Baseballs Skyrocketing Salaries Essay

This essay has a total of 2885 words and 14 pages.

Baseballs Skyrocketing Salaries

It can no longer be said that baseball is just a game. Actually, it
has been many years since that statement could be considered true.
Only recently, however, did the entire nation, not just sports fans
realize the extent to which this fact is true. Athletes, for the most
part, have always been paid better than the average American; but now,
with Alex Rodriguez's new contract, he is truthfully worth just as
much as the entire franchise that he plays for.
Baseball salaries have skyrocketed out of control, and something must
be done before the integrity of the game, and eventually, the game
itself is destroyed. There are many reasons why this will happen, and
this claim will be supported by the viewpoints of all involved,
players, owners, and fans. Many of the cold, hard facts related to
this salary increase will be shown, along with exactly what has caused
this exponential increase in pay.
While the outcry against the outrageous contracts that the players
receive only recently become national news, the anger towards the
players for this dates back to the beginning of the game. However,
since the creation of free agency in 1976, the increase in pay has
become out of control. In order to see this, one only has to look at
the first two years of free agency, where salaries doubled (Bodley,
2000, par. 17). Additionally, the average salary is currently forty
times higher than it was in 1976 (Fisher & Heller, 2001, par. 4).
Baseball was the first sport to have free agency, and as it currently
stands, the last to control it. All other major sports, basketball,
football, and hockey, have plans in place in order to keep a check on
salaries. As a result, they are not facing the crisis that Major
League Baseball will soon have to deal with. These sports all have a
form of a salary cap or some revenue sharing between the small and
large market teams. Baseball's one attempt at this, a luxury tax for
teams with high payrolls, has done nothing to curb the extreme growth
of salaries.
It is also interesting to examine the roots of free agency, which in
the beginning was a good idea. In December 1975, Peter Seitz, at the
time baseball's arbitrator supported a grievance that two players had
filed (Chass, 2000, par. 4). He ruled that when a player's contract
to a team expired, the player was free to choose from all interested
teams. In theory, this is a good idea that is fair for players. They
weren't property of their original teams after contracts expired and
were free to pursue other options, just as in the same way a
businessman could look for a new job. However, there was no system in
place to stop a bidding war between teams if the money was available.
It also failed to take in to account the human ego. If a player sees
a person with similar statistics getting paid more, then that player
will demand the same amount of money, and this cycle continues
Salary arbitration is another cause of the salary inflation, which on
average has resulted in a 100% increase of the average salary in
recent years (Chass, 2001, par. 18). In short, salary arbitration
occurs when a player and a team renegotiate the contract with a
neutral third party officiating. If a player has a good season, and
feels that he is getting underpaid, he can file for arbitration.
Players win most of these cases, all they have to do is find someone
with comparable statistics who is getting paid more, and the
arbitrator in most cases will rule in his favor.
As it stands, teams in large markets, such as New York or Los Angeles
have an extreme advantage over teams in small markets, such as Kansas
City or Pittsburgh. An example of this can be seen in the 1997 season
where the teams with the five highest payrolls all made the playoffs.
In that season, the Florida Marlins were one of those teams; and after
that season, the owner, Wayne Huizinga, sold off all of his high
priced players because he couldn't afford it (Fuhr, 1999, par. 13).
Essentially, in baseball, as in the rest of the world, "you get what
you pay for." Teams that can't afford high priced talent will, year
in and year out finish at the bottom of the standings. As things
stand now, the fifteen smallest market teams should just become farm
clubs for the rest of the league. As soon as a player has a big
season, he is demanding outrageous money, which his team can't afford
to pay, so the player goes to a team that is willing and able to pay
what he is asking.
While salaries have been high for quite some time, the recent spending
is just downright ridiculous. Alex Rodriguez, now of the Texas
Rangers recently signed a ten year, $250 million contract (Feinstein,
2000, par. 3). What is sad about this fact is that just two years ago,
the entire Rangers franchise was sold for about the same amount. When
a single player is getting paid as much as the entire team is worth on
the open market, it is fairly obvious that something is seriously
wrong. Further supporting that fact, there were two teams in 2000
that paid their entire team less than what Alex Rodriguez will make by
himself this year.
The recent spending spree stems from three events: 72.7 million paying
fans last season, a new $2.5 billion TV contract, and income from
Major League Baseball's new website (Fisher & Heller, 2001, par. 9).
While these events show that baseball is a thriving industry, a closer
look shows that this may not be the case. Most of the spending is
being done by a few teams, so not everyone is benefiting.
There are several perspectives on the current situation in baseball,
the first shown is that of the owners. While owners continue to
complain about the high priced players, they contradict themselves by
turning around and giving the outrageous paycheck to their players.
Representatives of small market teams, such as Kansas City's Herk
Robinson, feel trapped. "I can't see anything beneficial about these
signings at all, and the industry as a whole can't support them.
There's no doubt that it will deflate the fans here a bit, and make it
harder for us to keep our guys!" in Fisher and Heller (2001, par. 5).
As a whole, the game is more than $2 billion in debt (Fisher and
Heller, 2001, par. 1). Even though attendance as a whole increased, 15
out of the 30 teams showed a decrease in attendance in the 2000
season. This can be attributed to the huge competitive imbalance.
Even the Texas Rangers, who signed Rodriguez, lost money between 1995
and 1999 (Fisher and Heller, 2001, par. 14).
With the current collective bargaining agreement expiring this year,
the owners do not have history on their side. There have been eight
strikes since 1972, and each time, the owners have come out on the
losing end, giving a little more power to the players union
(Feinstein, 2000, par. 5). During the last strike, the players union
repeatedly rejected a salary cap, until the owners finally gave in to
end the strike.
Next is the players' perspective. In looking at this the first point
to make is: who in their right mind would reject $250 million dollars
if it was being offered? The answer is: Nobody. The owners are so
caught up in competing for the title, that they will shell out every
penny of available cash they have in order to compete (Saraceno, 2000,
par. 20). The trouble lies in the fact that some owners just happen
to have a lot more cash to give out.
The players union is the single most powerful force in baseball. It
doesn't matter what the owners say, need players in order to put a
product on the field. Players union head Donald Fehr says there is no
chance of a salary cap, and with the past record in labor disputes
stated earlier, there is no reason to doubt him.
While players may be portrayed as greedy, there are some that agree
that a plan needs to be put in place. "The players have to be willing
to sit down and work out something that will work for everyone," Brian
Giles of the Pittsburgh Pirates said in Blum (1999, par. 9). It is
hard for players that happen to be on a smaller market team, such as
Giles. It is not easy to get motivated to play when you know that
there is no chance of competing, because other teams simply have more
money. As a player, one is powerless in this situation. It all boils
down to choosing between individual and team. Players must decide if
making the most money possible is top priority or if being able to
have a competitively balanced league is.
Another factor on the players' side that needs to be addressed is
that of sports agents. Scott Boras is a name that has been in the
news lately, because he is the one that negotiated the contract for
Rodriguez. Agents not only provide contract negotiations for players,
they give them personal services including sports psychologists
(Noonan, 2000 p. 57). They promote players to organizations,
eventually finding the highest bidder, and agents such as Boras have
been able to negotiate the recent outrageous contracts, and should be
held partially responsible for the state of the game today. However,
this problem is hard to contain, because most agents get paid a
percentage of the player's salary, so the larger the contract, the
bigger the paycheck for the agent.
Finally, the feelings of the fans have to be addressed. They are the
single most important aspect of baseball. It doesn't matter how many
good players there are, without fans, baseball makes no money, and the
players do not get paid. No one is forcing the fans to come out and
watch, and with each bad incident, the fans' patience gets tested just
a little bit more.
Over a dozen teams will increase ticket prices this season in order
to support the payrolls they have established (Fisher and Heller,
2001, par. 11). There must be a limit to how much a person is willing
to pay to go watch a baseball game. With the current rate of salary
growth, there is no reason why ticket prices would not keep on growing
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