Do you ever feel like a curmudgeon? You know, a cranky, a little set in your ways, a little “When-I-was-a-kid” prefacing your remarks when commenting on virtually anything in society today? Well, I’m feeling that way this week. I think with age comes a certain allowance for such behavior. It comes under the heading of having earned the privilege.

The topic that has led me to my “curmudgeoness” in this early part of February is baseball. More specifically, the clowns now attempting to further ruin Major League Baseball. That would be the owners, the players, and, most especially, the agents representing those players. All bear responsibility for the current state of affairs in what was the national pastime but is fast becoming the national whine-time.

Atlanta fans, in particular, are still riding high on the strength of the Braves’ World Series win over the Astros. There should be great anticipation going into Spring Training that a repeat of 2021 is not out of the question. But as of this writing, there aren’t going to be any pitchers and catchers showing up in the Sunshine State or the desert in Arizona. Because about six seconds or so after the Braves paraded past Truist Park in November, MLB owners instituted a lockout. In essence, that means no team can presently do anything remotely associated with the sport of baseball in any official capacity. No team workouts, no contract negotiations, no nothing. Not even the MLB television network can mention current teams or players. (Tune in right now and you might see a replay of the 1975 Cincinnati/Boston World Series – definitely a classic showdown, but that’s beside the point.)

If reports are true, there are some sticking points that need to be ironed out between the owners’ representatives and the players’ association mouthpieces at the bargaining table in order for the lockout to be rescinded and baseball matters to commence once again. It will come as no surprise that the players want more money and the owners are loath to part with any more filthy lucre than they have to.

As of 2021, the average Major League baseball salary was $4.17 million. The absolute worst player on any team drew $570,500. So-called “top tier” free agents are commanding more than $30 million per year. (And a lot of that money is guaranteed regardless of performance.) Those are three good reasons it cost an average of $253 for a group of four to go to a major league game last year.

Raise your hand if your salary is or was guaranteed to be paid no matter how well or how poorly you did your job. Didn’t meet your sales quota? No problem. Here’s your full salary and a bonus. Yeah, right.

We mere mortals in the real business world who simply weren’t blessed with exceptional hand/eye coordination actually have to succeed every workday and every year in order to be compensated for our efforts.

It used to be that way with ballplayers. (Here comes the “When-I-was-a-kid . . .” part.) Fifty or sixty years ago, the absolute best major leaguers on the planet made about $100,000 per year. Granted, that was a lot of money back then. But we’re talking about Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, Mickey Mantle . . . the best of the best. And the working folks making roughly $5,600 per annum didn’t begrudge them. Those guys were worth 20 times the average. Most of the ballplayers were making substantially less than $100K. Maybe $19,000 or $20,000 as an average. By those standards, with $55,000 as an average salary, the best players today should make roughly $1 million.

Nothing was guaranteed for more than a year. If a player had a good season, he probably got a raise. If not, his salary might have gone down. Kind of like the real world.

Of course, free agency changed all that. After 1975, players gained the ability to negotiate with any team they wanted to. That’s all well and good, but foolish owners quickly let things get out of hand. And the worship of the almighty dollar led us to where we are today.

I once asked my dad how much it cost us to go to a game at old Crosley Field in Cincinnati. Again, this is 50 or 60 years ago. He said, “We could park, sit in seats behind the catcher, get something to eat and drink, and it was maybe ten bucks.”

The games were just as good then as now. The cheers were just as loud. The hot dogs just as tasty. Maybe even moreso.

Memo to MLB: No one wants to hear millionaires and billionaires complaining. Play ball, you malcontents. Otherwise, well, I’ve heard Lacrosse is a good game.


©MMXXII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer