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State Of The Game

Joey Simon
English 1550
March 5, 2001
“State of the Game”
Every year, it becomes more obvious that many sports in America have problems. For years, Hockey has been criticized for its excessive violence. The National Football League has also been scrutinized for this reason as well as the fact that many of the top players have constantly been in trouble with the law. Major League Baseball is no different. The situation with baseball is more complicated, and is not only ruining the game itself, but also drawing millions of fans away from the sport. The biggest problem is with the high salaries paid to athletes. These salaries are taking the competitiveness out of several sports, especially baseball, where there is no salary cap. Action must be taken immediately to cap the salaries paid to baseball players, before baseball in America rapidly diminishes.
I believe that this problem has really just started to work its way in during the last decade. Many fans that have grown to love the game of baseball are now sickened by the amount of money being paid to the athletes. Unfortunately, what the fans see is only the athlete’s salary. What they don’t see is how much money the owners are making from these athletes. The athletes fill the bleachers full of die-hard baseball fans year in and year out. These players are a major source of income for the owners. By signing big name players to the team, this in essence brings more and more fans to the stadium. A stunning quote from online site /baseball/ written by Chris Isidore on March 30, 2001 states that, “Baseball’s average ticket price has more than doubled in a decade, increasing 120 percent from 1991, when it was $8.64…The average salary of players, $851,492 in 1991, has more than doubled in the same time period and is expected to be more than $2.2 million when the season opens Sunday.” These million dollar contracts that the players are getting are nothing but peanuts to the owners. They merely raise the ticket prices a few dollars and make twice the amount of the athletes.

The fans that come to watch the athletes and who pay nearly $20 to get in the ballpark are padding the pockets of these owners. Statistics taken from online site /03/30/news/baseball/ show that baseball ticket prices have gone up from $16.67 to $18.99 in just one year. A quote from the same online site /baseball/ wrote by Chris Isidore says, “Baseball fans going through the turnstiles on opening day across the nation Monday will be paying about 13 percent more than they did last year, according to a survey of prices…The increase makes baseball the sport with the fastest growing prices.” Baseball in the United States is no longer America’s Pastime. Baseball has changed to a high priced business, where average players make millions and above average players make tens of millions. To make the situation even worse, the dumbfounded owners and greedy sports agents who contaminate the game and the talented young athletes playing in it, control this business.
Many fans throughout the U.S. blame the high priced contracts on the athletes, but they are not the source of the problem. In a sense, the athletes are just getting their piece of the pie. What the athletes make is just a small portion of what the industry itself makes. Professional teams routinely pull in billions of dollars per year and the athletes receive only a small share of what the industry receives. Information from online site shows that there are currently ten Major League Baseball players receiving a salary of over $15 million dollars a year. However, these players’ teams are owned by companies such as Disney and Fox television, which have annual revenues of billions of dollars. What the fans don’t understand is that, in many cases, single individuals do not own the teams but large companies who are able to afford to pay the players such high salaries.
Television also plays a huge part in the baseball players’ increasing salaries. Major League Baseball and nearly all sports have huge contracts with the major television networks for billions of dollars. The teams can sign players to bigger contracts with all this excess money from the television networks. This is a quote that came from Tom Williams a writer for the Vindicator who wrote a column on his opinion of the high salaries in baseball, “Unlike the NFL where revenue sharing gives perennial losers like the Rams their day in the sun, baseball is pretty much reserved for the big boys.” This goes to show that the athlete cannot completely be held accountable for taking the money that was generously handed to him.

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There is also another definite problem with the extremely high salaries of the Major League Baseball players. In Major League Baseball there are big market teams and small market teams. Big market teams include teams such as the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Baltimore Orioles. Small market teams include the Pittsburgh Pirates, Montreal Expos, and the Milwaukee Brewers. The big market teams are, of course the one’s owned by billion dollar companies and with all the extra money from the huge TV contracts. The small market teams are the teams who have been bad for the past few years and often times in much less populated areas. Another quote from Tom Williams’ article says, “The small market teams are to blame for baseball’s financial mess. If they would stick together and force George Steinbrenner, Ted Turner and other tycoons who get huge local broadcasting fees to share (think NFL), the Yankees might not lead the league in payroll year in and year out.” Baseball needs see how the other professional organizations are handling this same dilemma.

The problem in baseball is that all of the good players who become free agents eventually go to the big market teams. Seriously now, who’s going to want to stay in a place where they know there is no money? The small market teams do not have the money to sign most players, so they have to develop their talent from the minor leagues. Even so, soon after they develop these new talented players they are lost to big market teams when the player’s contract is up and the small market teams cannot afford to pay them. Another quote took from Jayson Stark’s column was this; “A prime example of this is the Montreal Expos. The Expos have had many marquee players in the past but failed to re-sign these players after their contracts ran out. If the Expos were in a big market they would be great, but the problem is they are in a small market town with and old, out of date ballpark.” Unfortunately this is a rapidly growing problem in baseball, and something must be done.

Another problem with the high salaries developing in Major League Baseball is that it takes the loyalty out of the sport. Fewer players are playing their whole careers with the team they originated with; instead players are jumping to another team when their contract is up so that they can make more money. Another quote taken from Jayson Stark’s column says, “The athlete does not seem to care about the loyalty and love of the game but rather about putting more money in the bank.” Before baseball was not about money it was about doing what you love for a living.

These days it is almost like a contest to see who can make the most money. In the early 1980’s, Nolan Ryan became Major League Baseball’s first one million dollar man. Now a little over a decade has passed and players who have half of Nolan Ryan’s skill are making more than he ever saw. This is not right, but it is the sign of the times in baseball and if baseball doesn’t soon do something to change it then all this money will destroy the precious game that legends have worked so hard to build.

As mentioned before, it is unfair to blame the ball players; these men are just earning what is rightfully theirs. Baseball players have agents who tell them where they should go and what amount of money they should be making. Agents know the revenue side of baseball very well and also know that they can creep there way into all this money very easily. Some agents, who represent a number of high priced clients, have given sports a bad name with their constant greed. Agents, of course, get their fair share for negotiating a player’s contract. This is a quote from long time manager of the New York Mets, Casey Stengel, “The days when the players negotiated their own contracts are gone, so one cannot possibly blame the players. As long as we have such ruthless agents, there will always be big contracts.” These penny-pinching agents must be stopped before it’s too late and baseball once again goes on strike.

The fans of baseball have been around for years. Including when the players went on strike in 1994 and there was no World Series for the first time in history. It took over 5 years for the fans to put it behind them and forgive the game of baseball. If there is another strike, the fans might never be able to put it behind them and forgive the game. As of recently, a few of the top players in baseball have said that if there is another strike, they would retire, because they would be embarrassed to be called a Major League Baseball Player. Maybe this will cause the owners, managers, and players to realize what they are doing to baseball.
If something is not done immediately, the game of baseball will never be the same. Sparky Anderson, former manager of the Detroit Tigers and future Hall of Famer, says, “ It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if the high salaries in baseball continue and Major League Baseball doesn’t do something about it, the sport will lose its competitiveness and this will further drive the fans away from the game.” It would be very tragic if baseball ends up learning this the hard way. Not just for the game, but also for the millions of fans that come out every year to cheer on their home team.
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