Men are simple. Sports are complicated.
Here's your cheat sheet.
An athlete is said to be in his “contract year” when his contract will expire at the end of the current season of play. This applies to the big four sports (baseball, basketball, football & hockey), but primarily baseball and basketball.
It’s often said with a bit of a sneer by sports fans, intended to indicate that athletes play harder when the chance for a new, pricier contract is on the line.
For example, slugger Albert Pujols’ contract with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team ended at the end of last season. So, last season was his contract year.
Pujols, who was with the Cardinals for 11 seasons, is now on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Yes, that’s really their name. Yes, yes, I know. Long and stupid. I know.). Last year, Albert hit 37 home runs in 147 games. That averages out to about one home run every four games. We’re about 30 games into the 2012 season and, so far, after receiving a fat contract that locks him up with the Angels for the next decade, Albert has hit one home run and is batting .190. This means that just about 80% of his turns at-bat result with him swinging the bat, and ending up back in the dugout afterward.
In a perfect world, I’d like to believe nobody would actually play lazy. Most of these guys play their hearts out because COME ON. IT’S THEIR DREAM. It’s the stuff little leaguers of any sport dream about in their pint-sized racecar-shaped beds. But the numbers — overall, not just in Albert’s case — do seem to indicate that athletes do better when a crap-ton of money is on the line. Seems like a bit of an ethical failure to this deflated fan.
Anyway, there’s your definition. Contract Year: the season after which a contract expires, during which time a player attempts to do his very best, in the hope of making more money with a new contract.
P.S. If this kind of thing interests you at the psychological level, may I suggest a long, but interesting, interview between sportswriter Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell on the subject of, among other things, why some player come to training camp every year overweight.
If you’re an outsider looking in on the sports world, terms like this will drive you nuts. It’s like ESPN invented their own language, and it’s much, much more widely spoken than, say, Esperanto.
This series examines a bunch of terms widely understood by sports lovers, ESPN analysts, the guys on the local news that talk about sports before the dorky weather dude with the map comes on, and the guy you sit next to on the couch, who occasionally lets one of these words slip out of his mouth like you know what the heck he’s talking about.
I don’t want to burn you ladies out on baseball — it is, generally speaking, a long season that often feels like a wasteland, and there are so many teams and games going on simultaneously, that I could pretty much fill your head with a lot of crap about Designated Hitters*, and trades and rookies and injuries and whatnot. But, in the interest of keeping you current enough to crack wise on the day’s major stories, I present to you another baseball-related installment of This Guy.
This guy is Josh Hamilton. And, like his arm says, he has priorities. He got these priorities after running face-first into drug and alcohol addiction. He got sober in 2005, prior to making it to the big leagues, but slipped up in 2009 and again in the 2011-2012 off-season. It’s the kind of thing where a handsome, extremely talented and seemingly nice guy makes these kinds of errors in judgment and the sports media kind of holds its breath hoping he won’t go the way of an athletic Lindsay Lohan.
Anyway, he apologized to his fans, his wife and his current team, the Texas Rangers (who play in Arlington, a suburb of Dallas) and went on to begin this season in a pretty awesome manner.
Tonight, he hit FOUR HOME RUNS. FOUR TWO-RUN HOME RUNS. Some math:
4 home runs x (1 man on base + Hamilton at plate=2 runs per home run) = 8 runs batted in (RBIs, sometimes called “ribbies”)
To give you some perspective on what an accomplishment like this means:
My cynical husband seems to think, as he sits here next to me critiquing my every written word, that Hamilton is going to have a great year, because his contract is up at the end of the 2012 season. (That’s a thing dudes seem to care about. We’ll touch back on that subject later.) Some simple math reveals that, if he were to play all 162 games that the Rangers will play this season, he’d hit 84 home runs. Since that is 11 more than has EVER been hit in a season, this is unlikely, but a good talking point if you feel like impressing some dudes who are boxing you out of their baseball conversation.
The dude-dominated sports blogs and ESPN are going nuts for this story, so expect to see it absolutely everywhere tomorrow.
*Designated Hitters are guys who don’t play a position on the field, they just come up to bat — the American League has them, the National League does not. The National League has their pitchers come up to hit instead.