Probably the one thing we common folk cannot comprehend about professional athletes is the amount of money they make. When salaries are broken down and we hear how higher paid athletes are paid by game, by home run, by touchdown pass or even by free throw, it’s just too much to fathom.
The three pro teams in Atlanta are laden with players that are overpaid. There is no doubt that the Braves, Falcons and Hawks have handed out some bad contracts in their day. And when you realize how bad they are, you know how bad contracts can paralyze an organization.
The Braves handed Derek Lowe a four-year contract three years ago. They were desperate for starting pitchers after watching Jorge Campillo and Buddy Carlyle make starts in 2008. Lowe was a veteran pitcher who could eat up innings, which was what the team needed. But what they did not need was to give him a fourth year in the deal.
Lowe was 35 years old when he signed with Atlanta. Three years would have been enough, but the Braves believed the only way to get him was to offer the fourth year.
Well, the results were just not there. Lowe was 40-39 in three seasons with Atlanta before they traded him to Cleveland on Halloween. He had a 4.57 ERA, and at the end of 2011 everyone cringed when he was scheduled to start.
The Braves had to pay Cleveland $10 million to take Lowe off their hands. That’ll save them $5 million for 2012. That was about the best they were going to do to get Lowe gone.
So that means they’ll pay Lowe $55 million for three years and only 40 wins and a bad ERA. You do the math.
The Braves have handed out other bad contracts. Giving Kenshin Kawakami $22 million over three years was stupid. How about giving Chipper Jones the big contract, knowing he was going to be paid $14 million in the season when he turned 40 years old?
The Falcons’ worst contract belongs to cornerback Dunta Robinson. He was brought in to be a shutdown player in the secondary. He was paid to be an All-Pro, but in the first two years of his six-year contract Robinson has been anything but that.
Robinson’s contract included a $7 million signing bonus. His yearly numbers total $42 million, with another $8 million in additional bonuses.
You tell me, in the first two years of this contract, has Robinson looked like a player that gets about $9.5 million per season?
Thankfully, the Falcons can cut ties with him, although the salary cap hit could be awfully hard to absorb. So for right now, they are stuck with Robinson and can only hope he can play better with a new defensive coordinator in his ear for 2012.
The worst contract in Atlanta is Joe Johnson’s deal with the Hawks. He’s paid $18 million this season, the 10th highest salary in the entire NBA.
Johnson is paid more than Miami’s big three (LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh), Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul. And that’s the only way he’ll ever be mentioned in the same breath with those players.
The Hawks signed Johnson to a six-year deal. The owners thought if they let Johnson go they’d give the impression they were not trying to keep the team competitive. Instead, they were the only ones who believed the deal was a good one.
Johnson was 29 when he signed his deal, so in the final year of the contract he’ll be 35 years old. Is he really going to be able to be worth the $20 million they’ll pay him in the 2015-2016 season?
The answer is no. Johnson is a nice player, a good player. But he is not great. It was an awful decision, and it’s a horrible contract that will handicap this franchise the next four years.
And we wonder why these teams can’t win a title? Until they make better choices on players and on contracts, they’ll continue watching other teams play for championships.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com.