Thom Loverro: It's time for baseball to cash in on contract disparity with NFL

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Major League Baseball should use the last week of March as a recruiting tool to get young star athletes to pursue baseball as their career.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander signed a seven-year, $180 million contract -- the richest contract in baseball history for a pitcher, until another one is signed within the next year, and then that player will have the richest contract for a pitcher in baseball history.

Verlander's arm could blow out tomorrow and his career could be over, and he will get paid every single penny.

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey -- who missed most of 2011 after suffering a fractured fibula and torn ankle ligaments in a home plate collision -- signed a nine-year, $167 million contract with a club option in 2022 -- yes, that's 2022 -- that reportedly could add another $19 million to the deal.

Posey could get run over again at home tomorrow and his career could be over, and he will get paid every single penny.

The same week, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo signed a contract that made him the highest paid player in franchise history -- a six-year extension reportedly worth about $108 million.

Now, no one is going to have to hold a bake sale for Romo some day, but the fact is that only $55 million of that amount is guaranteed. If Romo gets hurt in the fourth year of the deal, the Cowboys don't owe him a dime of what would likely be another $50 million owed him in the rest of the contract.

Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be football players.

Don't let them wear helmets and wind up in court.

Teach them the curveball and slider and such.

Baseball needs to get down to the bone in the battle for the hearts and minds of young athletes in this country, a battle they have been losing for decades now to football. And now is the time to do it, with football reeling from the concussion controversy and parents in America reevaluating the decision to let their children play football.

Basketball has guaranteed contracts too, but there are far more jobs in baseball than there are in the NBA. And if you are fortunate enough to sign a $180 million deal like Justin Verlander did, it is money that you can count on for generations, whether you remain healthy or not.

Baseball should use the example of pitcher Johan Santana, who in 2008 signed a six-year, $137 million contract with the New York Mets. He missed all of 2011 recovering from shoulder surgery, pitched in just 21 games last season and is now done again, requiring a second surgery. Yet the Mets still have to pay Santana $31 million for this year and for the buyout of his contract.

If Santana was the quarterback of the New York Jets, they wouldn't owe him a penny.

Baseball needs to reach out and talk straight cash.

Examiner

columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Thom Loverro

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The Washington Examiner