Once the World Series ends, we know we're going to be treated to several things in the next few months. There will be arguing about awards, obsessing over rumors in the Hot Stove, screaming about the Hall of Fame and, inevitably, some cries about how much money baseball players make.
"It's just too much."
"No one is worth that much money!"
And any other derivative. We've all seen it. The problem is this stems from an emotional standpoint and not substance. That is unless, of course, we want the owners (billionaires, remember, as the players are "only" millionaires) to just pocket all their profits without compensating the talent.
Because there are profits. Hoo boy is there money in baseball. Major League Baseball reported gross revenues of close to $10 billion in 2016, per Forbes. The money is there. The players are the ones earning that money with their incredible talent. So why, again, is there such a big problem with their salaries?
I understand that there's an idealistic complex where people wish that the more "honorable" professions (police officers, firefighters, teachers, etc.) made the most money, but this is capitalism. As unfortunate as it is, 40,000 people aren't coughing up triple digits to sit in a seat and watch a police officer's shift while tens of millions more watch on TV and/or their streaming devices.
Entertainment earns money. That's the reality, whether we like it or not.
Will Smith made over $20 million in 2016 and he only ranked 17th (Forbes) among movie actors. If you're kicking and screaming about baseball player salaries, make sure to be as angry about actors.
Taylor Swift made $170 million. Say what? Yes (Forbes), she did. Justin Bieber made $56 million and he ranked 13th among musicians. If you're kicking and screaming about the salaries of ball players, make sure to be unbelievably more angry about musicians.
The 10th highest-paid CEO makes $37 million (equilar.com).
We could keep going, but the point has been made.
Again, MLB is a $10 billion industry and the players are uniquely talented like people in few other professions. That's why the players earn the big bucks, even if they don't compare to the world's top musicians.
The first response I'll get is a misguided one (well, they're all misguided, but I have to start somewhere): Ticket prices!
Yeah, that has nothing to do with player salaries. Has anyone ever taken just an entry level ECON class? Companies can't set a high price point to help them pay for worker salaries, because price points aren't based upon anything other than demand. Prices get raised when there's increased demand and lowered when there's decreased demand. Teams can't just overspend in free agency and then increase ticket prices as a manner of being able to afford the players. That's not how it works. Otherwise, why wouldn't a small market team just break the bank in free agency and jack up the prices? We know why. Because the seats would be empty and the team would be hemorrhaging money.
It sounds like such an elementary discussion, but you wouldn't believe how many people complain about salaries and bring up ticket prices like the two are related.
Again, ticket prices are a function of demand. Does it stink that the average family is being priced out of games in many areas? Yes, definitely, but that's how the world works. Everyone doesn't get to fly first class or buy a luxury car or get the biggest flat-screen TV.
By no means do I think that the average fan who feels he is being priced out shouldn't complain. Go ahead and complain away. I'm just telling those who wish to complain to remember that player salaries aren't the reason. It's the game's wild popularity and people's willingness to pay the huge prices that are pricing you out, not the salaries.
Past the misguided argument about ticket prices being a function of high player salaries, the only other things I can come up with here are:
1. Seeing it too much. How often do you actually see salaries anywhere but in sports? We report on contracts as part of our day-to-day operations as baseball writers, but that doesn't seem to happen in other industries. Maybe people only complain because these are the only gigantic salary figures they're seeing on a daily basis and would nail actors/musicians more if they saw it more often?
2. Not thinking it through. I hope that if most fans saw exactly how much money owners were making and then distributing to the players on a regular basis that there wouldn't be as much outcry. I would venture to guess 99 percent-plus of baseball fans don't like socialism and therefore wouldn't want the MLB profits redistributed to other professions. So if you want the money baseball makes to stay in baseball, shouldn't it be going to the players who are earning it?
3. Jealousy. Some fans played baseball through age 18 or even 22 and it's difficult to get over not feeling too far away from hundreds of millions of dollars (even though we were really far away). Furthermore, even people who didn't play see an average player making $6 million a year and think it's unfair, notably because MLB players are "playing a kid's game."
Let's think it all the way through. Major-league players are the top sliver of a percent in the world at their profession. Millions of fans every single season pay to watch them play 162 times in the regular season. Tens of millions watch them play on TV, which generates amazing revenue. In all, MLB is a $10 billion industry. The players are the reason for this.
So why shouldn't they be getting a huge piece of the pie?
There's no good argument against it that doesn't misinterpret the situation. Let's stop the "it's just too much" talk without thinking it through.