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Baseball players to make $3.5 billion this year — they should be making more

Mar 26, 2014, 11:35 AM EST

Money Bag

My dad was a federal government employee. For years we lived in Flint, Michigan where, back then anyway, everyone in the city worked for General Motors. Big UAW town, obviously.

His favorite part of that whole dynamic — apart from when his Toyota would get keyed in parking lots and, later, have the windows bashed in — was the difference between how government salaries were reported compared to UAW salaries. If government workers got a raise, it was always reported by the Flint Journal in the aggregate: “Government employees get $1 billion raise,” the headline would scream, along with some sidebar about how Gerald Ford was busy bankrupting the nation. If the UAW got a new contract it’d be reported by the hour, as in “Autoworkers get 50 cent raise,” with a sidebar about how crazy inflation was and how 50 cent raises didn’t get you jack squat.

I bring all of this up because you’ll see a roughly similar dynamic once this news starts to circulate, courtesy of CNBC:

Baseball been very, very good to a lot of people.

The 30 teams in Major League Baseball will collectively pay their players some $3.45 billion this year, according to data tabulated by The Associated Press . . . By way of perspective, at an average of $4.6 million, the average player would make more than 100 times the average American wage earner, based on Social Security Administration data.

Expect a lot of “those greedy players” rhetoric shortly!

Of course, absent in this report and presumably absent in the impending rhetoric is the fact that baseball as an industry brought in a record $8 billion+ last year, meaning player salaries are around 43% of revenues. Which seems high — depending on the industry, labor usually costs anywhere between 10 and 30 percent of revenues — but shouldn’t be all that surprising considering that in baseball, labor and the product being sold is one and the same. Indeed, the ballplayers and the games they play are the only reason the owners make that $8 billion. They are not a mere input to a more valuable finished product. The owners are not fabricating sheet metal before they can sell their product and stuff.

So enjoy your $3.45 billion, ballplayers. To be honest, I think you should be making more.

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