As I read dozens of columns, blogs and tweets on Albert Pujols this week, I was struck by the number of people who think Pujols is being greedy or should take a “hometown discount” to stay with the Cardinals. I’ve always said I admire players like John Smoltz and Chipper Jones who either took less or restructured their contract to stay with the Braves. I like the idea of players staying with one team their entire career. Not like the days of the reserve clause where they were forced to stay, but when they love a team and a city so much they choose to stay.
All that being said, I don’t think any player should feel obligated to give a team a “hometown discount” just because he’s played there a long time. That brings us to Pujols. National writers and commentators seem to have come to consensus that what he’s asking for ($30 million/year for 10 years) isn’t outrageous in today’s market. However, I’ve been shocked by the number of everyday fans who are disgusted that he turned down what was reportedly up to a $210 million offer over 10 years from the Cardinals.
I thought about it and tweeted out the following:
Fans tend to side with owners because they hear player salaries in the media every single day. What if they heard owner revenue every day?
I firmly believe that fans take the owners side because they hear figures like $21 million per year and think, “Wow, that’s more than I’ll make in my entire lifetime. Who needs that much money? And he’s going to turn it down?!”
First, I think if you heard owner revenue numbers every single day and compared that figure to what they’re putting into payroll and other team expenses, you’d feel differently.
Second, it’s all relative. If Pujols had taken the Cardinals offer, he would have been making less than Ryan Howard and A-Rod. The bottom line is that he’s a better player than either of them and deserves to be making more per year.
I had a follower on Twitter (you can follow me @SportsBizMiss) engage with me after the tweet I shared above. He said perhaps if player salaries were lower it would be more affordable for fans to go to games. Really? No one can really believe that just because owners are paying less they’re going to make attending games cheaper. Have you ever seen a big slash in ticket prices following a decrease in payroll for any team in professional sports? I don’t think so. Every dollar the owners save is likely going right back into their pocket.
I asked this follower if two other guys with his same job title were making more than him but he was producing better work, would he be cool with that? He said probably not, but that it’s different because these guys are making hundreds of millions of dollars.
I’m sorry, but that does not make it different. Let’s say this follower makes $75k and his coworkers make $100k. Don’t you think the guy down the block making $25k feels roughly the same way about them as this follower does about baseball players?
Owners got salaries to where they are, not players. All a player can do is ask for the money, the owners don’t have to give it to him. I don’t think any owner has ever paid more than he thought a guy could be worth to him. No owner thinks, “Gee, that guy looks great in our uniform. He’s not going to win us games or put fans in the stands, but what the heck, give him what he wants!”
So, here we are with arguably the best player in baseball right now asking to be paid more than other guys who he’s out-performed. Why doesn’t he deserve that?
Mark my words, Pujols is worth $300 million over 10 years to someone.
UPDATE: Several followers on Twitter pointed out that it’s really the fans who are to blame for rising player salaries, because it’s their money that goes to pay these guys. That’s true, whether it’s directly from ticket and merchandise sales or indirectly through advertising and tv dollars thrown at teams in order to get to fans. So, if you want to complain about player salaries, I hope you’re not buying tickets or licensed merchandise or watching games on television. Doing those things would be the equivalent of enabling an alcoholic.