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Dollar$ and No $ense

The Christmas presents have all been unwrapped, some of them exchanged, the year’s allotment of vacation days is about to disappear, and plans for New Year’s Eve have been resolved. Some New Year’s resolutions will be made, with many being broken before month’s end, and the arrival of W-2s and income tax preparation is a task unwelcomed by most.

So what’s next to put some joy into the cold bleakness of January? Most of us are way over the athletic hill, but if you have aspiring young ones in your midst, it wouldn’t hurt to train them to grow up to become a Major League Baseball shortstop. In case you aren’t aware, during the past last few weeks, four such individuals cashed in big time as MLB free agents leaving their former teams to sign deals totaling $1.072 billion.

That billion-dollar club includes; Carlos Correa from the Twins to the New York Mets for 12 years and $315 million; Trea Turner from the Dodgers to the Philadelphia Phillies for 11 years and $300 million; Xander Bogaerts from the Red Sox to the San Diego Padres for 11 years and $280,000; and Dansby Swanson from the Braves to the Chicago Cubs for seven years and $177 million.

It’s not likely you will find any of them standing in the Christmas exchange line, and while the tax man will be taking a big bite of their haul, they will have plenty left to squander after thanking their lucky stars they learned the art of turning a 6-4-3 double play.

Discussing the absurd spending spree with a fellow sports fanatic following a Sunday church service, he rationalized the madness by saying, “I don’t care how good your shortstop may be; you’re not going to win unless you have pitching.”

Tis a statement with many truths, but those lonesome souls standing in the middle of the diamond 60 feet 6 inches from the batter have also cashed in on the riches awaiting free agents. Heading the list of pitchers with new addresses are Jacob deGrom from the Mets to the Texas Rangers for five years and $185 million; Carlos Rodon from the Giants to the New York Yankees for six years and $162 million; and Justin Verlander from the World Champions Astros to the New York Mets for two years and $86 million.

The new, very rich men are all talented players and parlayed the free agent game into a lifetime of security for their families and loved ones. Each has much to celebrate, but perhaps none of them did so in the style enjoyed by Verlander and his wife, model Kate Upton. The couple enjoyed some ‘down time’ on the small Caribbean Sea island of St. Barts, located 21 miles southeast of St. Martin, relaxing in a 12,000 square-foot flat carrying a rental fee of $450,000 a week.

Beauty, like the value of a baseball player to a team, is in the eyes of the beholder. If a team likes a certain player and has the money to go get him, they are simply playing by the established rules of the game. But the growing question being asked is, is the developing trend of the separation of the haves and the have-nots good for the game?
Obviously, if you are a fan of the haves, you’re all for it. It has been proven that teams can win at the MLB level without breaking the bank, but fans of those teams on the lower level of MLB riches, e.g., the A’s, Royals, Pirates, Reds, Tigers, Marlins, etc., are left to root for their favorites with little hope of obtaining championship glory.

Salary figures reported by MLB Payroll Tracker for the 2022 season revealed the five teams with the highest 26-man player payroll were the Dodgers (265 million), Mets (262 million), Yankees (251 million, Phillies (242 million), and Padres (220 million). For the 2023 season, those figures will change with the Dodgers payroll getting small and the others increasing.

On the low end of the pay scale were the A’s (15 million), Orioles (22 million), Pirates (30 million), and the Marlins (49 million).

In our local area, there still remain some diehard Pirates fans clinging to the hope that ‘someday’ all these prospects the team keeps talking about will actually be able to play Major League Baseball. Truth be known, they have had many of those players in recent years but lacked the financial fortitude to pay them to stick around.

Just for fun, yet painful for Bucco followers, below is a 21-player listing of former Pittsburgh Pirates playing in the Major Leagues and what they were paid in 2022 or will be paid in 2023.

Pitchers: Gerrit Cole, Yankees 36 million; Charlie Morton, Braves 20 million; Joe Musgrove, Padres 20 million; Jamison Taillon, Cubs 17 million; Tyler Anderson, Angels 13 million; Jose Quintana, Mets 13 million; Mark Melancon, D-Backs 6 million; Tyler Glasnow Rays, 5.350 million; Chris Stratton, Cardinals 2.8 million; Infielders: Josh Bell, Guardians 16.5 million; Adam Frazier, Orioles 8 million; Josh Harrison, White Sox 5.5 million; Kevin Newman, Reds 3 million; Colin Moran, free agent 2.8 million); Daniel Vogelbach, Mets 1.5 million; Outfielders: Starling Marte, Mets 19.5 million; Andrew McCutchen, Brewers 8.5 million; Corey Dickerson, Cardinals 5 million; Austin Meadows, Tigers 4.3 million; Catchers: Jacob Stallings, Marlins 2.45 million; Reese McGuire, Red Sox 722,400.

These Pirates alumni have sweetened their bank accounts to the collective tune of 207 billion during the past year. If they were all to play on the same team, there is no guarantee they could win a championship. While helping to explain why baseball dollars make no sense, paying customers ticket and concession prices will continue to escalate in support of the madness.

Happy New Year!!!