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Ron Cruger
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           It was a minor story on an inside page of the sports section. The Association Press reported that Milwaukee Brewer first baseman Prince Fielder agreed to a $15.5 million dollar contract to play in 2011. Last year Fielder hit a somewhat anemic .261 with 32 homers and 83 RBIs. Last year Fielder made $11.25 million. The Brewer first baseman is 5’ 11” tall and weighs 285 pounds. There are other astronomical salaries besides the outlandish $15.5 million paid to Prince Fielder. Josh Hamilton of the Texas team asked for $12 million (he was offered $8.7 million). Boston pitcher Jonathan Papelbon settled for $12 million dollars pay for 2011. Texas lefthander C.J. Wilson signed for $7 million dollar pay for next season.
          Think of it. A mediocre first baseman hitting .261 the year before being offered a salary of $15.5 million dollars for the following year. So far Fielder’s lifetime batting average is but .279.
          For a comparison, let’s use the achievements of one George Herman “Babe” Ruth. In one year, 1923, Ruth’s season batting average was .393. That year he hit 41 home runs and drove in 131 runs. Ruth, “The Sultan of Swat,” has a lifetime batting average of .342. In 1927 he set the home run record of 60 round trippers. Add to these numbers The Babe’s pitching statistic (yes, he was an outstanding left handed pitcher) of 94 wins and only 46 losses and an earned run average of a remarkably low 2.28.
          Times change, inflation sets in, sure, but Ruth’s highest annual paycheck was $80,000. If, by some type of “wormhole” magic “Babe” Ruth had his 1923 year in 2010 he could have asked for $50 to $60 million dollars for his yearly salary.
          To further envision the exchange of money between the Brewers ownership and Prince Fielder, his 2011 paycheck will bring him $9259.00 every time he walks on the diamond. As many dollars are involved with Prince Fielder, take a swig of Maalox and consider the earnings of one current NY Yankee star, Alex Rodriguez. In 2011 the Yankee third baseman will grab a check for $25,000,000 for his efforts. Translated, Alex will receive over $154,000.00 for each game of the 2011 season.
          As in many other areas of life today, we have gone completely bonkers, nuts, deranged, unbalanced, balmy, dippy and batty. Do you think that a few years hence there’s a chance in Hades that Fielder, Hamilton, Papelbon or Wilson will ever be nominated for Baseball hall of Fame induction? Not a chance. In the meantime, our teachers, police, school teachers and doctors struggle to make ends meet. It’s all part of our national absurdity.
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          And while we’re on the subject of insane, daft and unbalanced actions let’s think about the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of cities, counties and states across our fair land that are operating in the red and considering bankruptcy. Perhaps the principal reason for the governmental red ink is the quiet, whispered formulation of retirement benefits to existing and retired employees.
          A non-attentive populace ignored the sub rosa formulation of retirement programs that, in some cases, provided retirement funds for ex-employees that exceeded their regular employment pay. Some of these retirees earn more retired than they did working.
          Millions of Americans were closely checking the daily values of their portfolios instead of spending a few moments a month watching the clandestine actions of the politicians in their area.
          Maybe, as we find libraries closing, policemen taken off the streets and firefighters laid off we will learn to pay more attention to what’s going on with our elected officials. It all starts with our tax money. Underline the OUR.
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           The newspaper headline was, “Over 1 million seen losing homes in 2011.” In 2010 a record one million homes in America were lost to their owners. One in every 45 U.S. households received a foreclosure notice last year. Approximately five million borrowers are at least two months in arrears on their mortgages currently. For the most part the states that will suffer the most foreclosures are the same ones that in past years saw the biggest housing booms – Nevada, Arizona, Florida and California.
          Our national fiscal dementia has touched not only baseball payrolls and distorted pension and retirement programs but it has reached far into the basics of the American dream – of owning one’s own home.
          Hopefully, between our government and the banking system, relief can be obtained for at least some of the one million families that will find their homes being taken from them this year.