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Baseball = Moneyball

GAYS MILLS - It doesn’t take me long to read the sports page. I just never got into sports as a participant, spectator, or fan, beyond a brief career in Little League (Go Oilers!).  I know, I know, all guys are supposed to be up on the latest games, scores, stats, rivalries, torn rotator cuffs and pulled groins. But, it’s not for me. I’m probably missing a big part of life by not following sports, but it doesn’t seem to bother me.

However, I did notice recently as I speed-skimmed the sports section a very interesting page. In very fine print, the page showed the total team payroll and individual player salaries of every baseball team and player in the big leagues. Wow! Talk about the high price of beef!

A phenomenal amount of money is paid to today’s baseball players. America’s pastime, the game of baseball, is a huge industry in itself. I don’t know how other major sports compare; I’ve never seen a listing like the one for baseball. I guess I need to start reading the sports pages more closely.

Here’s what I found:  If you play in the majors, you make at least $545,000. That seems to be the entry-level salary. Each team has several at that level and the salaries gradually increase up the scale and into the stratosphere, as we shall see. Milwaukee employs twelve players in the ‘half-mil’ range. That might explain why the Brewers total payroll ranks 25th out of the 30 major league teams, or franchises, which is a more fitting term for a baseball enterprise. Milwaukee’s payroll is a frugal $89.7 million. The cellar dweller in total payroll is Philadelphia with a miserly $64.5 million.  Boston tops the list with $224 million.

Not all baseball players are created equal. Pitchers rule the salary charts, most earn between $10 and $25 million, a ball park figure. Get it?  But Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers tops the list of MLB salaries at $34 million. I couldn’t resist doing some math on these figures. There are 162 games in the regular baseball season.  That works out to $209,876 per game for Kershaw….whether he plays in that game or not. The mind boggles. An entry level-player’s per game pay is $3364.

Baseball salaries used to be a lot more down to earth. In 1970, the base salary was $12,000 and the highest salary was $29,000. Players routinely needed to work at some more mundane jobs during the off-season. Free agency for players became a thing after 1969 and bidding wars and players’ agents got involved, which have caused salaries to rise dramatically ever since.

This all reminds me of a man I met when I was eight or nine years old in 1954.  My dad owned a variety store in Fullerton, California. I hung around and “helped” once in a while. One day dad said, “John, here’s someone I want you to meet.” It was none other than Del Crandall, standout catcher for the Milwaukee (then) Braves.  Dad explained that Del worked on the City of Fullerton street crew in the off-season to stay in shape.  

My guess is that he probably needed the income as well.