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Votto, Cain worth $337.5M? They are till owners call them overpaid

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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The Reds sign Votto to 10-year, $225 million extension a year and a half before free agency. (US Presswire)  
The Reds sign Votto to 10-year, $225 million extension a year and a half before free agency. (US Presswire)  

In the past 24 hours, two baseball teams not named the Los Angeles Dodgers signed players to long-term contracts.

The San Francisco Giants, who would not be worth $2 billion if there were two of them, signed pitcher Matt Cain to a five-year contract that will pay a minimum of $112.5 million between 2013 and 2017.

Then the Cincinnati Reds, who would not be worth $2 billion if there were four of them, signed first baseman Joey Votto to a 10-year contract that will pay $225 million.

And everyone involved seemed delighted enough to hold press conferences and preen about their purchases to the public at large.

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Remember that when you next hear an owner say that salaries are out of whack, and that this next lockout is only seeking to fairly redress the near-criminal imbalance between salaries and income.

That will be when they're lying -- about the imbalance, about the cause and about the perpetrators.

Owners do this because they like looking like heroes to their customers. They do this because they think they're getting in ahead of the market. They do this because they have billionaires' envy.

But mostly they do it because they are making money hand over goat head, and can afford to pay their employees north of $20 million per year without ever having to wear the same pair socks on successive days.

Which is fine. If you've got it, flaunt it, even if your flaunting is of the human variety.

But it's never fine. Before most contracts expire, the owners are whining about how the players are overpaid malignants and how they haven't earned their money and how they are killing the future viability of the franchise and the game.

And that's the downside of long-term deals -- it allows billionaires extra time to complain they were snookered by players, who are just so much more clever than the owners. And since they are lying when they do this, the complaining is doubly obnoxious.

Joey Votto got paid because he was worth that to Bob Castellini. And Matt Cain got paid because he was worth that to Charlie Johnson. Period. It is no more complicated than that. If they wanted to, the owners could have said, "No, that's too much." But they didn't because, for them, it wasn't.

We aren't questioning their motives in signing the players with such magnificent sums. They made qualified judgments based on baseball value, and we much prefer that to any other reasoning.

But having done so, we now must insist on one thing if they decide down the road they no longer like those deals.

That they shut up. Seriously. Shut. And up. In that order.

And this goes for every mega-signing, from Pujols through Fielder to Votto. The owners can add, because they hired hundreds of calculator bearers to do so. They know what is going out, and they know what is coming back in, and they long ago learned how to hedge their bets.

In short, they spent it because they have it. Baseball may not be the national pastime, but it rakes in huge coin, and now that the Dodgers have been sold for more than twice the previous asking price, baseball will rake in even more. This is the land of milk and honey -- if your cows and bees are made of platinum.

So it is not too much to say, "We did it because we wanted to do it, we're glad we did it, and if later it turns out to be a mistake, we will not disavow our own actions. The players didn't make us give them money. We did it willingly, and cheerfully."

So they'd damned well better say it, especially when the next CBA comes due and the time comes to turn on the investments as a matter of strategy. Because when it comes to player contracts, it is always the owner's fault. That has always been true, and it always will be true.

In other words, shut. And yes, up. Enjoy your toys, fellas. And do so with dignity for a change.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast Sports Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com).

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