Baseball salaries are not what they used to be. In 1967, the average Major Leaguer made $19,000. In 2008, the average player made $2,824,751. That's two million, eight hundred and twenty four thousand!
The minimum baseball salary for a Major League player in 1967 was $6,000. In 2007 the minimum was $380,000.
In 1938, Lou Gehrig hit .295. He also hit 29 home runs and drove in 114. This was the first time since 1925 that Lou hit under .300. Because of his "poor" season, the Yankees cut his pay by $14,000. He signed to play the 1939 season for $35,000. From 1923 to 1939, Lou Gehrig made a combined baseball salary of $361,500.
Mickey Mantle had a 1959 season that was not a typical Mantle year. He hit .285 with 31 home runs and 75 runs batted in. The Yankees wanted to cut his baseball salary by $7,000. Mickey informed the Yankees that he would not report to spring training. However, with no bargaining power of his own, Mickey Mantle ended up going to spring training and accepting the $7,000 pay cut.
When we were playing back yard baseball as kids, we never dreamed that Major League Baseball salaries would sky rocketed since free agency. After the 1969 season, Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies. He refused the trade. The problem was, that he couldn't do that because of Major League Baseball's reserve clause.
What the reserve clause basically said was that when a player's contract with a Major League club expired, the club still retained the rights to that player. This meant that even though the player had fulfilled his obligation to his contract, he was not free to enter a contract with a different club. The player had to either negotiate a new contract with the same club or ask to be traded.
Curt Flood challenged the reserve clause. His case went to the United States Supreme Court and Flood lost. But it started what is now known as Free Agency.
The reserve clause was ended when arbitrator Peter Seitz ruled that since pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally had played a season without a contract, that they could become free agents.
The flood gates were opened. No pun intended. In 1975, Jim Catfish Hunter of the Oakland A's became a free agent. He had won the American League Cy Young Award in 1974 and his club had won their third straight World Series. Catfish won 25 games in 1974 and he was 29 years old. The only club in baseball not to go after him was the San Francisco Giants.
The New York Yankees signed Hunter for $3.35 million for five years. That comes to $670,000 per year.
In 1976, Reggie Jackson became a Yankee also, signing for $2.96 million for five years.
In 1979, Pete Rose signed a brand new contract with the Philadelphia Phillies for $3.2 million for four years.
And so, free agency has become part of our accepted baseball life. Is it good for the sport? Ask the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Kansas City Royals. In 2008, the Pirates total payroll was just over $48 million. The Royals was just over $58 million.
The New York Yankees payroll was $209 million in 2009.
Since 1996, the Yanks have been in the World Series six times. The Pirates have not made the fall classic since 1979 and the Royals since 1985.
And still, even with all this money being thrown around, since 1998, ten different National League clubs have been in the World Series.
In 2008, the Tampa bay Rays made the World Series against the Phillies. Their total payroll was $49 million. In 2003, the Florida Marlins got to the World series with a $48 million payroll.
So what's the point of all this? Major League free agency has dramatically changed the game with huge salaries. Remember back when your favorite player played for your favorite team for his whole career? Not anymore.
Let's suppose you are a Gary Sheffield fan. Who's your favorite team? The Milwaukee Brewers? Or maybe the San Diego Padres or the Florida Marlins. Could it be the Los Angeles Dodgers or the New York Yankees? I'll bet it's the Atlanta Braves or the Detroit Tigers or the New York Mets.
Plus, ticket prices are ridiculous.
I believe in capitalism and the player's right to as much money as he can. And I'm not in favor of baseball salary caps. But, I mean, come on, in 2009, Alex Rodriguez made almost as much as the entire Florida Marlins club. A Rod took in $33 million in 2009. The Marlins payroll was just over $35 million.
Well, you would think by now we would be used to this. Each season salaries go up along with ticket prices and the cost of a beer and a hot dog at the ball park. That's progress, I guess.
In 1973, in his final season, Willie Mays made $175,000 with the New York Mets. What would the Sey Hey Kid be worth today?
Here is a list of 2009 payrolls from each Major League club. Also, what the average salary for each player for that team is.
Club Payroll Average Salary
1.New York Yankees....$201,449,289....$7,748,050
2.New York Mets.......$135,773,988....$4,849,071
4.Boston Red Sox......$122,696,000....$4,089,867
6. Los Angeles Angels..$113,709,000....$4,061,036
7. Philadelphia Phillies.$113,004,048..$4,185,335
8. Houston Astros......$102,996,415....$3,814,682
9. Los Angeles Dodgers..$100,458,101...$4,018,324
10. Seattle Mariners....$98,904,167.....$3,532,292
11. Atlanta Braves......$96,726,167.....$3,335,385
12. Chicago White Sox...$96,068,500.....$3,694,942
13. St. Louis Cardinals.$88,528,411.....$3,278,830
14. San Francisco Giants.$82,161,450....$3,043,017
15. Cleveland Indians...$81,625,567.....$3,023,169
16. Toronto Blue Jays...$80,993,657.....$2,892,631
17. Milwaukee Brewers...$79,857,502.....$3,194,300
18. Colorado Rockies....$75,201,000.....$2,785,222
19. Arizona Diamondbacks..$73,571,667...$2,724,877
20. Cincinnati Reds.....$70,968,500.....$2,957,021
21. Kansas City Royals..$70,908,333.....$2,727,244
22. Texas Rangers.......$68,646,023.....$2,367,104
23. Baltimore Orioles...$67,101,667.....$2,580,833
24. Minnesota Twins.....$65,299,267.....$2,251,699
25. Tampa Bay Rays......$63,313,035.....$2,183,208
26. Oakland Athletics...$62,310,000.....$2,225,357
27. Washington Nationals..$59,328,000...$2,045,793
28. Pittsburgh Pirates..$48,743,000.....$1,874,731
29. San Diego Padres....$42,796,700.....$1,528,454
30. Florida Marlins.....$36,814,000.....$1,314,786
Here are some Major League Baseball salary firsts. The first player to earn a baseball salary of $50,000 for one season was Babe Ruth in 1922. That season, the Bambino hit .315 with 35 home runs and 99 runs batted in. Not too bad, but not exactly Ruthian
Hank Greenburg, then with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was the first to make $100,000 a year in 1947. Hank hit .245 that 1947 season with only 25 home runs and 74 runs batted in. Again, not his best year by far.
1977 saw the Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt become the first $500,000 per year player. Mike hit 38 home runs and drove in 101 in 1977.
In 1979, the Houston Astros gave pitcher Nolan Ryan $1,000,000 for the 1980 season. That made the Ryan express the first one to make that much per season. In 1980, Nolan won only eleven games and lost ten. His earned run average was 3.35.
George Foster became the first 2 million dollar earner in 1982 with the New York Mets. Foster in 1982 hit a dismal .247 with only 13 home runs and 70 runs batted in. By 1986, he was out of baseball.
Kirby Puckett collected $3,000,000 from the Minnesota Twins in 1990. Kirby batted .298 and hit 12 home runs. He drove in 80 runs that year.
The Oakland A's saw fit to make Jose Canseco the first 4 million dollar player in 1990. Canseco hit .274 that year. He smacked 37 home runs and drove in 101.
Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox became the first 5 million dollar man in 1991. Roger won 18 and lost 10 that season. His earned run average was 2.62.
The Chicago Cubs made Ryne Sandberg the first to reach the $7,000,000 plateau in 1992. That year Ryne batted .304 with 26 home runs and 87 runs batted in.
In 1996, Ken Griffey, Jr. became the first to crack the $8,000,000 mark with the Seattle Mariners. That year Junior hit .303 with 49 home runs and 140 runs batted in.
In 1996, the Chicago White Sox gave Albert Belle $11,000,000 for the 1997 season. Albert hit .274 with 30 homers and 116 runs batted in.
Pedro Martinez became the first $12,000,000 player with the Red Sox in 1998. Pedro won 19 and lost 7 in 1998. His earned run average was an outstanding 1.90.
The New York Mets gave catcher Mike Piazza $13,000,000 for the 1999 season. Mike batted .303. He hit 40 home runs and drove in 124.
Kevin Brown of the Los Angeles Dodgers was the first to see a $15,000,000 paycheck. That season, Brown won 18 and lost 9. His earned run average was 3.00.
The Toronto Blue Jays awarded Carlos Delgado a $17,000,000 contract for the 2001 season. That year Carlos batted .279 with 39 round trippers and 102 ribbies.
Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox became the first player to earn $21,000,000 per year in 2001. Manny hit .306 with 41 home runs and 125 runs batted in that season.
And last but certainly not least, Alex Rodriguez gathered in a whopping $27,000,000 from the Texas Rangers in 2001. A Rod hit .318 with 52 home runs and 135 runs batted in.
You can see that once free agency allowed the player's salaries to escalate, they escalated quickly. So quickly that there was no first six million dollar a year player. Ryne Sandberg jumped right to the first 7 million dollar player. There was no first nine or ten million dollar man either. In 1997, Albert Belle shot right to eleven million.
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