Occasionally, it just seems that the stars align and everything almost miraculously comes together. An unplanned trip to the grocery store results in a lottery ticket and suddenly a common everyday person living paycheck to paycheck becomes a millionaire.
Dr Spencer Silver was working at 3M trying to research strong adhesives. One of his failures stuck too lightly to surfaces and did not bond them. Years later another scientist came forward with an idea for this failure. A patent was developed and Post-its was invented.
This opportunity happened to Eric Byrnes in 2007. In his first ten years, he was an average outfielder. He played enough to generate a 2 million per year salary. However in 2007 while playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks, a struggling team, he had his best season ever. He had personal career highs in all offensive numbers. He batted .286 with 21 home runs and 83 RBIs. He had never stolen over 20 bases in one season but in 2007, he stole 50.
Simultaneously the Diamondbacks were suffering with poor attendance. For financial reasons they allowed their most popular player, Luis Gonzalez, to sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers, their hated rival. This further antagonized an already dissatisfied fanbase.
After 2007 Eric Byrnes was a free agent. Ownership was looking at losing their best player for 2007 and a fan favorite. They had no choice. Eric Byrnes, with only one good year out of 11 in the majors, was signed to a 3 year $30 million contract. Everyone in the league knew it was a tremendous overpayment. For Byrnes, the stars had just aligned.
The results for the Diamondbacks were instantly disastrous. In 2008, there were 2 torn hamstrings. Byrnes played in only 52 games, batting .229 with 6 home runs and 4 stolen bases.
In 2009, he broke his wrist. He played in 84 games batting .226 with 8 home runs and 9 stolen bases. He was released at the end of the season. The Diamondbacks had to pay the third year to a player who was not even on the team and did nothing to earn his contract. By the end of the 2010 season, Eric Byrnes was playing softball in a Phoenix pick up league. However the Diamondbacks were paying him $10 million.
Lottery ticket? Post-its? Eric Byrnes? Wealth unplanned and not earned but the checks still cash.