Gene Collier's All-Overpaid Team

Here's a starting lineup that gives new meaning to the term 'cashing in'

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The April timing wasn't the best, but the simple sentiment packed such powerful truth that it still reverberates as the 2007 baseball season wobbles to its halfway point today.

The source was Ryan Freel, the hustling if otherwise fairly nondescript center fielder/utilityman of the futility-ravaged Cincinnati Reds, who upon signing a two-year, $7 million extension of the contract that pays him a mere $2.3 million for this season, said "I hate to say it, but I'm overpaid."

Hey don't beat yourself up over it.

I mean, Ryan, take a look around.

Freel was hitting .243 when he said that, but, again, it was only April, and soon Ryan would join many of his colleagues in baseball's sinfully luxurious if not terribly exclusive Overpaid Lounge, sometimes called the disabled list. It is here that the game's unspeakably overcompensated tend to congregate, to rub surgically repaired elbows with the likes of Carl Pavano, the undisputed prototype of undeserved swag.

Two-and-half years into a four-year, $40 million deal he signed with the New York Yankees, Pavano has won five games, or one more than Chien-Ming Wang won in June for part of $489,000. Pavano is expected to miss the rest of this season after developing some forearm stiffness, having missed all of last season, and most of 2005 as well.

The perpetually injured were not eligible for inclusion on our all-overpaid team because it's hard to beat money for nothing (even with chicks for free), but now that we've made it to July and can draw some conclusions regarding the performances of players who are mostly, you know, on the field, it's time for discredit where discredit is due.

Though it's hard to overpay a pitcher with 349 career wins, the Yankees had no difficulty. Roger Clemens will make more money for pitching 65 percent of this season (an estimated $18.2 million) than any pitcher in baseball. The Yankees had no compunctions about paying him the prorated portion of a $28 million salary to stabilize a rotation wrecked by arm trouble.

Clemens has one win in his first month on the job, but only if you count beating the Pirates. At about $9,000 per pitch, he's king of the overpaid.

No one is more financially qualified to catch the Rocket, as you might expect, than former Pirate Jason Kendall, who still is getting $5.5 million annually from the Pirates. That's more than any Pirate is getting from the Pirates three years after Kendall left town. Add his take from the Oakland vault, and you get a total salary of some $12.9 million. That's some sticker price for a good work ethic and baseball attitude, because that's about all the A's get. Unless they want to count, as the weekend arrived, the nine extra-base hits in 251 at-bats, the .215 average, or the one homer.

Our most-overpaid first baseman is Carlos Delgado, even though the New York Mets are actually paying him $1 million less than the Seattle Mariners are laying out for Richie Sexson ($15.5 million). But unlike Delgado, Sexson still looks like he might hit 30 homers and drive in 90 runs, despite having more strikeouts than hits. Delgado, who's getting $14.5 million, limped to the weekend with two more RBIs than Adam LaRoche ($3.2 million).

It would likely be insensitive (like that ever stopped us) to put Craig Biggio on this team with all the deserved hoopla associated with his Hall of Fame-clinching 3,000th hit still throbbing, but that $5.15 million to hit .250 is certainly an eye-catcher. Fortunately, the $9.8 million the Los Angeles Dodgers are paying Jeff Kent to do essentially the same thing, but with fewer extra-base hits, puts Jeff in our starting lineup.

It's probably only because I can't believe the Dodgers would pay nearly $24 million for a shortstop-second base combo that includes Rafael Furcal and get virtually nothing for it that I'm not putting Furcal on this team, too. He is saved only by the sickly .190 Julio Lugo has been hitting for Boston while making $8.25 million. At least Furcal, for $13.7 million, is hitting a squishy .272.

Third base was a windfall hair pull between Seattle's Adrian Beltre and the St. Louis' Scott Rolen, both of whom are making just less than $13 million. Rolen won it because he had only four homers at the weekend, three less than Jose Bautista ($397,000), whose OPS was 56 points higher.

Competition for three starting overpaid outfield spots was thick with highly regarded "talent." Johnny Damon ($13 million for 13 stolen bases and .250), Andruw Jones ($14 million .199 and 21 more strikeouts than hits), and Carlos Beltran ($13.7 million for .266 and no more RBIs than LaRoche) all made stellar bids, but the first team is Bobby Abreu ($15 million for four homers, 20 extra-base hits in 290 at-bats), J.D. Drew ($14 million for .251 and six homers among 17 extra-base hits), and Pat (The Bat?) Burrell ($13.25 to hit .203 with eight homers).

Among a thunderous heard of overpaid relievers, Armando "I did my job" Benitez stands out with a salary of $9.7 million, which is working out to more than $1 million per save to this point.

This column could entertain debate on the most-overpaid designated hitter, but before any of that might start, let's just point out that Jason Giambi's steroid-established salary reached $23.4 million for 2007 and that Yankees manager Joe Torre, asked what he thought triggered New York's modest streak of competence in mid-June, credited not a visit by the Pirates, but the exit of Giambi to the disabled list.


Ca$h Pig$ of 2007
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