Many writers have bemoaned the ridiculous salaries garnered by athletes in a time when people are struggling to survive financially. When the Yankees threw money at a number of free agents in December, people rolled their eyes and wondered if athletes were sensitive to the economic problems at all. It is a point that I always found to be a bit silly, as it suggests that baseball as a business should cease because the fans are struggling, an assertion which would limit the free market and actually further hurt the economy. ESPN’s Jim Caple recently made an interesting point on this topic:
Look at it this way. It’s not like player salaries are going to go to Habitat for Humanity otherwise. If the money doesn’t wind up in the pockets of multimillionaire athletes, it will wind up in the Swiss bank accounts of multibillionaire owners, and of those two, I know which one I prefer with the money. Nor do high salaries correspond with higher ticket prices. Teams set ticket prices not on how much they pay Kobe Bryant but on how much we’re willing to pay to see Kobe. After all, how many times have you seen a team lower ticket prices after losing a top player to free agency?
If we don’t like it, no one is forcing us to buy tickets, no more than we had to buy a ticket to see “Master and Commander,” for which Russell Crowe earned $20 million.
Two excellent points in there. Firstly, the players are not stealing money from food shelters and charities. They get their money from people who have too much of it, and then they spend it. This actually has the positive effect of moving the money from the bank accounts of the owners into the free market. The second point is also salient. Ticket prices and salaries are controlled by how much we are willing to pay to see the player practice his craft. If we stopped buying tickets, prices would go down, as would salaries. Players are just taking what we as fans are giving them, and we should not begrudge them that benefit.