A certain segment of comic book fans must be loving the start of the 2008 Major League Baseball season.
Allow me to explain.
In the early 1960s, DC introduced the concept of “Bizarro World” to their comics universe. The idea was a simple one: what would happen in a parallel universe where everything was a mutated version of Earth?
Sure, you would have a Superman, but he wouldn’t fight for truth, justice, and the American way. Bizarro Superman would be dark and sinister. Likewise, Bizarro Lois Lane would be cruel—and a terrible reporter.
In Bizarro World, smashing mirrors, for example, would give you seven years of good luck. The planet itself is square. And the Kansas City Royals would be leading the American League Central.
Sure, it’s still very early in the season, but take a look at the standings. The Royals sit atop the Central division while the Detroit Tigers are winless through six games.
(In case you missed it, the Tigers were picked by Sports Illustrated to win the World Series. And ESPN calls Detroit’s lineup “the most feared in the game.”)
If that wasn’t enough, the Baltimore Orioles are the top team in the AL East while the N.Y. Yankees and Boston Red Sox toil away at the bottom of the division.
(SI had picked the Orioles to finish a full 30 games back).
Over in the National League, things aren’t any better. The defending NL champion Colorado Rockies are sitting at the bottom of the NL West while the Philadelphia Phillies are in the same position in the East.
And while things certainly will sort themselves out over the course of 162 games, the first week of play has been baffling.
As of Monday, that “feared” Detroit offence had produced a mere 15 runs. Adding insult to injury, the four highest-paid Tigers had combined for four RBIs.
In fact, it seems the size of your paycheque has nothing to do with the quality of your play over the first week of the season. The leader in batting average (White Sox catcher AJ Pierzynski) isn’t among the top 50 player salaries.
One of the players tied for the early home run lead is a former pitcher. Co-RBI leader Xavier Nady of the Pittsburgh Pirates makes less than the league average.
Speaking of baseball contracts, you may be surprised to find out what perks some players have written into their deals.
Major League Baseball contracts are full of strange clauses that usually go unreported, but a little digging raises some interesting insights into the personal lives of players.
Blue Jays’ pitcher AJ Burnett, for instance, signed five-year deal worth $55 million back in 2005. In addition to the cash, Burnett’s contract called for a car service that allowed his wife to attend eight home games in Toronto.
Of course, his wife lives nine hours away in Maryland. But that didn’t stop the Jays from offering round-trip limousine service to their new starting hurler.
Of course, compared to the travel clauses other players have agreed upon, the Jays come off looking thrifty. The Seattle Mariners should be cashing in on frequent-flyer miles as Ichiro Suzuki and Kenji Johjima have a combined 16 first-class, round-trip tickets to Japan each season.
The M’s also provide interpreters and trainers for both players, as well as English lessons for Johjima’s wife.
And while some players need a car or plane, others just need to do some heavy lifting. For winning his start in the 2005 NLCS, Houston Astros’ pitcher Roy Oswalt took home a brand new bulldozer, courtesy of Astros’ owner Drayton McLane.
Finally, heavy lifting is just what Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is hoping to avoid. No. 38 can make an extra $2 million per year if he maintains his weight during the season.
Schilling is paid $333,333 when he stays below a set number in each of his six weigh-ins during the regular season.
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