It’s our right to watch professional athletes and criticize them based on what we perceive as poor performance. We feel it’s our right, not because of freedom of speech or anything like that, but because we invest so much in these athletes that we feel they owe us their very best every time out. No one said that’s fair but to whom much is given, much is required.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and when fans criticize, or decide they don’t like an athlete, they expect everyone to see it their way and share their same opinion. When that doesn’t happen, they go into attack mode of the “defender”. For instance, I’ve often been referred to as a Nick Markakis apologist. That opinion is based on the fact that I try to only use facts when discussing him.

Markakis is an outstanding right fielder. You can argue if he’s lost a step in the outfield or whether or not he covers as much ground as he once did, but the point is, he’s still an outstanding right fielder.

Many believe the six year/$66 million contract extension he signed before the 2009 season was too much for a guy who hit .271 with 10 homers and 59 RBI in 2013. What you have to add to that is 2013 was the worse year of his career. Not bad for that to be the cellar. There are players who’ve made that or more with .271 not even representing their career average.

Ladies and gentlemen, can I present to you Brett Gardner? The 30 year old outfielder signed a four year/$52 million extension that doesn’t kick in until 2015. While Gardner’s value is his ability to steal bases, he has a career batting average of .268. Gardner, like Markakis, has never represented his team in an All-Star game but unlike Nick, Gardner has no Gold Gloves.

Shin-Soo Choo has a career batting average of .288 and averages 19 home runs a year. He signed a seven year/$130 million contract with the Texas Rangers at the age of 31. The Rangers owe Choo $42 million dollars in the final two years of the contract. Choo’s contract doesn’t expire until he’s 37.

Nick Markakis’ numbers have declined, there’s no denying that. However, in today’s Major League Baseball economy, it’s difficult to say he’s overpaid. Besides, baseball has no salary cap. Baltimore Ravens fans believe Joe Flacco’s contract may have prevented the team from signing or retaining other players. What has Markakis’ contract cost the O’s? Were there really personnel decisions made based on what the Orioles owed Nick Markakis? So the O’s don’t pay Markakis $66 million over six years and they get what instead?

I don’t get it and I will admit it. I don’t understand how that contract was so absurd. It allowed the team to put a rock solid professional hitter in right field as well as one of the better defensive players at his position for six more years while they could address other issues. If Markakis falls to .265 this year and his other offensive numbers continue to decline, then they move on and sign someone else. Maybe they re-sign Nelson Cruz for three more years and put him out there. Maybe they go the free agency route and sign Melky Cabrera or Jonny Gomes. Maybe they can talk Colby Rasmus into changing outfield positions if the Toronto Blue Jays don’t keep him around. Who knows, maybe Delmon Young rips it up this year and he becomes the right fielder for the next four or five years for the team.

Or, maybe, just maybe, Nick Markakis puts together a typical Nick Markakis .290 plus year, hits 15 long balls and drives in 70-75 runs while playing a stellar right field and the Orioles decide to keep him around for awhile. What is so bad about that?

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