Every day, after I take my children to school, I grab my baseball glove and a hard rubber ball, and go out in the alley behind my house, and start throwing curves and sliders against the garage door. My plan is to get ready by April 1, then offer my services to major league baseball. I figure if I can put together a couple of 4-9 seasons, then two years from now, when I'm Nolan Ryan's age, I can earn $2.2 million. Matt "I Was 8-18, And Those Zany Boston Red Sox Think I'm Sandy Koufax" Young makes that. Why can't I?

Can you believe these baseball contracts?

Can you imagine the kind of bets Pete Rose would be able to make if he were still playing?

Of course Jim Palmer is trying to make a comeback. Underpants ads are fine, but the Yankees are paying Tim Leary $2 million for going 9-19. (You can't tell me whoever offered that contract wasn't on LSD.) The teeth-gnashing about George Steinbrenner wanting to get back into day-to-day baseball misses the point. He doesn't want to run the Yankees, he wants to play for them.

Take Roger Clemens's contract.

(I will. Please. Oh, pretty please with a cherry on top.)

Clemens, last seen modeling straitjackets for an upcoming issue of Psychiatric Monthly, will get paid more than $5.3 million a year by the Sawx. I appreciate that such numbers are hard for the average working stiff to comprehend; as Everett Dirksen once said about government spending, "Five million here, five million there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money." So to bring it down to an understandable level, assuming Clemens gets his average number of starts -- 34 -- that means he'll earn slightly more than $158,000 each time he goes to the mound in 1995. If Clemens lasts nine innings, it works out to about $1,000 per pitch. (If Terry Cooney's umping, it's $7,500 per pitch.) I'm slaving away here at less than a buck a word. Where did I go wrong?

Twenty years ago the grandiose salary to shoot at was $100,000. The batboys make that now. Sure, there's been inflation. In 1971, a nice pair of shoes cost $25. Now they're $100. Cars have rocketed up higher still. A nice car in 1971 went for $6,500. The basic 1991 Beemer runs $40,000. But baseball's top salary has gone up 50 times what it was. How can a father in good conscience tell his kid to put down that bat and ball, and come in and do his French homework? Did I miss something? Are translators at the U.N. signing multiyear, million-dollar deals?

As I write this, and be advised the toteboard is changing every hour, there are 37 baseball players -- most of them on the Red Sox -- making more than $3 million a year. (While you're eating Tuna Helper, right?) Not that $3 million is such a big deal. Bobby Bonilla shook his head at $3.75 million a year over four like it smelled bad. But it's not the superstars' salaries that are the true outrages. Someone named Jim Gott, who purportedly pitches for the Dodgers, is getting $1.75 million. A Mr. Ken Caminiti of Houston got a $425,000 raise for hitting .242 with four homers and 51 RBI. This is in American money, ladies and gentlemen.

Not that long ago you'd walk into a GM after hitting .242 with four homers and 51 ribbies and you'd take a huge pay cut -- and be happy you weren't shot. Nobody gets cut anymore. Roto League nightmare Lloyd McClendon just got a $50,000 raise for batting .164 last year. He should have held out for triple that. Jeff Ballard went 2-11, and got a $170,000 raise. Imagine what he could've gotten if he'd won three games.

The money is so large, so amazing, that we need a new statistical category to put it in perspective. Some years ago my colleague Tom Boswell came up with Total Average (T.A.), which quantifies all offensive production into one tangible figure. I propose adding salary plus endorsements and autograph income, then subtracting alimony, fees to divorce lawyers (you know who) and mistress upkeep (you know who too) for (T.I.) Total Income.

Day after day higher baseball salaries come whizzing by. Glenn Davis, who hasn't seen one pitch in the American League, just signed a one-year deal with the Orioles for $3.275 million, which is essentially just a good-faith gesture, a door prize, since the Orioles will now begin trying to sign Davis to a multiyear pact. Some of the cash-poorer clubs cannot hope to keep up with the cost of labor. Any day now I expect the Seattle Mariners to announce an austerity move where they'll scale back to a two-man outfield.

What can we conclude from these astronomical salaries?

1) This recession can't be that bad.

2) Owners are stupid. (Minnesota handed a potential windfall of $11 million over the next three years to Jack Morris, who'll be 36 in May, and is 21-32 his last two seasons. What's this, thanks for the memories? Who's the underwriter, Bob Hope?)

3) Boy, was Willie Mays born way too early.

You have to understand that once you hit the big money -- after three or four seasons batting .245 -- you'll continue to make the big money for years and years. Every year, whether you need it or not, another $2 million falls out of the sky and lands on your lawn. Better than Skylab, huh?

You like expensive cars? You want five Rolls-Royces? That still leaves you with $1 million. Even if you buy five new Rolls-Royces every year, the trade-in on the old ones is $750,000. How many CDs can you buy? With the money you have, M.C. Hammer will come to your house and sing live. What's expensive enough for these zillionaires? A Van Gogh? ("Hey bubba, I want the one with the two ears. This guy's on the DL.") Is the next generation of fine art collectors coming from the Milwaukee Brewers?

NOT INCLUDING INCENTIVES

Player, Club..................Avg. Sal.

a-Roger Clemens, Bos.........$5,380,250

Jose Canseco, Oak.............4,700,000

Darryl Strawberry, L.A........4,050,000

Don Mattingly, Yankees........3,860,000

b-Fred McGriff, S.D...........3,800,000

Will Clark, S.F...............3,750,000

Kevin Mitchell, S.F...........3,750,000

c-Dave Winfield, Cal..........3,750,000

d-Andre Dawson, Cubs..........3,700,000

Kelly Gruber, Tor.............3,667,000

Dave Stewart, Oak.............3,500,000

Tim Raines, White Sox.........3,500,000

Bob Welch, Oak................3,450,000

e-Brett Butler, L.A...........3,333,333

Kevin McReynolds, Mets........3,333,333

Nolan Ryan, Tex...............3,300,000

Glenn Davis, Balt.............3,275,000

e-George Bell, Cubs...........3,266,667

Mark Davis, K.C...............3,250,000

Willie McGee, S.F.............3,250,000

Ted Higuera, Milw.............3,250,000

Mark Langston, Cal............3,200,000

Robin Yount, Milw.............3,200,000

e-Bruce Hurst, S.D............3,200,000

Dennis Martinez, Mon..........3,166,667

f-Tom Browning, Cin...........3,120,833

Eric Davis, Cin...............3,100,000

Steve Sax, Yankees............3,100,000

Mike Boddicker, K.C...........3,083,333

Joe Carter, Tor...............3,066,667

Mike Greenwell, Bos...........3,062,500

Paul Molitor, Milw............3,033,333

Rickey Henderson, Oak.........3,000,000

Kirby Puckett, Minn...........3,000,000

Dennis Eckerlsey, Oak.........3,000,000

Bobby Thigpen, White Sox......3,000,000

Jack Morris, Minn.............3,000,000

a-includes $1.5 million buyout of '96 option.

b-includes $500,000 buyout of '95 option.

c-includes $450,000 buyout of '92 option.

d-includes $400,000 buyout of '92 option.

e-includes $500,000 buyout of '94 option.

f-includes $583,333 buyout of '95 option.