Inflation is a world-wide phenomenon, it affects every tiny sliver of our lives with widely varying consequences. What causes inflation? There are several factors: debt-to-earnings ratios, defaults, fluctuating currency values, and completely insane baseball owners.
Kevin Brown, Mike Hampton and Alex Rodriguez were the main benefactors of the last round of ludicrous spending. They received huge contracts, but at the time of signing, they were three of the best players in the game. By no means do names like Gil Meche, Ted Lilly and now Javier Vazquez carry the same kind of weight. This is the problem. The teams that went out and signed the superstars to those huge contracts in the late 90s could expect some bang for their buck. Fans were going to buy tickets because A-Rod was playing. Brown (if he wasn't a hypochondriac) could've led the Dodgers to a ring, Hampton...OK, Hampton was a bad move, but the Rockies absolutely had to overspend to get some kind of pitching into Denver.
Let me ask you this, Cubs fans out there, are you psyched that you have Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis? Are you $20M+ per year psyched? White Sox fans, is Vazquez the key ingredient in another run at the title? Absolutely not. Vazquez had a 4.84 ERA last year and finished 11-12. He did pitch 200+ innings, but is it worth $11.5M per year to have a guy go out there and be consistently bad?
Let's take a look at how quickly things have gotten out of hand: In 2005 (TWO YEARS AGO) Pedro Martinez was obviously the best pitcher on the market. The Mets signed him to a 4-year, $53M deal which a lot of people thought wasn't called for (myself included). $13M/year for the most dominant pitcher in the game. Gil Meche (55-44 lifetime with a 4.65 ERA) signed for $11M this winter.
How much would Sandy Koufax be worth in the today's financial environment? Or Bob Gibson? Actually, forget the greats and forget the hypotheticals, how much is Johan Santana worth? Barry Zito signed the most lucrative contract any pitcher has ever received, $126M over 7 years. Here are Zito's vitals next to Johan's.
Zito (28 years-old)
6 full seasons, 103-63 record, 3.55 ERA, 6.90 K/9, 1.29 WHIP, in one of the best pitcher's parks in the league.
Santana (27 years-old)
5 full seasons, 78-31 record, 3.20 ERA, 9.47 K/9, 1.12 WHIP, in one of the worst pitcher's parks in the league.
How much is this guy going to make on the free market? Will anyone other than the Yanks/Mets/Red Sox even be able to bid if/when he becomes a free agent? This year's free agent crop was thin, what happens when there are true superstars out there? A-Rod's $250M contract won't be the high-water mark for much longer at this rate. Of course, that's what he and Scott Boras are banking on.