J.D. Drew was heartily greeted with a chorus of boos when he was introduced in Philadelphia last night, where the Boston Red Sox edged the Phillies, 6-5. That Philly fans showered a visiting player with catcalls is no surprise. These are the same fans that once booed Santa Claus at an Eagles game, after all. That they showed no love for Drew is no surprise either.
It was 10 years ago when Drew was the second overall pick of the MLB draft by the Phillies. He never signed. His agent, Scott Boras, took advantage of procedural errors the previous year that allowed Travis Lee and Matt White (both who have posted less-than-stellar big league numbers) to become free agents and sign for $10 million each. If Lee and White received $10 million, so should Drew, Boras argued. Drew returned to the draft in 1998, was chosen fifth overall by the St. Louis Cardinals and signed a month later. Philly has never forgiven him. Fueled by then Phillies starter Curt Schilling’s encouragement to vent their displeasure, fans treated Drew to a New York City environment in the City of Brotherly Love when he made his first trip to Veterans Stadium that August. He tripled, singled, scored a run and knocked in another. Fans threw D batteries at Drew. He must have felt like a Red Sox outfielder at Yankee Stadium.
As a fan, I understand the displeasure felt by Philly fans about the Drew situation, though nothing ever warrants the hurling of objects onto the field. Obviously, Sox fans saw first-hand how money can sometimes override integrity when Johnny Damon signed with the Yankees, despite vocally expressing that he would never play for them a year before.
As a journalist, I can see why professional athletes sign with the highest bidder. I am senior editor of OverTime Magazine, a national business and lifestyle magazine for and about professional athletes. The magazine contains travel and lifestyle features that depict these athletes’ glamorous lives, but the publication also offers an array of articles to help these same athletes effectively manage their money, make wise financial and business decisions during their careers, and prepare for life beyond professional sports.
Remember, the span of a professional athlete’s career is not everlasting. Though there are exceptions – like Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Bernie Williams, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken as a sampling – the average big leaguer plays no more than five to seven seasons, and your career can end in an instant due to injury. There is a small window to make those millions, and there are very few jobs that allow you to earn seven or eight figures. This is why I support athletes who choose to leave college early, or forgo it altogether, to play professional sports. The opportunity to earn a degree will be there long after the window of opportunity to make the big leagues closes. The small window also helps me understand why professional athletes leave one team for another if the dollars are there.
Actors, musicians and professional athletes make exorbitant amounts of money. Like acting and singing, playing a professional sport requires God-given talent. Unlike acting and singing, there is a limited time period where you can showcase your skills as a professional athlete. The next time you cringe after reading an article about a marginal pitcher like Gil Meche signing five year, $55 million deal or even a productive player like Drew inking a five year, $70 million contract, ask yourself this – would you take the same deal? Of course you would, and you would be thankful you did long after your playing days were over.