Imagine being 23. You wake up in a nice apartment in Queens. You get into your nice car and drive to your ultramodern office with all the amenities you desire. As you walk in, you say hello to your co-workers, all in the same position as you except they own large estates, more expensive cars, planes and yachts. Then you get your bi-weekly check, roughly netting $150,000, knowing that before long you’ll be in your late 20’s and earning at least eight times that bi-weekly, with the chance you could make 80 times that, like some of those peers of yours you said hi to in the office.

Who would find a problem in that? Well Major League Baseball and the player’s union did, leading to the owners locking out the players at 11:59 PM on December 2nd, 2021. All you need to do is look at some numbers to see how legitimately insane this current situation is.

In 2021, the minimum salary for a baseball player was $570,500. The average salary was 4.17 million and now, courtesy of the Mets contract with Max Scherzer, the highest salary is over $43 million dollars. Not forgetting that Scherzer will also get roughly 15 million dollars in 2022 from the Nationals as a part of the deferred payments from his 7 year deal with them prior to the 2015 season.

Do you want to get more ridiculous? The Mets paid Bobby Bonilla 1.19 million dollars and Bret Saberhagen $250,000 in 2021. Bonilla last played for the Mets in 1999 and hit just shy of .160. Saberhagen last pitched for the Mets in 1995. Ken Griffey Jr. was paid 3.59 million dollars by the Reds, a team he hasn’t played for in 13 years. 54 year old Manny Ramirez was given a shade under 2 million dollars by the Red Sox.

The craziest of all? Prior to the 1985 season, Bruce Sutter signed a 6 year, 9.1 million dollar contract with the Atlanta Braves. He was pretty awful for Atlanta, playing only 3 of the 6 years and retiring with 2 years left on the deal. What made the contract crazy was the Braves only paid him interest on his salary for the 6 years he was under contract, approximately $750,000 a year. Then when he retired, instead of paying him the lump sum of 9.1 million, they agreed to a deferred payment schedule until 2022, paying him 1.12 million annually. Finally, Sutter will still get his 9.1 Million in 2022. It’s pretty nice to earn 10 million dollars when you’re 69 years old from a team you haven’t played for in 34 years.

Oh and for us New York Mets fans? The average salary in New York in 2020 was a little over $80,000. Want something more sobering? Outside of the craziness that was the pandemic, unemployment in New York State is the highest it’s been since the beginning of 2014.

The current lockout is the bi-product of the two sides not being able to come together on a collective bargaining agreement. One of the biggest hold ups in those negotiations? When a player can start earning salary arbitration. Right now it’s three years. The players want two.

Let’s process this together. Professional Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association couldn’t come to a deal to keep business going as usual (a business that earns, collectively, over 3 billion dollars annually). They couldn’t do this in a country still battling a pandemic, unemployment and social unrest. A deal couldn’t be done in a Baseball world where 68 year olds earn 10 million dollars and a pitcher will earn 58 million dollars total from two teams in one year.

Do they not see how ridiculous this all is? No matter what deal is hammered out in the next few months, Baseball players and owners will still make ridiculous amounts of money to play a game. They will earn all of that money on the backs of regular people who won’t make in 6 years what a minimum salary player makes in 1 year. They have free healthcare, something that is a constant weight on the minds of many of the people who go to their stadiums and watch the games. They will have their choice of homes and state of the art facilities and equipment, when the guy watching them on TV might be in a low income home in a bad neighborhood because that’s all that person can afford.

Major League Baseball and the players that make up the rosters of all 30 teams have it made, even in the world of professional sports. There is no salary cap on teams and no salary or term limits on players. If the Mets want to give Francisco Lindor a 10 year deal, they can. The Mets can take a shot on handing a major league contract to Nick Plummer, a soon to be 26 year old first round bust who seemed to find his way at Double-A and Triple-A last year. A professional baseball team can spend as little or as much as it wants. The average player salary is second only to the NBA and that’s only because NBA rosters are so much smaller and NBA rookies make much more upon entrance into the league.

When you add all of that up, the lockout is about as ludicrous as it gets. Sit down and get a deal done. The fact that it hasn’t been is about as ridiculous as Bonilla’s salary.

23 comments on “Bobby Bonilla and the ridiculousness of the MLB Lockout

  • NYM6986

    Well done Scott. We all recognize that this is simply a form of entertainment and that the money is out of whack. If we think that the players earn a lot, how much must the owners be raking in despite so many of their cries that they are breaking even or losing money. Those are surely paper losses created by creative accounting. The closer you are to break even, the less taxes you pay to Uncle Sam so shed no tears for these muti-millionaire owners. As far as all these deferred payments, it helped each club do other things and spend the current money to improve their teams. The Bonilla deferment allowed the Mets to get Mike Hampton and get to the 2000 series. Yes those dollars are absurd but at least how they accumulated and were or are being paid can be explained. Supporting teams have always fallen on the backs of people who need to make a conscious decision before dropping $300 to bring their family. There seems to be no end to that in sight. But this lockout is unconscionable.

  • Metsense

    There is impasse in negotiations. The Owners instituted a lockout because of the last time there was an impasse they continued to negotiate with status quo and the players struck at inopportune time for the owners. Both parties have issues that seemed to be unresolved. The best solution would be to have a third party arbitrate and resolved the impasse.
    As for the Deferred salary contracts, they were negotiated in good faith and they don’t have anything to do with the current labor situation.

    • ScottFerguson

      I understand that the deferred contracts have nothing to do with the labor dispute and were negotiated in good faith. I brought those up to illustrate the point that there is so much money in baseball. So much so that deferred contracts exist. I’m a salaried employee. To get rid of me, my employer wouldn’t agree to defer my salary for 10 years, because it makes no fiscal sense, unless you’re in a situation like MLB where there is billions of dollars in revenues. It just highlights for me that “labor disputes” in professional sports are absurd. Labor laws weren’t made for multi-millionaires to duke it out with billionaires. These kinds of “disagreements” should never happen with the amount of money in professional sports these days being earned by all.

      • Brian Joura

        I understand the frustration. What I don’t understand is the idea because there’s a ton of money at stake that somehow it should be easy to divvy up the pie. Owners didn’t get to be billionaires because they gave up money easily. Jeff Bezos can build a rocket to go to space but there are countless stories of how he fights unionization of his employees tooth and nail. Because the players have a union, they can have a more-even fight against the billionaires.

        I’m pro-player but I don’t begrudge the owners instituting a lockout. That’s their right. I also don’t begrudge the owners trying to get the best deal they can get. What I do find upsetting is when they refuse to bargain in good faith. I don’t think we’ve seen that yet – both sides are just trying to stake out their positions right now. But I have no doubt we’ll see it soon enough. Because we always see it from MLB ownership in labor disputes.

  • ChrisF

    Id like to reiterate Metsense on the Bonilla (and others) misguided hysteria. Bonilla is being paid for services previously rendered. The Mets (and other teams) set up deferments so that the payout can be distributed over time, after which the club will have much more value. There is no connection for being paid to do nothing. I bet most people here buy a car or house on deferred payments and dont complain about it.

    • Name

      You could have just cited a pension as a common easy to understand example of deferred compensation. Or choosing an annuity option from a payout.

      These type of financial arrangements are done all the time and with us common folks too.

  • Steve_S.

    I tried to remember the performance of Bonilla the Mets player back in the 1990s, but all I could think about was the griping about his deferred payments.

    So I looked up his stats and they were not too shabby offensively: 1992 (at 29 years old) OPS+/oWAR 121/2.3; 1993 was 133/3.2; 1994 was 128/2.8; 1995 was 160/3.0 for the Mets (351 PA, before being traded to Baltimore).

    Bobby, enjoy your retirement, man!

  • MikeW

    If the lockout drags on, alot of fans will be really turned off and maybe for good. This is not the time for entitled insolent school children to duke it out while the rest of the world is still dealing with a pandemic.

    • Name

      “They couldn’t do this in a country still battling a pandemic, unemployment and social unrest.”

      Seriously what does being in a pandemic or any other non-baseball issue have anything to do with a baseball labor dispute? There’s crime and poverty in the world, is that relevant as well?

  • TexasGusCC

    Other leagues have a set split of revenues because those leagues have opened their books to players. MLB refuses to open their books, so players really don’t know how much each team makes. Also, the other leagues have figured out how to make all teams fairly balanced through caps, but the union doesn’t want that.

    To me, they’re both right for different reasons and both wrong in other areas. Expect a very long process, well into next year, possibly crashing the whole season. There is just too much bitterness on both sides. After they both cut off their noses to spite their faces, will there be some true negotiation but it appears the players are adamant on getting rid of tanking and younger players getting paid more money sooner while owners are adamant on finding a way to protect small market teams, while of course keeping salaries lower.

    • Brian Joura

      1. Owners don’t care about protecting small-market clubs, outside of using that as a club to keep more money from going to players.
      2. There are a lot of NFL/NBA teams and fans who would say that their leagues are not fairly balanced, chief among them Jets and Giants fans. This will be the sixth straight year the Jets finish below .500 and barring a late turnaround, this will be the eighth time in nine years that the Giants have been underwater.

      • Bob P

        As a Jet fan I completely disagree Brian. The Jets have been bad because they have not been a well run organization. The NFL salary cap takes a lot of the disparity that MLB teams deal with out of the equation.

        • Brian Joura

          Can we plant the goalposts somewhere?

          Regardless of what kind of system that’s in place, there are going to be poorly-run organizations. The Pirates go an entire generation without making the playoffs. The Lions are 11-44-1 the last four years. The Sacramento Kings are working on their 17th-straight losing season.

          There is no perfect system. But giving money directly to “poor” teams isn’t the answer. And neither is imposing a salary cap (or a de-facto one) that annually makes teams cut ties with players they want to keep. Two years ago, this was the situation the Vikings faced — they had to cut ties to Linval Joseph, Trae Waynes, Everson Griffen, Mackensie Alexander, Xavier Rhodes and Josh Kline to fit under the cap. Plus Riley Reiff restructured his contract. The only reason it wasn’t even more was because they traded Stefon Diggs for draft picks.

          That’s seven starters that they wanted to keep but couldn’t due to factors outside of their control and another who took a pay cut – I just can’t fathom wanting to bring that type of chaos to MLB.

          • Bob P

            I agree that we need to plant the goalpost somewhere and I’m done commenting on this subject after this because I prefer to talk baseball rather than business. But because I am a baseball fan and not a business fan I wish that there could be a way to have it so that the Yankees don’t make the playoffs 14 out of 15 years or whatever it’s been primarily because they can afford to buy the best players while the Pirates rarely make the playoffs because they can’t. I personally think the NFL and NBA have better systems because they take out the money disparity. There will always be teams that do poorly or do well for extended periods but in those sports it’s more about being a well run organization than in MLB where money has a lot to do with it. Just my opinion. Nothing more. Let’s talk baseball now.

            • Brian Joura

              The Celtics have been in the playoffs 13 of the last 14 years and they’ll likely extend that streak this season.
              The Patriots have been in the playoffs 16 of the last 18 years and one year they didn’t make it they were 11-5. They’re likely to make it again this year.

              Having mechanisms in place to even the playing field in money spent doesn’t keep teams from dominating in terms of playoff experience. I don’t like the Yankees, either. But maybe their streak of playoff dominance has less to do with money than is commonly thought.

              • Bob P

                I still don’t agree. I had done some research on this earlier this year and posted it on this site. It showed a clear correlation between $ spent and wins over a several year period. I can’t remember exactly when that was or I’d try to find it. There’s no perfect system, I understand, and there will always be teams that have sustained success or non- success, but the MLB system makes salaries a much more significant variable than other sports that have a cap. In the NFL and NBA this is one variable that is removed. Now I promise I’m done talking about it.

      • TexasGusCC

        I also disagree Brian. The NFL television deal is split 32 ways, that’s the big pie. The smaller ones are ticket sales and I believe merchandising is to the individual club. MLB has their big network television contracts but they all have local television deals too. Those aren’t fair. Neither are ticket sale prices.

        As for whether MLB clubs don’t care about the smaller or bigger, the commissioner needs to care, or he’s out of a job. Every owner vote counts the same. Too, unless you (as an owner) want to have a European soccer league of a couple of big teams and some minor league teams sprinkled in the schedule, you should care.

        NFL and NBA has enjoyed unstopped success because the players are happy with their piece of the pie. Say what you want, in every industry the owners make the money. If a player is unhappy, do what Derek Jeter did; what ARod wants to do; and what Michael Jordan did: buy a team. My opinion is the younger player should be paid earlier, but I also have a problem with a teacher and a police officer making a pittance of what athletes make. Too, a doctor – who can save their life – makes a fraction. I wish players would know their place and appreciate instead of expecting the world is owed to them.

        • Brian Joura

          MLB shares national TV revenue equally and local TV rights are collectively shared to an extent, with 34% of each team’s local rights being divided equally.

          Another link that’s worth reading on the sheer size of these national TV deals

          The current system hasn’t hurt MLB clubs in the slightest – TV deals have continued to rise.

          Why should I care about small market teams, with owners who make money every year and refuse to spend at levels needed to be competitive? No one cared about the Mets when they had ownership that wouldn’t spend like the current owner does.

          “Know their place” – Wow, just wow.

          • TexasGusCC

            Maybe they should quit and start their own league? They can negotiate deals, they can build and lease stadiums… no big deal…. This was a buy-in for each owner just like those that bought Apple stock decades ago. Again, if a player wants to own, they can try…

            As for “revenue sharing” it sounds nice, but hard to believe that any owner will give up a large piece of their tv deal for the little teams. Rather, they’ll cut a 25%-33% slice and say here you are. Certainly, that helps some and I’m not saying that any owner loses money, but why should they! And, what makes the MLBPA feel they deserve more? They may w a n t more, I can’t blame them! But your initial comment in that all teams have equal opportunity to sign players isn’t even logical.

  • T.J.

    I agree with the frustration. I don’t agree with some of the “should” premise. We all have our “should” list, but that just isn’t how the world, the country, and many businesses work. Yes, there is greed, but this is capitalism at work. It is the best system yet to be devised, but it is far from perfect and at times illustrates glaring inequities. Sure, the money is insane, but that’s basically because of us, not the owners or players. Revenues are not earnings, but revenues are provided by the customers, and these revenues drive the franchise values and player salaries. As Name and others mentioned, deferred compensation is very common in many businesses, makes plenty of sense, is almost always fiscally sound, and often times beneficial to both parties. It’s just that the numbers are so big that many fans misinterpret and cringe.

    Labor laws governing unionization and business ownership set the boundaries. As of now, it’s nothing but posturing. Yeah, the players are “locked out” of winter no games and some rehab. Yeah, we fans miss out on some hot stove. While it is a bad look and fans are pissed, it’s a whole lot of nothing and won’t get real until March, so I’ll tune out until then. In the end, we can take it or leave it…it’s entertainment to any customers not getting a paycheck within the industry.

  • Mr_Math

    Feeling nostalgic, I recall KC, maybe the early 1980s, giving Brett, Wilson and Quiz contracts which essentially gave them ownership of an apartment complex. I might have the details wrong.

    However certain people were sure this was the sign of the end times, dogs and cats living together etc

    Guess it didn’t happen that way

  • Mr_Math

    Found an article on sbnation called “a look back at the royals lifetime contracts” which gives a far better description than I did

  • ScottFerguson

    I’m glad this article opened up so many avenues for discussion. Open and respectful discourse is an important part of what we do here.

    I am a loyal Baseball fan. It’s been my favorite sport since I was a kid. I remember playing wiffle ball in the street in front of my friend’s house, having home run derby’s in local baseball fields, hitting a line drive double in a little league championship game that ended up being the game winning hit, etc, etc.

    Saying all of that, in this situation, I have no sympathy for either side. I have no problem with some player making 58 million dollars, or billionaire owners making additional millions. That’s business. That’s capitalism. I brought up the issues people are facing today because letting this CBA expire without an agreement is basic social ignorance. Yes, the world always has difficulties, but the last two years has been a true strain on our society. Sports is one of our outlets. No matter how difficult times become, we have Baseball. One of the reasons I’ve always been so enamored with the sport is the yearly access to it. During the season, I can see my favorite team nearly every night. During the offseason, storylines continue and then before we know it, spring training has arrived. It is a consistent part of life and helps to forget about all of the insanity we all deal with on a day to day basis.

    I know that an agreement will happen, but it shouldn’t have gotten to this point. It would be nice, for once, for Baseball (owners, players, et al) to have some minor awareness of the world around them and how much their sport matters. I work for an agency that is contracted with county government. We are unionized and I understand the fight for worker rights and contracts. But the difference is that this isn’t 1973, when Marvin Miller was legitimately fighting for the rights of players to have an even minor share of a (at the time) multi-million dollar business. Now the players and owners all make gobs and gobs of money and to not be able to come to an agreement is just lunacy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 100 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here