Southeast Missouri State University student publication

The case for MLB: Pay the players

Monday, February 18, 2019

Imagine hearing a billionaire cry out that he was poor. What would your reaction be? Would you laugh at the ridiculousness of the statement? Maybe you would just be confused? How could that be? I bet it wouldn’t be sympathy though. So, why do the Major League Baseball owners garner sympathy and the MLB players get ridiculed for trying to get paid?

The best free agent available has already won an MVP, is a perennial MVP candidate and is only 26 years old — but Bryce Harper still doesn’t have a team after five months of free agency. He remains unsigned because the owners do not want to give the players contracts that they have earned from their performance on the field. It seems they think the players’ contracts are getting out of hand. The crazy thing is, people are actually buying into it. They are siding with the guys that already have all the money, and it does not make a lick of sense to me.

When is the last time that you tuned into a game to watch the owners? Has that ever happened? No, you tune into a game to watch the players play the game. You buy the player’s jersey. You root for the team and the players on the field. Can you even name the owner of your team? What about the other 29 owners? How many do you think you could name? Five? Ten? It is probably not many.

However, I bet you can name at least some players from every team. Why? Because they are the reason you watch and follow the game. Somebody has to get the money. Your dollars are going to go into someone’s pocket. Why not let it be the reason you tune in? Speaking of money…

The MLB made $10.3 BILLION dollars in revenue last year, according to Forbes. Not million, billion. This does not even include a deal MLB made with Disney for BAMTech for $2.58 billion. That $10.3 billion is purely baseball-related revenue—basically, the dollars given to MLB by fans. This was the 16th consecutive year revenues have increased for MLB and there is no end in sight for the revenues rolling in.

A new streaming deal kicks in with DAZN US this season for $300 million. A new TV deal with FOX will go into effect in 2022 for $5.1 billion. Every team is negotiating new local TV deals for prices way higher than the last. Forbes just valued every MLB franchise except one at more than $1 billion. The one team? The Tampa Bay Rays at $900 million. Guess how many teams have been bought for more than $1 billion? Two. The Dodgers, who are now worth double what was paid for them, and the Marlins, who were purchased last year. Nearly every owner could sell their team right now for 10 times what they paid.

Let the owners tell it though and they are broke. Players are making too much and they just cannot afford it any longer. Failing to mention that these players will most likely spend 2-3 years in the minor leagues (where the majority of players make below minimum wage), and then they get to keep them for six years at way below market value.

Harper was the National League MVP in 2015. How much do you think that is worth to a franchise? I would assume most people would say $30 million is a fair price for an MVP season. I would tend to argue more but just for argument’s sake, let’s say $30 million. So what did he make that year? $2.5 million dollars, according to Spotrac. Don’t get me wrong, that is a lot of money, but it is nothing compared to what he could have made. For his eight seasons with the Nationals, he made $52 million. Which again, is a lot, but for MVP-level production the majority of the time? Not so much.

Some might even say Harper isn’t the best free agent available. Some would argue it is Manny Machado. While he hasn’t won an MVP, he is also a perennial MVP candidate and is also 26 years old. So maybe he has made more money? Ha. To this point, he has earned $39 million for seven seasons. Is he signed? Of course not. That would make too much sense, what owner would want a superstar on their team?

The players are not that different than you and me. They make a lot more money, sure, but put yourself in their shoes; imagine you are insanely talented at something. You get told where you have to work and you will be paid a set amount for eight years that is way below what you could make. After those eight years are up, you would want to make what you feel you deserve, right? Who wouldn’t? But the guys with a lot of the money try to keep it for themselves. The players are just the workers trying to get a piece of the pie. Does that sound familiar? It should because it’s the same battle most of us fight every single day.

So, if the players are just workers trying to get some hard-earned dollars from very wealthy people, why are people sympathizing with the owners and ridiculing the players? It should be the opposite. Applaud the players for trying to get what they deserve, because that’s not greedy -- that is smart. Ridicule the owners for trying to trick us into putting more money in their pockets. Because the billionaire owners already have enough as it is. Let’s not give them any more.