After Mike Trout just signed the largest contract in professional sports history at 12-years, $430 million, I have to ask myself if trying to win a championship even matters anymore as long as you are a great player. Mike Trout has only made the playoffs once with the Los Angeles Angels in which they were swept by the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 ALDS. Trout has never won a playoff game before and with the contract, Trout will likely finish his career as an Angel. Let’s not forget that the AL is stacked with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros while teams like the Rays and the Athletics are on the rise. For the next 5-6 years, it is going to be hard for the Angels to attract the right pieces for them to compete with the top-heavy league. The last time the Angels were in the upper echelon of the MLB was in 2009 when they lost in the ALCS to the Yankees. So I ask the question: Why win when you can be great and make near half a billion dollars?
The mindset of athletes at all levels has changed drastically. Being a team player has become obsolete and has been replaced for the love of the dollar bill. College athletes have the privilege of playing their favorite sport at a D-1 level, but it is not good enough for them as they seek and push for payment from the NCAA that they believe is “corrupt”. LeBron James is making $33 million for the next four years with the Lakers and he has not improved the team in terms of wins or chemistry at all. Gordon Hayward is making $29.7 million and is having the worst season of his career. NASCAR’s top teams are giving out quality cars to guys in their 20s with money and little experience, instead of those who have been racing for years waiting for that big break. Living in a capitalist society has corrupted the minds of this generation of athletes and it is only going to get worse. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Nolan Arenado are set to make a combined $1.32 billion with their contracts, which is more than the entire payroll of the Tampa Bay Rays($1.01 billion), a team looking to make the playoffs this year. Those four players have a combined playoff record with their teams of 22-35, with Trout never winning a playoff game, Arenado and Harper never winning a playoff series, and Machado being put on an already hot Dodgers team that lost the World Series last year.
Machado signed a big deal with the San Diego Padres, who have not made the playoffs since 2006. Harper signed with the Phillies, who have not made the playoffs since 2011. Arenado stayed with the Rockies, who have not won a playoff series since 2007. I am not saying that these players are making bad decisions. Hundreds of millions of dollars will secure financial stability for your family over several generations, but are they having fun on their teams while they lose? Does competition matter anymore for these players that play for non-competitive franchises? I feel like these players would rather win a home run derby or other skill challenges instead of going through a grueling 162-game schedule. If money is now put over the competition, then why do players these days not own a business? They would make great entrepreneurs, but no, they are athletes. The word “competes” is in the Oxford dictionary for “sport”. If winning is no longer the main motivation across sports, then what’s the point of having full seasons that culminate in one team winning a championship? Let’s just have individual skill competitions where athletes can show off how good they are and get paid hundreds of millions. What a strange generation we are in right now.