Answer Man: Why should athletes get paid so much when they don't produce?

News-DemocratAugust 10, 2013 

Can you tell me why professional athletes continue to draw their astronomical salaries even when they don't produce or get sick or injured? Their salary should be based on performance. Albert Pujols is a prime example. -- Ray Aycock, of Columbia

Simple: It's usually in their contract.

Think about it. Let's say you're Sam Bradford and you've labored for years at Oklahoma, earning a ton of accolades, including a Heisman as a redshirt sophomore. The St. Louis Rams are salivating over you. Do you really think your agent would let you sign your first contract that said you'll get gazillions of dollars -- unless you get injured?

Get real. You packed Memorial Stadium in Norman as O.U. pulled in the big bucks. Now it's your turn to reap the rewards, and you're not going to let a potential fluke injury on the first play in your first pro practice derail the gravy train before it even leaves the station.

So while you may think these astronomical, multiyear A-Rod type contracts are ridiculous, as long as owners are going to open their wallets, agents are going to demand them.

In general, players in the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball get their guaranteed compensation, so Pujols likely will get his $240 million no matter what. The NFL is a bit different in that it offers a certain guaranteed portion, but can hedge a bit by offering another portion based on injury, skill level and team salary cap. (Players, of course, try to get as much guaranteed as possible.)

A few final notes: Owners might stipulate that they will withhold salary if a player is injured in an activity outside his or her sport so they wouldn't have to pay a big star after, say, a daredevil motorcycle accident or punching a fist into a concrete wall. Some teams also may buy insurance to pick up some of the salary costs in the event of injury. Of course, pay might be withheld if a player is suspended for conduct unbecoming.

Just curious: He'll probably never make the Baseball Hall of Fame, but what has Pete Rose been up to recently? I've lost track. -- C.F., of O'Fallon

Now 72, Charlie is still hustlin', but his latest attempt for a home run turned into a big strikeout.

While separated from his second wife, Rose hit it off with Kiana Kim, a Playboy model. So, in 2012, he figured what better way to improve his image and get back into the limelight than with a reality show with Kim.

Last Jan. 13, the TLC network launched "Pete Rose: Hits and Mrs." with six episodes designed to show people in the public eye trying to blend families with older children (Rose has four). The first episode even showed Rose taking Kim and her two kids to the Hall of Fame, but refusing to go in himself.

The premiere drew only 780,000 curious viewers and it was downhill from there. The final two episodes were shown Feb. 17 during a Sunday morning marathon on sister channel Destination America. Compared to the last episode of Honey Boo Boo, which lured 3 million watchers, some might call it a Charlie Error.

During a recent Cardinals game, it was announced that we have armed forces stationed in 175 countries. Can that really be true? -- Sam, of Shiloh

Yes, it can -- but it's not what you probably imagine when you think of troop deployment. Not by a long shot.

I'm betting you're picturing large contingents in each of those countries, such as the 53,500 we had in Germany, the 36,700 in Japan and the 10,800 in Italy as of early 2012, according to the latest Department of Defense active duty troop strength statistics its site would allow me to pull up. And, of course, we had 102,000 in and around Afghanistan and another 50,000 at that time around Iraq.

But those are the exceptions. In only 27 other countries and territories did we have 100 or more troops deployed and in only six of those did we have 1,000 or more.

In fact, in more than a third of the countries (65) we had 10 or fewer personnel, including Libya and Gabon with one each. So while we do have 1.5 million troops scattered from Albania to Zimbabwe, they're not exactly in the numbers that launched D-Day.

Answer to Saturday's trivia: Lew Wallace's "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ" flew off the shelves as a book and a stage adaptation packed theaters for 25 years. A movie blockbuster seemed a no-brainer. But when they started to film the silent version in 1923, they ran into nothing but trouble. Directors and stars were replaced, and, in 1925, filming was moved from Rome to Los Angeles. It didn't help that they reportedly shot 200,000 feet of film for the legendary chariot race, which was edited down to 750 feet. Final total: $3.9 million, making it the most expensive silent film ever made -- until "The Artist" in 2011, which cost an estimated $15 million.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 239-2465.

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