Everything has a price. Some sporting teams will buy championships–sign all the good players one year, win the championship, and then unload them. If you have money, it’s a way to get a trophy. Fans watching the salaries of baseball player–pitchers in particular–this off-season are a little shocked. Pitchers that aren’t even that good are being paid outrageous salaries. It’s even more surprising that teams that really probably can’t afford players that expensive are paying the salaries. Earlier in the season, options were picked up and contracts were signed that seemed proposterous at the time. Those salaries are starting to look like bargains.
A team that’s performed poorly might need a good player or two. A good player can boost the performance of the other players–which might be what a team needs to boost them from a “joke” to a competitive team. To get a good player or two, they need to be paid. However, teams looking for the one good guy are competing for the good players with teams that were competitive that want a little more edge. It’s supply and demand. If every team is looking for someone that’s just a little bit better, which they all always are, and the teams are willing to pay a lot of money, you’ll see those salaries skyrocket. Players on the free agent market are having a heyday. Players under contract are just hoping that the same outrageous willingness to pay high salaries still exists when their contracts expire. There is only so much money available and teams will someday be too busy paying off their current contracts to worry about new one, particularly the small market teams.
At some point, George Steinbrenner is going to realize it would be a whole lot cheaper to just bribe the umpires and front offices of Major League Baseball than to field a championship team. (See, you thought Steinbrenner was as evil as he could get? Nope. He’s not even close. While he might be missing the gene of fair play, he still wants to play by the rulebook.)
This means teams without the large salaries–teams in the smaller markets–need to hold even tighter to their prospects and young players. A player earning minimum wage–baseball minimum wage–is still affordable on a small budget, and some of those players are just as good as their highly-paid counterparts and sometimes better. It’s a bargain, if you can search out the gold on this diamonds around the world–but fool’s gold is so deceiving, you never know until you bring it home and try to refine it.
Money isn’t everything, though. There comes a point when you’re spending money just purely for the sake of spending money–because everyone else is. When everyone else is spending money, that’s when you evaluate what you have. If what you have is just as good as what you could pay for, there’s no use getting something shiny and new, when all you need to do is polish what you have.
The Twins and Phillies stuck with what they had, and both ended up with players who won the MVP. At $385,000, Justin Morneau made more money than Ryan Howard’s 355,000. If both men combined their salaries from 2006, they still wouldn’t have one million dollars. This is a far cry from 2005, when the Yankees and the Cardinals paid a combined $37,000,000 for the MVP players of Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols in 2005. (It cost the Angels and Giants $29,000,000 in 2004 for Barry Bonds and Vladmir Guerrero. Incidentally, the last MVP to earn less than one million dollars in a season the season he won was Barry Bondsback in 1990. It’s interesting to note that he made $850,000–which is still more than Morneau’s and Howard’s combined $740,000. Kevin Mitchell, in 1989, was the last MVP to earn less than the combined total of the 2006 winners, earning “only” $610,000 in that season. In 1988, the first guy to earn less than either of the 2006 winners was Jose Conseco earned $325,000.