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The price of happiness

Mark Teixeira said he wanted to stay in Atlanta. This was, after all, where he came to play college ball, where his wife calls home, where he could play for the venerable Bobby Cox and protect the esteemed Chipper Jones, where he could rest assured that every year his bat would be needed for a push in the playoffs.

He told the media that he wanted to end his career here in Georgia, don a Braves uniform until his body told him no more and slide into the oblivion of retirement. Teixeira wanted the Braves to make him an offer he couldn't refuse this season and was disappointed they didn't.

Fact is, though, they couldn't. Some think Teixeira, making $12.5 million this year and a free agent after the season ends, could command a contract worth $20 million a year. Such is life in baseball dealing with Scott Boras clients. The Braves can't afford that.

But what if Teixeira meant it when he said he wanted to end his career in Atlanta? What if it was expected of a happy and content baseball player already making more money than the President of the United States and dozens of soldiers and fire fighters combined to feel capable of living off of $12.5 million a year?

This is the sports culture that has spawned in America. One in which most athletes give more loyalty to the dollar than to a franchise that allows them to play a game for millions.

After Teixeira fulfills his two month sentence with the Los Angeles Angels to bring them a world championship, he will enter the alluring waters of free agency and watch the salary numbers soar as the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and other major market teams bid for the switch-hitter. The first number is already out there: 10 years for $230 million.

And meanwhile the news will be drowned with recession, job loss and poor housing markets. Meanwhile soldiers will fight in Iraq and elsewhere, some coming home with less of them than they brought.

But meanwhile NFL rookies will hold out of training camp for more money and athletes in every sport will choose their next home based on whether their contract can afford them that new mansion, the kinds that Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson no longer can afford. They no longer have any of that money, the kind that Pete Rose used to gamble away.

In the history of sports greed isn't unprecented. After the Yankees won the 1936 World Series, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio each had contract disputes.

Gehrig, the reigning MVP, wanted $50,000 and the Yankees wouldn't pay more than $31,000. DiMaggio, who won the Rookie of the Year that season, rejected a $15,000 offer by the Yankees brass.

We look at these men with more reverance than most presidents, but even they felt they were worth a price. DiMaggio eventually signed for $17,500 and would have several contract disputes in the future. Gehrig accepted $36,000 with a $750 signing bonus, making him the richest player in baseball at the time.

So now Teixeira goes looking for his price. You can only hope $20 million can make up for the solace of home and comfort. There shouldn't be a price for that.

Brian Paglia is a sports writer for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. His column appears on Friday's. He can be reached at bpaglia@news-daily.com