Dollars and Sense

Sports salaries have long passed any relation to reality, but baseball seems to be taking things to new heights.

I don’t begrudge the exorbitant earnings of athletes. The worker is, after all, worthy of his hire. Professional athletes in a capitalist system may be well paid – but they would not get that money if their employer wasn’t making a profit from their endeavours. From a dollars and cents perspective, that makes them worth it.

You could easily argue that nurses or teachers have more benefit to society and should be better compensated than athletes. I won’t disagree. If you think that such an unjust system could be improved, I’ll go along with you there too. I hope you have some suggestions for improvement, because I have given my brain Monday off, so I’m fresh out of ideas. Until the system is changed I guess we might as well learn to live with it. If athletes and entertainers can command a large fee I won’t lament that, even if I think we have our social priorities out of whack.

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These minor league players make less in a season than Zack Greinke will make with one pitch in 2016.

But the Zack Greinke contract shook me a little, I must admit that. Greinke is the former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher who as a free agent signed a new contract last week with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’ll make $206.5 million US over the next six seasons.

It wasn’t the amount that surprised me. Sports salaries keep escalating. Today’s player of modest talent makes more than the superstars of yesteryear. Times have changed, and the players are not to be faulted for charging all the market will bear.

What did get me thinking was reading a breakdown of Greinke’s contract, which works out to $34.4 million per season. Pitchers in baseball don’t play every game. In a 162 game season Greinke will probably play in about 40 games, maybe fewer. Some enterprising person took the amount, and Greinke’s 2015 statistics and worked out approximately what he is being paid – per pitch.

Baseball, possibly more than any other sports, is a game of statistics. If you were to ask how often a left-handed batter of Polish descent struck out in the third inning of an evening game on odd numbered days with a full moon, I’m sure that statistic is available. So it is no surprise that someone broke down Greinke’s contract. Somehow that smaller number seems so much more over the top to me than $206 million or $34 million.

In 2016, if her were to play exactly the same amount as he did this year, Zack Greinke will make $9570.86 each time he throws a pitch in a game. That’s well over $10,000 Canadian each time he throws the ball. That means every inning he works, about seven minutes, he’ll make more money than I will all year. If it’s a long inning with a lot of foul balls, he’ll make more than everyone in my family earns in a year, combined. Somehow that just doesn’t seem right.

I’m not unhappy with my income. I feel I am fairly compensated for what I do. In order to make more I would have to do something different, and I like my job too much to be interested in such a change. But no matter what work I were to do I would never make $100,000 in seven minutes.

That number, $9570.86, bothers me somehow. It shouldn’t, but it does. I don’t know what this says about our society that we place such a high value on entertainers, which after all is what professional athletes are. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

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