While surfing the Internet the other night I came across an article about Matt Lauer. (It was nice to see something online not related to a Kardashian for a change.) The article explained how Lauer threatened to jump ship to CBS. To keep him on board NBC offered him a salary of $25 million. He accepted. And not a soul complained. $25 million for Matt Lauer? And he can’t even hit a curve.
Every once in awhile I, like probably many of you, find myself in a discussion/debate about the “ridiculously high salaries” baseball players get. For as long as I can remember I’ve defended the ballplayer; Be it A-Rod (yes, I did defend him) or going back to 1980 when a pitcher for the small market Astros named Nolan Ryan became the first player to earn seven figures. Baseball players have a gift, a skill, a unique talent. They deserve to get paid.
No one holds a gun to the head of the owners. This is Capitalism. If you have a skill and someone is willing to pay you for it, why not? To quote an iconic movie line, Show Me the Money.
Several months ago a friend of mine, who is not into any sports whatsoever, thought it was “disgusting” that David Wright earned what he did. When I advised her that David was not even the highest paid player on the team, she turned as white as Marvin Miller’s hair.
She, like others, made the usual claim that doctors and policemen and soldiers and teachers don’t earn nearly that much and THEY are important. Sad, but true. Police officers put their lives on the line everyday to protect us. Doctors go to school for years and tally up hundreds of thousands in student loans to keep us healthy. Soldiers risk their lives in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan simply to protect a way of life. Teachers, the ones who shape future generations, get paid nowhere near what they should.
And meanwhile, Ted Lilly earns $13.5 million.
Is it absurd, sickening and downright bizarre? Absolutely. But that’s the world we live in. Right or wrong. My eighth grade Math teacher was named Mrs. Krimsky. She was a rigid, tough, old-fashioned type. Strict, but fair. However, I don’t recall 52,000 people paying admission to her classroom to watch her perform her job.
Baseball players do have a good life. They stay in the most luxurious hotels, eat the best food, drive the nicest cars, seem to have the sexiest wives or hottest girlfriends (in some cases, both). But it’s also not easy either. They are away from family, children and loved ones from mid-February until late October (if they’re lucky.) They earn a lot. But they also sacrifice a lot. How many of you would be willing to be away from your family more than eight months of every year?
Some athletes are born with it. Not everyone has the instincts of a Mays, the ability of a Seaver, the majestic swing of a Strawberry, the blinding speed of a Rickey or the ability to throw a 12-6 curve like Zito. Some, like a Pete Rose or a Derek Jeter or an R.A. Dickey get there through sheer determination and perseverance.
What I don’t understand and perhaps never will is the double standard. People grumble about ballplayers’ salaries when compared to careers I mentioned earlier. However, when a Matt Lauer or a mediocre actor makes triple or quadruple that, no one says a word. Why?
This year A-Rod will earn $29 million. The second highest major league salary belongs to our own Johan Santana at $25.5 million. Last year, Tom Cruise earned $75 million. Robert Pattinson was the TENTH highest paid actor. Yet, his $26.5 million would make him the SECOND highest paid ballplayer. I’d like to see Pattinson try to get a fastball by Miguel Cabrera.
Putting aside actors, the top paid “entertainers” list is even more “absurd.” I can’t even recall the last hit by Elton John. Yet, last year Sir Elton earned $100 million. Number 7 on the list was the one and only Dr. Phil who came in at a paltry $80 million.
Want to know my definition of disgusting or absurd? The fact that Judge Judy makes almost three times what Albert Pujols does.
Yet, no one complains. Perhaps Historian John Thorn is onto something when, to paraphrase what he said once:
Baseball seduces us with the illusion that we can be down there on that field; that there’s not much separating me from Barry Bonds.
I’ll even go as far as to say Baseball players are underpaid. Think about this: Several years ago the cast of ‘Friends’ negotiated new contracts as a “team.” NBC caved and gave each ‘friend’ one million per episode. David Schwimmer, who worked a few hours a week a few days of the week speaking words written by someone else earned $24 million in Season 9. If Schwimmer can earn $24 million, David Wright is underpaid.
In 2009 the University of Colorado-Boulder did a study that showed some interesting facts. From 1900-1993, the average baseball career lasted just 5.6 years. 20% of all major leaguers, 1 out of every 5 who make it to the show, will only last ONE year. And this study only looked at position players. Pitchers, who are more prone to injuries, were not included.
5.6 years! About half as long as FRIENDS aired.
I’m not putting down Dr. Phil or David Schwimmer or Judge Judy or anyone I mentioned. They, like professional athletes, have every right to earn every penny they can. Although I do tend to think Prince Fielder and Tim Lincecum have more talent than Leonardo DiCaprio or Katie Couric, I don’t begrudge any of them. I just am confused with the double standard.
Am I missing something here?
Please feel free to voice your opinion and add a comment. You can even check back in a week to look at all the comments left by others. One week from today, seven days from now, after Kim Kardashian has earned another $250,000.