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Are Talented Players Necessarily Good Investments?

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Over the past few decades, we have seen an astronomical rise in professional athletes’ salaries. For example, during the 1960’s the minimum wage for a baseball player was $6,000, while the league average was somewhere in the ballpark of $19,000. Now, however, players with the most meager of salaries make about as much as the President of the United States. As a result of the jump, the league average is now roughly $1.5 million.

Now, I’m not here to question whether or not players actually deserve the salaries they receive. After all, this is America. We are capitalists. Enough said. However, when it comes to spending so much money on one player, it is vastly important to choose the right kind of player. Otherwise, a team may as well flush the money right down the toilet.

So, what kind of player is a good investment? Well, obviously the player needs talent. If a professional organization is going to shell out upwards of a million dollars, the player better be capable of performing. But, is that it? Can a player be immensely talented and be a good investment? Maybe. Take a look at the following players and tell me what the link is between them.

Rafael Palmeiro, Darryl Strawberry, Steven Jackson, Michael Vick, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson and half of the Cincinnati Bengals’ team.

The common characteristic is that each of these players is very, very good at playing his respective sport. However, there is another common characteristic; and that is each of these players has had off-the-field problems of one type or another. Rafael Palmeiro had a steroids scandal. Darryl Strawberry struggled with a drug addiction. Steven Jackson, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson and the Bengals have all run into trouble with the law. As a result of these improprieties, every single one of these players has all been out of commission for a lengthy period at one time or another. Essentially, when they have off-the-field problems, they are being paid for nothing. Furthermore, these types of players drag their team’s name through the mud and give them a questionable reputation. Any good investor will tell you that if you don’t earn a return on your investment, you made a bad decision and should change your tactics.

So, what change in tactics should recruiters implement? Well, in my opinion, recruiters need to look for talent as well as character. Take Derek Jeter for example. He is a stand-out player and a stand-up person off the field. Even though Jeter earns a lot of money, he is worth the investment. If recruiters would focus on both talent and character, they would have better results.

Nishan Wilde is VP of Sales at Robbins Sports and Athletics, an online provider of athletic apparel and equipment, featuring Gym Bags and Portable Scoreboards.