Gene Collier: A bad weekend for one percenters in sports
March 2, 2016 12:00 AM
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole fields a ground ball this week during a workout at spring training.
By Gene Collier / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Along with this week’s announcement that the NFL’s salary cap for 2016 has been set at $155,270,000 per team, the past-tense form of a most intriguing little verb turned up in the relevant computations that yielded such an opulent number.
The cap, which has increased in every season under the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011, would have been set at around $153 million for this season, up from $143 million last year, but the NFL was found to have “misplaced” $50 million that should have been plugged into the formula.
This could easily happen.
“Honey, did you see that cash I had on the dresser?
“Was $50 million I think; did you move it?”
Blessedly, an arbitrator found it, at least effectively, ruling late last week that in addition to all the league’s revenues subject for inclusion in calculating the cap, an additional $50 million the union said all along should have been included, in fact, shall be included.
The arbitrator didn’t say the league hid the money or even tried to hide the money, only that it had been misplaced.
So this is the kind of dough the NFL is playing with around the Park Avenue boardrooms, and while the league was “misplacing” $50 million and while the Oscars swag bag was coming in at $230,000 worth of free stuff for people making $20 million-plus per film, and while Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole was telling the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review it was “hard to accept,” that his performance last year did not result in an increase in his gross compensation of $541,000, well, let’s just say this wasn’t the best week ever for the one percenters, at least when it comes to public relations.
Now Cole is a nice young man and a smart enough guy that I’m going to resist the temptation to call stupid any inclination to gripe publicly about at least $1,082,000 in Pirates paychecks over the past two seasons in a county where half the people his age make less than $47,972.
I’ll say only that Cole, to bend an arbitrator’s phrase, misspoke, and that many of the fans whom he noted praised his performance last year might very well have found it “hard to accept” that in the win-or-go-home wild-card game against the Chicago Cubs, Cole allowed six hits, a walk, and four earned runs across five shaggy innings on a night the Cubs won easily.
Maybe had he won that night, and three or four more nights as October progressed, the Pirates might have taken a different tact.
Apparently Cole’s not content to wait for the day when he’ll earn roughly $1 million per start, and though that’s not far off, should he continue to pitch to his capacious capabilities, it will certainly be in another uniform. For the moment it sounds like he can’t wait to turn into Yoenis Cespedes, the free agent the New York Mets managed to retain for $75 million over the next three years.
Cespedes has pretty much dominated spring training news to this point with an array of ostentatious vehicles he has brought to camp, by riding a horse in the parking lot, and most recently by reportedly purchasing a grand champion hog at a county fair in Florida for $7,000.
I mean what kind of sorry hog could Cole purchase given the current constraints?
Before he becomes arbitration eligible and then enters free agency, Cole’s best option for conspicuous consumption might be to finagle himself a gig as an Oscar presenter, even if it’s unclear what he would do with what Slate reported was a $19,000 Vampire Breast Lift for a perk. The $900 toilet paper dispenser seemed practical by comparison.
In this season of excess, it has become pretty difficult for the mass audience to determine who the villains are. Take the NFL’s Washington franchise, owned by Dan Snyder, whose worth Forbes estimated this week at $2.1 billion. According to multiple reports, Snyder’s team is suing former Pitt linebacker H.B. Blades because it mailed him one too many $40,000 checks. Blades got a $40,000 bonus he was due, then a mistaken second check for the same amount that he was not owed, and is alleged to have been slow to give it back.
Perhaps he misplaced it.
Snyder needs the money to help defray the cost of a quasi-semi-sort-of-decent quarterback. Kirk Cousins, who made an almost Gerrit Cole-like $660,000 last year while leading Washington to the playoffs, will reportedly make $19.95 million this fall now that he has been designated the club’s franchise player.
As Cousins might scream, “You like that!?”
For a guy who has started 26 NFL games and won 11 of ’em?
That cash might one day be thought of as misplaced.
Gene Collier: email@example.com and Twitter @genecollier.
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