‘Boys of Summer’ are now the Gazillionaires of Winter

March 24, 2019

One thing that I look forward to this time of year is the early pre-conference college baseball games being broadcast on television. While the snow and cold wind linger outside in Idaho, I can enjoy a brief vicarious escape while watching Florida U. baseball fans on TV lounging on the grass in shorts and tee-shirts, taking in a home game vs. the Northwestern Louisiana Crawdads. Ahhh, those lucky Gators.

Watching baseball also provides a respite from the endless stream of frenetic basketball games this time of year, featuring teams competing to see who can attempt and miss the most three-point shots between commercial breaks. By simply switching from a basketball game to a baseball game, I swear I can feel my blood pressure drop and my heart rate slow down.

Once the Major League Baseball season begins, I watch a limited amount of the action and never a complete game. I’m not what you would call a real big ‘fan’. In fact, I’m always puzzled seeing guys my age on TV sitting in the stands and wearing a team jersey with a player’s name on the back.

Why on earth would I pay $75 for a jersey with the name ‘Judge’ on the back? What is the meaning of such behavior? Does it imply that I, a 69-year-old frail jogger, can hit 450-foot home runs just like Yankees’ star Aaron Judge?

Does it mean that I feel sorry for Judge because he currently only earns a measly $684,300 per season, so I want to help him out financially by buying his jersey? I simply have no idea why a grown man would behave in such a manner.

If you have been following the offseason baseball news at all, you most likely noticed that some sort of competition is going on between MLB players as to who can break the salary contract record next.

Ranking new contracts negotiated this offseason from least to most ridiculous: Nolan Arenado received $260 million for 8 years; Manny Machado got $300 million for 10 years; Bryce Harper set the record with $330 million for 13 years; Mike Trout then broke the record this past week signing for $430+ million over 12 years.

I’m not sure what the + represents on Trout’s deal. Perhaps his contract contains a bonus incentive for staying awake during games while sitting in the dugout.

The payout for just four baseball players covering a span of 13 seasons is well over $1 billion! So, you no longer must wonder why that hot dog set you back $7.75 at a major league game last summer—ketchup and mustard extra.

What is the reaction of the rest of the major league baseball players when they see four individuals tagged as worth over $1 billion? Speaking publicly, of course, they say that the players deserve it, that Mike Trout is worth twice that amount, that it’s great for the game of baseball, etc.

And why wouldn’t they? Since you can bet other baseball superstars are already working their calculators overtime, speculating how much they can now ask for when their contracts are up for renegotiation. When other superstars say that the sky-high record contracts are “good for the sport,” they actually mean they are “good for me.”

But how does the average player feel about a few megastars signing those supersized ‘home-run’ contracts? Most players who were perfectly happy with their $5 million deals may suddenly feel like they got gypped with their puny ‘sacrifice bunt’ sized contracts—and it’s not difficult to project how this could affect their effort on the field this coming summer.

The little league baseball team that I played for had a good coach. We played our games on hot and humid Saturday mornings. When we won a game, Coach would treat us all to milk shakes at an air-conditioned ice cream store. That way we could cool down both inside and outside.

When we lost a game, he treated us to a bottle of soda at a neighborhood gas station. We kids were appreciative of his generosity either way—and we played hard all season long for him and won the city championship.

Now, what if instead after every game the coach had only bought the star players milkshakes and the rest of the players, kids like me, a bottle of soda. One result of that strategy, I’m guessing, would have been no city championship.

That’s how I read this whole Major League Baseball colossal contract thing. You can count on three fingers the total number of World Series Championships won by the teams that signed the four players this winter. Is adding a gazillionaire to a roster of mere millionaires going to change that?

In 1919, the owner of the Boston Red Sox, Harry Frazee, sold Babe Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees. Ruth had been Boston’s star player and then played a key role in turning around the moribund Yankees franchise.

There are numerous theories as to why Frazee sold the budding super star Babe Ruth. Here’s what Frazee himself said: “What the Boston fans want, I take it, and what I want because they want it, is a winning team, rather than a one-man team that finishes in sixth place.”

Something tells me that fans of the Rockies, Padres, Phillies, and Angels want the same thing.

Mike Murphy of Pocatello is an award-winning columnist whose articles are syndicated by Senior Wire. He recently published a book titled “Tortoise Crossing – Expect Long Delays,” which is a collection of 100 of his favorite columns. It is available on Amazon.com.