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.