some weasel listening over your shoulder wants to engage you in
 an investment scheme.

No, the years are what matter in these flush times. Do the Yankees have utter confidence than Masahiro Tanaka will be a valuable pitcher for seven years? And don’t say ”$22 million pitcher,” either, because in three years, $22 million might only be the value of a sturdy one-out left-handed specialist.

The acronym for that, of course, being LOOGY.

You see, it isn’t the money that gets paid in the good years that rankles folks. It’s the money that gets paid when the player is wrung out, and it’s always been that way, since billionaires whose wallets have ADHD started dabbling in the national pastime. In the world in which we now live, players are either worth every dime they are paid, or they are worth nothing. And the more years of nothing you have, the worse it feels.

So freak out over the Tanaka contract if you must, or if you have the time to indulge such energy-wastes, but don’t do it because of the money. People will laugh at you, tell you to cut back on the coffee, or just back away slowly and fumble for their headphones. That’s no way to start your day, unless the furthest cubicle from the boss is the acme of your career goals.

Or unless you are the boss, of course. The boss gets to be certifiably nuts by virtue of being the boss, and almost always is anyway. That’s why we now have a baseball-based economy, and why nobody’s getting a raise again this year.

In line image of Masahiro Tanaka provided by The Associated Press

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