Twins reliever Glen Perkins will undergo surgery on Thursday to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He’ll miss the rest of the season, but he hopes to be back in time for spring training next year.
Perkins penned a note to Twins fans keeping them up to date on his mindset as he prepares for surgery and the rehab process. It was very honest and considerate:
Perkins wrote, “Am I disappointed that I can’t contribute to our team this year while getting paid a sh*t ton of money? Yes, it makes me sick. Getting paid for not doing anything to help was the thing I feared most when I signed my contract. I didn’t want to be the overpaid guy.”
Some people just aren’t comfortable receiving anything, whether it’s money or a place to live or gifts, if they don’t feel like they’re earning it. It goes back a long way, probably related to the whole Protestant work ethic thing. Athletes in particular receive this message often, not just from the higher-ups from their teams, but from the fans and the media. It’s toxic.
Perkins’ teammate, Joe Mauer, has been a lightning rod for criticism since he signed an eight-year, $184 million contract in March 2010. Mauer battled injuries and a decline in performance due to a concussion suffered in 2013. He admitted he has been dealing with blurred vision stemming from that concussion. That didn’t stop Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press from accusing the former catcher of being brittle, sulking, and coddled. Mauer, now a first baseman, has had a resurgence this year, entering Wednesday night’s game batting .279/.378/.406, but he has still been the number one target for criticism among Twins fans and members of the media. It’s very likely Perkins is trying to avoid having to deal with angry fans and columnists questioning his level of effort for collecting a paycheck while injured.
While Perkins is not at all wrong to feel the way he does, it is dispiriting to see athletes feel badly about getting paid while injured. Team owners, the media (which often goes to bat for owners), and fans (who often inexplicably side with ownership) have created a culture in which this is fair game. Between 2011-15, Perkins racked up at least 57 innings and compiled an aggregate 2.84 ERA with 120 saves. He’s earning $6.3 million this season as well as $6.5 million next year before potentially hitting free agency. Last year, Major League Baseball had nearly $9.5 billion in revenues, as Maury Brown reported for Forbes this past December. With owners regularly bilking taxpayers out of more and more money to pay for unnecessary new stadiums, it’s incredible that a player earning $6.5 million could ever feel guilty of stealing money.
Earlier this month, Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall said he won’t “steal” money late in his career. He said, “Some players, they know they don’t got it anymore and their heart is not in it, and they still take the money. That’s taking advantage of your team.” He continued, “I get that it’s a business and get everything you want, but you’ve still got to hold yourself accountable and be accountable to your teammates. When I no longer have it, I’ll walk away.”
In baseball, players and teams agree to contracts — which are guaranteed, unlike the NFL — knowing that injuries are a possibility. It’s accounted for in negotiations. An oft-injured player who hits 40 home runs per season will command less money and fewer guaranteed years than a player who has been healthy while hitting 40 home runs a year. A player doesn’t owe his team, the media, or fans anything if he gets injured, and he should happily cash his paychecks for putting his body on the line on a daily basis.
Perkins’ sentiment is appreciated, but he owes it to current and future athletes to stand up for himself and get paid while injured.