An insider's guide to the economics of Baseball
The Money Pitch
Baseball Free Agency and Salary Arbitration
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Roger I. Abrams
Professional baseball players have always been well paid. In 1869, Harry Wright paid his Cincinnati Red Stockings about seven times what an average workingman earned. Today, on average, players earn more than fifty times the average worker's salary. In fact, on December 12, 1998, pitcher Kevin Brown agreed to a seven-year, $105,000,000 contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the first nine-figure contract in baseball history. Brown will be earning over $400,000 per game; more than 17,000 fans have to show up at Dodger Stadium every night just to pay his salary.
Why are baseball players paid so much money? In this insightful book, legal scholar and salary arbitrator Roger Abrams tells the story of how a few thousand very talented young men obtain their extraordinary riches. Juggling personal experience and business economics, game theory and baseball history, he explains how agents negotiate compensation, how salary arbitration works, and how the free agency "auction" operates. In addition, he looks at the context in which these systems operate: the players' collective bargaining agreement, the distribution of quality players among the clubs, even the costs of other forms of entertainment with which baseball competes.
Throughout, Dean Abrams illustrates his explanations with stories and quotationseven an occasional statistic, though following the dictum of star pitcher, club owner, and sporting goods tycoon Albert Spalding, he has kept the book as free of these as possible. He explains supply and demand by the cost of a bar of soap for Christy Mathewson's shower. He illustrates salary negotiation with an imaginary case based on Roy Hobbs, star of The Natural. He leads the reader through the breath-taking successes of agent Scott Boras to explain the intricacies of free agent negotiating.
Although studies have shown that increases in admissions prices precede rather than follow the rise in player salaries, fans are understandably bemused by skyrocketing salaries. Dean Abrams does not shy away from the question of whether it is "fair" for an athlete to earn more than $10,000,000 a year. He looks at issues of player (and team) loyalty and player attitudes, both today and historically, and at what increased salaries have meant for the national pastime, financially and in the eyes of its fans. The Money Pitch concludes that "the money pitch is a story of good fortune, good timing, and great leadership, all resulting from playing a child's gamea story that is uniquely American."
"The Money Pitch tells [its] audience a host of enjoyable as well as insightful stories about the history of baseball's Ty Cobb and others...[Its] primary focus is the current law and economics of this game, and the impact that the free agency and salary arbitration secured by the players union has had on player salaries, team payrolls, and competitive balance in baseball. Fascinating, insightful, impressive, and informative."
"This is a clear-headed, forthright, learned bookan insider's study of the business of baseball, from a revealing angle. His range, roughly is from The Natural to Getting to Yes to Barbarians at the Gate. To his own knowledge, gained from years as a salary arbitrator, Mr. Abrams adds insights form antitrust analysis, game theory, and the history of professional sport (from A. G. Spalding and Honus Wagner to Orlando 'El Duque' Hernandez and recent Yankee rosters). Seldom are statistics used this well."
"[The Money Pitch] is well written and interesting... Abrams uses illustrative material very well. The book has a wealth of information, and even readers who know a good deal about baseball as a sport and business will learn new things. For example, Abrams's descriptions of his own experiences as an arbitrator provides a good vantage point on the arbitration process. And he employs economic concepts effectively to help in understanding the salary-setting processes discussed in the book."
"[A] stimulating and informative book. Most people interested in the subject, regardless of their knowledge, will profit from reading it. Abrams makes salary determination in baseball more understandable, and for this he is to be commended."
"Abrams provides an insider's guide to the economies of the game and the fairness issue of an athlete earning $10 million a year. He illustrates how the system works, how agents negotiate, and how the free agency market operates....This is a good read for people looking for answers to free agency and salary arbitration."