Issue 7- January 18, 2012
Free agency completely changed the face of baseball. Do athletes simply play for money, or is it for the love of the game? Is it because they’re passionate about competing, or for the check they receive afterward? Even underrated Major Leaguers of today make millions more than top–notch players of the last century.
Mickey Mantle was a sensational athlete during the 1950’s and 60’s. As a first basemen and center fielder for the New York Yankees, he was awarded the Golden Glove award and Triple Crown. He has more records than many players could dream and 536 career home runs. At the height of his career, Mantle was paid only $100,000. Just a comparison: Alex Rodriguez is a third basemen for the New York Yankees who missed many starts in the 2012 postseason, and he will make $28 million in 2013.
At the beginning of the 1900’s, the average salary of a baseball player was around $5,000, equivalent to almost $200,000 in modern times. Today the average salary is $3 million.
What led to this dramatic change in Major League Baseball (MLB) salaries? Do modern baseball players deserve to make millions and millions more than players of previous decades?
Because of the Seitz decision in 1975, pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally were the first free agents of MLB. Simply put, after playing for a team one year without a contract, players could sign with any team they chose. McNally retired after the 1975 season, therefore never enforcing his free agency. Messersmith signed a $1 million contract with the Atlanta Braves, and as a result, began a new era of baseball. The policy has changed slightly, and these days a player is eligible for free agency after competing in the Major Leagues for six years as long as he is not under contract for the next season.
MLB players constantly demand more money. Organizations would pay talented players as much as they desire. Is this the right way to go? Owners are taking serious gambles by signing contracts worth so many millions of dollars. Who knows if the player is a stud or a dud? What if the player simply had a fantastic season, but this proves to not be the norm once they transfer teams? If you spend $28 million on one player, you better be sure he can be the game changer you need, or you could have the highest paid benchwarmer in the league on your hands.