18 August 2009

Ridiculous Money

I like sports and am, in general, a sports fan. I became a NJ Devils fan when my dad got season tickets, and still follow hockey on a reasonably regular basis. I like the beauty of the skating and the excitement of a goal scored. The fighting -- meh. The players -- mostly meh. Sports figures as people to look up to, idolize, pay attention to -- nope, sorry, not into that. I believe that they are grossly overpaid for their jobs, to the point of ridiculousness, and that considering them heroes or idols is plain old silly.

And that brings me to the point of today's post. Last night at 11:58 pm, the Washington Nationals reached a deal with Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 draft pick in this year's baseball draft. The amount -- a staggering $15.1 million, plus incentives, over four years. $15 million to throw a baseball at (okay, towards) other men who will try to whack the shit out of it. That's reportedly the most money ever paid to an drafted amateur player in baseball history. It's ridiculous. It's obscene.

Apparently, Strasburg's agent felt that Strasburg's "free market value" ($50 million!!!) was greater than anything ever before. And that the Nationals (or any team lucky enough to land this kid) should pay through the nose for it. For a 21 year-old kid who had never pitched a MLB game. (insert eye roll here...) I am not a baseball afficionado, but I understand that young pitching arms need to be brought along carefully, and that most pitchers spend some time in minor league ball to bring their arm along. Or whatever. A sizable number of pitchers never make it out of the minor leagues, and so these top money contracts may be all for naught. That may very well not be the case, as Stephen Strasburg is heralded as the kind of pitcher seen only once in a generation. But it is a lot of money for an organization (a pathetically losing organization) to gamble on one player. We won't know if it was the right choice in the long run -- until the "long-run" happens.

But I found one thing especially galling about this situation (at least what I read in the papers). According to The Washington Post, Nationals acting general manager Mike Rizzo says that all Strasburg wants to do is play.
"The reason he signed -- he wants to be in the big leagues, he wants to be a Washington National, he wants to win a Cy Young award and he wants to win championships in D.C." Rizzo said. "That's the reason he signed with us here. Money was a nice perk and a nice byproduct for him, but he's here to pitch. He's chomping at the bit to get on the mound. He's ultra-ultra competitive, and I think he was getting a little tired of sitting around the house."
Oh, puh-leeeze. (insert another eye roll) If all he wanted to do was play, he would've signed the original contract for $12 million that he was offered. Which is more money than most people will see in their lifetimes.


Anonymous said...

I'm so with you on this one. I think that the salaries that professional sportsmen get are obscene. Simply ridiculous. Same with actors, by the way.

vince said...

And thus we continue to see the warped way in which we as a society value what people do.

Ilya said...

If I wanted to get on a free-marketer soapbox, I'd say that a) salaries in major sports are one of the purest manifestations of the forces of supply and demand, and b) there is a fair chance that the Nationals will make a profit on this transaction even if they spend the next few years in the cellar, on ancillary revenue streams improved by Strasburg's top-pick marketability...

But I don't want to start a big argument here :-)

neurondoc said...

Ilya -- I agree in principle with what you say, especially as people will buy tickets to see him (a la Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby in the hockey world). It is the amount of money that I think is obscene, as well as the "I only want play ball" bullshit.

I don't go to hockey games anymore because to go to a game with 3 people and sit in seats with reasonable sightlines is more than I want to spend. So supply and demand has worked on me in that way. I don't have enough demand for their supply anymore.

Regardless of my statements, I wouldn't advocate some sort of government or MLB imposed limit. That wouldn't be helpful.

That's a long way of saying "no argument forthcoming".

MWT said...

The argument I've heard for the high pay of pro sports players is: their effective timespan for doing their jobs is a lot shorter than most other people's, because once they hit 40 or so they're too old. Therefore they have to make more money in a shorter amount of time. Especially when, afterward, they tend to have a lot more medical issues.

Anonymous said...

mwt, understood. But many of those guys make more in a single year than the vast majority of the population make in their entire lifetimes. Grossly out of line.

And yes, is totally supply and demand. Stadiums keep getting filled, so they'll keep getting their astronomical salaries. Pity.