Batter Up

We’re about a month away from the beginning of Spring Training–pitchers and catchers report around February 15, depending on their team, and position players come in the following week–so it’s probably time for me to toss out a few thoughts on the upcoming season. Consider it my way of getting into shape before uncredentialed bloggers report.

I’ve seen several reports lately that MLB is planning to unilaterally institute a pitch clock in the majors this year.

Mark me down as neutral on that idea. I’ve seen several minor league games using it, and it really doesn’t get in the way. I’m not sure it speeds games up enough to matter, but I don’t think it hurts the quality of play enough to matter either.

There are already rules in place to limit how long the batter can delay between pitches. They were enforced when they were first introduced–2015, if memory serves–and they did make a noticeable, if minor, difference.

As long as those rules are enforced along with the pitcher’s clock, so defense and offense are subject to the same strictures, I’m willing to take the clock as a given and see how it works out on the field.

Moving on.

Another issue I’ve seen raised multiple times lately is the imbalance between what players are paid and what owners make. For example, Nathaniel Grow, points out that player payroll fell from 56% of league revenue in 2002 to 38% in 2015.

Naturally the players would like more. Hell, I’d like publishers to pay authors more. You probably want a raise too.

But let’s keep a couple of things in mind here. First, Nathan himself notes that 2002 was a record high for salaries as a percent of league revenue. That means the decline puts the current level in line with historic levels. And second, 38% just isn’t that low a number. Over at bizfluent, Elaine Severs states that “Most businesses should shoot for salaries in the 30 percent to 38 percent range…”.

Put another way, how many corporations are there where the CEO doesn’t make several hundred times as much as the average employee?

I’m not suggesting that income inequity is fair, nor do I think the owners couldn’t afford to give players more. It just strikes me as odd that there are so many complaints about the inequity in baseball, when the numbers are right in line with the rest of American business.

Granted, MLB is an unusual case–its anti-monopoly exemption guarantees it–but still.

The usual counter to ravings like mine is something along the lines of “Baseball could exist without the players, so they should get the bulk of the money.”

A doesn’t necessarily imply B here, but okay, let’s run with that.

Popular music couldn’t exist without the performers, so they should get the bulk of the money. Books couldn’t exist without the authors, so they should get the bulk of the money. Schools couldn’t exist without the studentsteachers, so they should get the bulk of the money. Food couldn’t exist without the farmers, so they should get the bulk of the money.

Need I go on?

Let’s face it, underpaying* the producers is a key tenet of American business. (And under the current regime, it’s only going to get more pronounced–but that’s beside the point.)

* As seen by those producers, of course.

That’s what leads to businesses closing when the minimum wage increases, even if the increase still leaves recipients with too little to cover the necessities of life. (Note: As the New York Times points out, that effect may be more perception than reality.)

It’s a systemic problem, and IMNSHO, one we should all be working to solve. But is baseball really where we should be starting?

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