First let me say that I believe in capitalism. I think a player has the right to command the highest salary he can possibly get. That’s not my problem. My problem is with the owners who pay these ridiculous salaries. And more specifically the length of the contracts.
Let’s start with the obvious. Bryce Harper. Now, I like Bryce Harper. He’s an aggressive, hustling and I might even say old school player. But last season for the Washington Nationals, he batted .249 with 34 home runs and 100 RBIs. That was the first time Harper drove in 100 runs in a season.
A decent year except for his Batting average. Bryce is also a good outfielder with a better than average arm. But $330 million Dollars? And that’s not even the bad part. His contract with the Phillies is for 13 years! Just for fun, lets’ take a look at what Hall of Fame outfielder Willie Mays made during the same period of time. From age 26 until age 38, Mays earned 1 million, 55 dollars. 13 seasons during the same age.
I understand we are not dealing with apples to apples here. More like apples to gold mines. And I know the game has changed. But really? In fact, Willie Mays earned a total of 1 million 800 thousand dollars during his entire major league career.
Some years ago I read an article about something the great Roberto Clemente said. The Pirates were on a road trip during the 1969 season. Clemente asked a reporter who the highest paid player in baseball was an how much he earned. The reporter answered that Pete Rose was the highest paid and he was earning $85 thousand dollars that year. A startled Clemente responded by saying, “That much?!”. Roberto at the time was making $45 thousand dollars per season. And that was after he had won the National League's Most Valuable Player Award in 1966.
Back to Bryce Harper. So these days a lifetime .277 hitter is worth 13 years for $330 million dollars. Plus Bryce is only a seven year veteran. What would a .300 hitter with power be worth.
Well, I guess that would be Mike Trout of the Angels. Trout, shortly after Harper signed with the Phillies, agreed to a contract extension from the Angels for 14 years for $426 million. 2019 is Trout's ninth season.
Let's get back to Willie Mays for a second. Willie's highest annual salary was $165 thousand dollars in 1973. The average wage earner, working man, was earning $12 thousand dollars. That's a difference of $153 thousand dollars. Not bad if you were Willie Mays , right? In 2019, Mike Trout will earn almost $37 million dollars.
The average income in the United States in 2019 is $46 thousand 800 dollars. That's a difference of $36 million, 953 thousand, 200 dollars per year!
As you can see the gap has grown considerably. Guys like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle and so on, were making a very good, comfortable living for playing a kid's game. But most players from years ago got jobs after their playing days were over. Either in baseball or some kind of business. I doubt Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are worried about retirement money.
These days a beer at a Major League game costs almost as much as a ticket to the game did back in 1973.
It's ridiculous. Add in something to eat, maybe a souvenir, parking , plus the price of the ticket. Who can afford it?
I just think that a lot of baseball fans are sick of paying such outrageous prices just to watch players that are earning 30 million times more than we are. And quite simply, many fans can no longer afford it.
In 2018 Major League attendance was down another 4%. And it's declining this season also. If you watch the highlights of games you'll see that the seats in most ball parks are seldom full.
Just something to think about. Imagine Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Mays , Aaron, Clemente, Frank Robinson, etc. if they were just starting out in baseball today. There wouldn't be enough money to pay these guys.
Many former players played winter ball in the Puerto Rican winter leagues. Some played to stay sharp but mostly they played for the extra money. Very few Major Leaguers do that anymore.
I did a little calculating. Let's take the 1973 salary of Willie Mays, $165,000.00.
According to the U.S. Bureau Of Labor Statistics, if you calculate inflation, that would be the same as $943,029.00 now. So if baseball players lived by the same inflation rules as the rest of us do, a player of Willie Mays' caliber should be earning that this season. Mike Trout , according to Baseball Reference .com, will pull in over $36 million in 2019!
If this keeps up, what will Christian Yelich, Cody Belinger and Mookie Betts be worth come Free Agent time?
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