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JUST PLAIN TALK: Owners, players need to compromise

Buz Livingston
Walton Sun

By the time we go to press, maybe, we will have baseball this summer assuming fans, players, staff, and workers can stay safe. The English Premier League, like the Korean Baseball Organization, plays with no fans in attendance and athletes subject to strict health protocols.

Baseball is a metaphor for life. It begins in the spring with everything full of potential and works through the summer then ends in the fall with winter around the corner. People visit South Walton for the beaches, but only a few appreciate being able to catch an over-the-radio Braves broadcast. Since I was a kid, a baseball game on the radio, ideally the Braves, has been summer background music, occasionally augmented with 8-tracks, cassettes, then CDs, and now Sirius.

Baseball had a shot to be the first American sport back on the field, and they blew it. Some people blame both owners and players equally. But the billionaires versus millionaires storyline misleads fans.

Sure, most owners are worth well over $1 billion, but not all. Contrasted with players, most are not millionaires. Based on 2019 salaries, 31% of Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) members earned over $1 million. Only five owners (of 30) have a net worth less than $1 billion. It’s a catchy phrase but an obfuscating headline.

The average major league baseball player’s salary is north of $4 million, but huge contracts skew that number. For instance, 10 people meet for dinner. If one makes $2 million and the other nine make $200,000, their average salary is $380,000, even though nine make almost 50% less than the average.

Most end their time on the diamond in their late 20s or 30s and will need a career after baseball.

While I fault labor and management, I blame the owners more. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve waffled back and forth, initially casting a pox on both houses. In the middle of a pandemic with record unemployment levels, it strains credibility that a compromise has taken so long. The players have more to lose, and the owners have a bigger pile of chips in the stand-off.

In 1966, Sandy Koufax was baseball’s best pitcher and still is. That year, Koufax, along with Don Drysdale, held out for a raise settling, respectively, for $616,000 and $542,000 (2020 dollars). With less than three weeks to prepare, the Dodgers had Koufax pitching, and in the first month, he pitched three complete games. Koufax’s 1966 workload exacerbated arthritis in his elbow, prematurely ending his career. Years ago, players had little leverage; times have changed. If someone chooses not to play this year for health concerns, like Tampa Bay’s Blake Snell, I respect that. Snell is a beast, but 2020 is his first big contract, and walking away from millions is tough.

It’s selfish but I miss baseball. The players are ready, tell them when and where.

You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP, can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit livingstonfinancial.net or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.