Cheap Populism

Paul Daugherty has written the kind of column for which I have absolutely no use:

Baseball has never been more disconnected.

The national pastime has never been less representative of the nation. As agent Scott Boras marshals his small army of colleagues at the baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas, seeking to thin the wallets of owners, workers are stilled and businesses are shuttered. Layoffs steal the twinkle from Christmas. Pain is all around . . . Here in the real world, we watch our futures constrict. Our 401(k)s shrink, along with the 529 college funds. Just about everything we’ve worked for wobbles like a three-legged chair, and more of us will face the fright of running out of money before running out of month. In BorasVille and MannyLand, well, the $45 mil is nice, but we’d like a few more years on the deal.

This is what one writer recently called “the floodlit, perspectiveless world of fame.” It makes you wince.

Because ballplayers are technically paid “salaries,” certain people will always draw unfavorable comparisons between what a ballplayer makes and what an auto worker makes. In a practical sense, however, ballplayers are not truly salaried employees. They’re private contractors or suppliers on par with steel companies and the petroleum industry: suppliers of essential manufacturing components without which the entire enterprise is impossible. Quick: is anyone criticizing an iron ore mine for not having “perspective”?

But Daugherty is no dummy. He understands baseball economics, and he understands that comparing a left fielder to a normal American worker makes no sense, and that’s what makes this an exercise in transparent populism.

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  1. Michael said...

    I’m by no means a Boras supporter, but money he has teams spend on players wouldn’t have been otherwise given to some lower-middle class family in need.
    I’d love to see more charity work and more giving from the wealthy, but I also would have loved to have been on Oprah’s show when she gave out free cars.  That’s life.

  2. Aaron said...

    Oddly enough, I find a young Latin American man migrating to the United States and finding great success using his God-given talents to be uniquely American and representative of our great nation.

  3. Aaron B. said...

    What I don’t get is why some people think of MLB ballplayers as guys who get paid to “just play a game”. I mean, would you say that opera singers or orchestral musicians get paid to “just make noise”?

  4. KenDynamo said...

    i never understand these types of columns or gripes about pro athletes.  theyre entertainers and are paid proportionally to what kind of entertainment value they produce.  if you want will smith to star in a movie youre making, you still have to pay him $20m, or more, just for 3 months of work. 

    i dont see how this has anything to do auto workers or the retirement worries of millions of americans. at least Daugherty isn’t picking on the law firms that will generated hundreds of millions in dollars from fees to take companies through bankruptcy so their ceo’s and executives can maintain their salaries. 

    anyway, bottom line i say is if pro athlete’s salaries bother you then go watch college, high school or american legion baseball.  plenty of amatuer sports being played that anyone can watch for free.

  5. Laurence Davison said...

    I think it’s strange that articles like this always appeal to some sense of justice for the common man, yet what they are fundamentally proposing is that more money should stay with rich guys who own sports teams.

    Incidentally and on a different subject, Aaron, you should have a look at the salaries and countries of origin of soccer players in the Premiership before giving it the old “uniquely American and representative of our great nation” BS.

  6. Pete Toms said...

    Ken D & Laurence.  Yes.

    And often overlooked, or not of concern somehow, is that NFL players are taking home a larger portion of league revenues than MLB players ( ok, they don’t have guaranteed deals ) but I hear a tiny fraction of the complaining about their compensation than I do MLB players.

  7. deez nutz said...

    I think The Hardball Times should stick to baseball.  You can make a pretty good argument that the world would be better off with both competition AND salaries that don’t range into the millions for anyone, no matter how rare their skills are.

  8. Laurence Davison said...

    Well indeed. I’d hate to think you’d actually think about what you said or anything un-internetty like that.

  9. JC said...

    I dunno.  Daugherty thought a few months ago that every other team in baseball had to pass on Adam Dunn for the D-Backs to win their waiver claim.

    He doesn’t understand baseball waiver rules.  I wouldn’t assume he understands baseball economics.

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