A Million Here, a Million There. Pretty Soon You’re Talking “Real” Money!

With apologies to the late Senator Everett Dirksen
Opening day
This past Sunday night, I was watching the first game of the 2013 Major League Baseball season.  It was an all Lone Star State affair with the Texas Rangers traveling down to Houston to take on the Astros.  After 50-something years of playing in the National League, Houston has moved into the American League this year, which instantly creates a natural rivalry with the Rangers who call Arlington, Texas home.

No one is expecting much out of the Astros this season and not just because they’re going through the travails of jumping to the other league.  The Astros are in a rebuilding mode; about as drastic a rebuilding mode as one can imagine.

On the advice of trusted associates, the new owner of the Astros dumped just about all of the team’s veteran players and is currently in the process of retooling the team from the ground up.  This is a project which will take several years to complete and in the process is guaranteed to cause Astros’ fans much angst and indigestion.

As an aside, I’d suggest that Astros’ fans lay off of the chili cheese dogs when attending home games, as ingesting those can only exacerbate one’s agony.

As I was watching Sunday’s game on ESPN, one of the commentators happened to mention that the Astros’ 2013 total team payroll was estimated to be roughly $18 million.  I’ve been pondering the implications of that comment ever since.  I was having a hard time accepting that a payroll for an entire team could be that low.  So a day or two later I jumped on the internet and did some checking.  Based on my research, it appears that the actual 2013 Houston Astros’ player payroll will be closer to $22 million, but who’s counting?

On the face of it, a payroll of $22 million might seem like a lot of money.  That is, until you start to do some comparisons.
The New York Yankees are sporting a roster this year which, quite frankly, is not expected to perform very well, yet will cost the organization $229 million in terms of player salaries.  Imagine that, the Yankees’ payroll is over 10 times greater than what the Astros will be paying out to all of its players combined.  That’s got to sting just a little bit if you happen to have an “H” on your cap.

As startling as that may seem, it’s nothing to get excited about when you realize that there are 14 players in the major leagues whose individual 2013 salary will be greater than the combined salaries being paid to the entire Houston Astros’ 25 man roster.

Case in point, New York Yankee 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez, aka A-Rod, will make $27.5 million this season; and he’s not even playing due to an injury which is expected to keep him out of the lineup until July.  That’s kind of like working in a pie factory and getting to eat the pie!

In the process of digging around in the MLB compensation minutiae, I also learned that some of the salary dollars which are included in this season’s Astros’ payroll are actually being paid to players who are no longer with the team.  It just gets curiouser and curiouser, doesn’t it?

Now I happen to be a big fan of both baseball and free market capitalism and I don’t wish to see the otherwise happy and acceptable state of either disturbed.  But speaking as one who has experienced the unwelcome reality of being laid off from two jobs within the past six years, neither of which paid $27.5 million, attempting to wrap my mind around the salaries which are now routinely being paid to athletes leaves me just a bit dazed and confused.

Fear not, I’ll get over it.  In the meantime, “Play Ball!


Photos from mlb.com



5 thoughts on “A Million Here, a Million There. Pretty Soon You’re Talking “Real” Money!

  1. As someone who has worked in and around the sport quite a bit, I can assure you that semblance of “market capitalism” in baseball is strictly coincidental. The sport is a protected monopoly and, as such, the economics get a little weird.

    Players’ salaries are, of course, massive, but when you look at them as a percentage of what revenue the sport generates The players pull down between 45 and 52 percent of league revenues (depending on whose accounting you believe), which is pretty standard for most sports. The thing to remember is that the sport itself generates X amount of money, so the discussion is “how is that money split up?”, not “are players making too much.” Because, if they didn’t make that much, the money would still be there, it would just go elsewhere in the organization. Ticket and concession prices wouldn’t change because….why would they? They’re priced to bring in the most possible revenue, not to scale to what the players are being paid.

    As for the Astros…yeah, they’re going to be terrible, but I think you can make a legitimate argument that they’re better off for having dumped their veterans and the associated contracts. Their farm system is in good shape now and they sure as heck weren’t going to win anything this year with Carlos Lee in the lineup. The pitching is still thin, but they’re going to scores some runs in a couple of years. I don’t see any value in asking them to waste money to be “respectable” when it’s just going to set their rebuilding back a few years.

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