I have loved baseball all my life. When I was a kid, I used to deliver papers and had a transistor radio in my bag playing the Dodger game on high volume. Folks I passed would ask me the score and I’d yell it to them. Baseball was and is part of me.
This is what makes the current labor issues in MLB so perplexing. There is something wrong at the heart of the game that I love.
I don’t pretend to know anything about the business of baseball. All this talk of pools of money being expanded, playoff teams being increased (for more $$$), and collective bargaining is all very confusing.
However, I do see a theme.
It seems that existing players want younger players to be paid more and faster than they have in the past. The Players Association wants to increase the minimum pay from $570,000 to $720,000, reduce the time to salary arbitration from three to two years, and five years to free agency from six years.
There are other details but that seems the gist of it. This also seems very noble and helpful to the up-and-comers. Very thoughtful.
Unfortunately, I view this while looking at field box tickets for a Nationals game at Dodger Stadium in July where the average price for one seat is about $100. With parking at $25, and a trip to the concession stand about $50 (including the obligatory chocolate malt in the seventh inning), I am looking at about $300 to see a single game with my wife.
When I was a kid, a field box seat was $4.50. Seriously.
So, the fact that the MLBPA is asking for $720,000 for a rookie to play baseball is not making me very sympathetic. In fact, it looks rather greedy.
I think the fundamental issue here is philosophy and it has to do with the maintaining of competitiveness in baseball. How so? It has much to do with clubs in small markets, big markets and money.
Teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Giants and Red Sox make a ton of money and can pay the most talented players to play for them. You would think that these clubs would win every year — but they don’t. Look what happened last year.
Atlanta, a team from a medium-sized market, beat the Dodgers and went on to win the World Series. In reverse order, the winners have been the Dodgers (2020), Nationals (2019), Red Sox (2018), Houston Astros (2017, dirty cheaters), Chicago Cubs (2016) and Kansas City Royals (2015).
Over the last seven years, four of the champs were from small/medium-sized markets while three were large markets. Seems fairly balanced.
How do the smaller markets accomplish this? They clearly don’t have the money. The answer: They have younger players who play for less and fit into the budgets of the smaller teams.
Usually, these teams are then picked apart the following year by the big clubs who write big checks to the stars of the small-market teams. This is what happened to the Oakland A’s and was the impetus for the creation of “money ball.” See the Brad Pitt movie…
If small teams are forced to pay more up front for unproven major league talent, it will reduce their chance of fielding a talented enough team to compete with the Chicagos, New Yorks and San Franciscos of the world.
The player’s union wants to be seen as altruistic, but we all know that is not the case. If younger players get paid more, that means experienced players will also be paid more. It’s a never-ending cycle.
Clubs will charge more for ticket prices, concessions, parking and the all-important television rights. I haven’t looked on my Spectrum bill lately, but I know I’m getting the “Dodger charge” because I like to watch the games after work. All of this conflict in MLB will mean that I will be paying more to watch the Dodgers on TV.
And forget going to a game. The only way I go these days is if we score some corporate tickets or we get some sort of crazy deal. Otherwise, I’m taking out a second mortgage on my house to sit in the bleachers.
If only we could go back to a simpler time. Maybe I should get a paper route?
Steve Lunetta is a resident of Santa Clarita and is wondering if the Signal will pay six figures to deliver papers. He can be reached at [email protected].