Buzz spite sneer of snark demandsby John Brattain
July 30, 2008
But the tick of obscene salaries just keeps on ticking in professional sports, the one sector of the economy I know of, except for maybe Internet pornography, that still dances merrily along in the bubble of its isolation from the real world. As we try to figure out not just what is fundamentally wrong with the American economy but with America itself, look no further than what is being shelled out to the men who play with bats and balls roughly eight months out of the year (after all, they need their rest after such taxing work).—Buzz Bissinger
Bissinger is right, but for all the wrong reasons.
The thing is, the problem with baseball salaries isn’t that they’re high but why they are that way. To begin with, baseball makes a ton of revenue and teams are owned by some of the richest folks in North America. As we discussed last February:
This is the sick sort of brainwashing team owners perform on us through the media. They think that a player has played for well over a decade professionally. He’s endured the lows, the doubts, the long bus rides, the aches and pains while working his butt off all to be the very best at what he does. The team employing him will use every device the collective bargaining agreement allows to postpone the day the player qualifies for salary arbitration and free agency. He watches players performing half as well as him and get paid many times over what he earns.
The player survives all this, he avoids the attrition that happens to so many and makes the point in his career where he can see what his skills honed through many years of hard work is worth—and what happens?
He has to endure what he hears on the radio, in print and on the web about how he should show a little loyalty to the very fans who will one day reject him and subsidize some of the richest men in the country.
In my opinion, the players deserve every nickel they earn. If they wish to take less because they’re happy where they are then that’s their choice. If they choose to maximize their earnings then no one, owners, media, fan or otherwise should begrudge them that—after all, once their skill set erodes and there are better options available, our loyalty to the player will go by the wayside as well.
I love Joe Carter, Tony Fernandez, Dave Stieb and Pat Hentgen with all my man-crushing heart, but that doesn’t mean I want to see them on the Blue Jays' 25-man roster.
The problem with baseball salaries has little to do with the players themselves—the problem is in how they’re generated. Right now, the game’s revenues are at record heights, but what is often forgotten is that it’s partly an illusion.
The reason that revenues are where they are is that team owners, due to their status as a cartel and being a legal monopoly can avoid paying expenses that other businesses cannot. Our most recent example, we covered off last week:
In this environment the major league cartel demanded $611 million of money that could be allocated to services such as these for MLB to set up shop in D.C.
It has been common knowledge for a while now that communities that build publicly financed stadiums for professional sports teams do not derive any real financial benefit from so doing. In the case of cities such as Minnesota and St. Louis stadiums are only 15 years old or less and not even fully paid for before teams have their avarice-oozing hands out for more handouts ...
One would think well over a half billion smackers of free money plus the generated revenues that would ordinarily be used to offset costs of construction, maintenance, amortization and the like would be good enough for these bottomless pits ...
Claiming that the ballpark that they didn’t pay for but get to keep the lion’s share of the revenues for wasn’t completed in time—not only are they not paying their rent ($3.5 million ... a little more than what they're paying Chad Cordero on the 60-day DL), they’re demanding $100,000 a day in damages dating back to the beginning of March ($14.5 million as of this writing).
If the Nats (not to mention every other team that received public support for a new stadium) had to foot the bill for their parks themselves, do you think that after paying off bonds, maintenance etc. that salaries would remain the same?
Further, major league clubs receive tax breaks that we can only dream of, from amortizing players to being able to charge more for premium seating since corporations are allowed to write off part of the cost of luxury suites and the like as business expenses.
In the one case, we see money coming directly out of public coffers; on the other hand, we see funds being denied the same coffers due to favorable tax laws. The forgone revenues have to be made up somewhere and generally it’s the everyday man that makes up the shortfall; as Leona Helmsley once opined: ”taxes are for poor people.”
Since the major league cartel has neither the expenses nor the tax burden many other businesses have, they enjoy revenues they would not otherwise possess. This is partly the reason player salaries are as high as they are.
What galls me about Bissinger’s comments it that he implies that player greed is the problem. No, players simply want their fair share of baseball revenues. The problem is that the game’s revenues receive both directly and indirectly a massive amount of public support.
It’s the greed of ownership and the lack of integrity of corporate brown-nosing sellout politicos that are the problem here. Are players greedy? Some undoubtedly are, but I doubt the ratio of greedy people playing baseball is different than greedy people in any other walk of life. What has to be remembered is that players were called greedy when the minimum salary was $6,000 and the average salary $10,000.
The maximum salary didn’t rise from $100,000 to $32 million (what Alex Rodriguez will earn next season) because of player greed; it has risen to those levels because the greatest welfare queens do not reside in public housing … they live in mansions and own professional sports teams.
If an idiot blogger understand this, then...
Our good friend, and THT stalwart, John Brattain passed away on March 24, 2009. John was a prolific writer, whose work can also be read at Sympatico/MSN Sports and Baseball Digest Daily. John's work was also featured at USA Today, MLBtalk, ESPN Insider, Baseball Prospectus, The Baseball Analysts and The Baseball Journals. Never afraid to express himself in any medium, he was also a frequent radio speaker.