By Andy Young
Special to The Windham Eagle
The collective bargaining agreement between the Major League Baseball Players Association and the owners of MLB’s 30 teams expired on Dec. 1, at which point management decided to lock out the players. This strategy, which is allowable under federal labor law and creates the equivalent of a strike, has created the industry’s (reality check: professional baseball is a business, not a sport) first labor impasse in almost 27 years.
I’m struggling with how to react to this. I grew up obsessed with baseball. I played the game as a youth, coached it as a young adult, and still umpire Little League games. I earned a modest living working in professional baseball’s minor leagues for nearly 15 years and enjoyed every minute of it. I have good friends who played in the major leagues, and my baseball career was aided and abetted by more ballclub management people than I can count. It’s fair to say any success I’ve had in my life is at least partially attributable to my involvement with baseball.
But before taking an emotion-driven, knee-jerk position on the current labor situation, I need to consider some relevant data. The minimum salary of a major league baseball player (who is on average 28 years old) is currently $570,500. The average annual (as in “yearly”) salary of a major league baseball player is currently $4.17 million.
In the week before the lockout, 37-year-old pitcher Max Scherzer signed a three-year contract with the New York Mets that will pay him a total of $130 million dollars, or $43,333,333.33 annually. This means Scherzer, who pitches every fifth or sixth day, will make more than $1.2 million every time he takes the mound the next three seasons, and because the deal is guaranteed he’ll get paid every dollar, even if he gets hurt and is unable to perform.
On the day before his 29th birthday, infielder Javier Baez, who played for two teams this past season, inked a comparatively modest six-year, $140 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. The Texas Rangers spent $560 million on four players in one day; the bulk of that money went to 27-year-old shortstop Corey Seager, who’ll net a cool $325,000,000 over the next 10 years. The Chicago Cubs franchise, which was purchased for $846 million in 2009, is now worth more than four times that amount.
Scherzer, Baez, Seager, and their peers deserve to be handsomely compensated. Their services are in high demand, and they should be paid accordingly. In addition, they have a limited window in which to make money in their chosen profession, unlike nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters, and members of the military who, if they so choose, can ply their respective trades into their dotage. Nor should anyone resent baseball’s uber-rich club owners for benefitting from their investment; they’re taking the nominal risk, so it’s only fair they reap the rewards.
Besides, if anyone’s to blame for the current state of affairs, it’s the nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters, and military members who purchase cable TV packages, licensed team apparel, and tickets to ballgames (not to mention the $5 hot dogs, $10 beers, and those inexplicable foam fingers hawked at most MLB venues) that drive the market which makes the stratospheric player salaries and uber-stratospheric franchise values what they are.
After considering my lifelong love of baseball, the current salary structure, and what professional baseball contributes to society in comparison to what nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters, and members of the military do, I’ve come to my thoughtful conclusion.
Give the foam finger to ownership and the MLBPA.
Let the lockout go on. <