How Much is Too Much?

By Michael Novak and Dave Kopel

Commerce City Beacon, Nov. 18, 1995.

Too many fans of the Colorado Rockies baseball team grouse that the Rockies, like other baseball players, are overpaid. The players were supposedly "selfish" for going on strike when the owners tried to impose a salary cap and other pay cuts last year.

But if the Rockies organization paid its players what most fans think they deserve, the Rockies would never get out of last place.

Rockies fans are greedy too. They want to see the Rockies in the World Series. Since sports remains one of the few enterprises not burdened with quotas and other mandates, the only way a team gets to the World Series is through talent, hard work, and excellent play. Only the best to get to the World Series. And that costs money

When you want the best, you will have to pay more for it. When something is important, such as taking care of your health, will you go to the doctor who received his degree in Granada and offers you a discount or are you going to look for the very best doctor, even though he may cost more money?

The Rockies can’t go the World Series (or even contend for the playoffs), with players who are happy to work for $53,000 a year because they love the game.

The world population has now reached about five billion. At any one time there are about seven hundred baseball players playing in the major leagues. Now we all agree that the big leagues have the best players in the world. (If you don’t, we’ll send you tapes of replacement player games to refresh your memory). So this means the best seven hundred people, out of five billion, grace the nation’s diamonds each year. That means only .00000014 of the world population is good enough to play major league baseball. If the players are truly that good, then they deserve the money they are receiving.

Imagine you are the best in the world in whatever you do and you have worked extremely hard to get to that point. If you were one of the world’s 700 best accountants or sales persons or electricians or doctors or anything else, there would be plenty of folks willing to pay you large sums of money to retain your services. A bidding war might even ensue. Are you going to say you don’t deserve this money and turn down the offers? Of course not.

Now imagine the people who buy your services come to you and say "we know you are the best but we don’t think you deserve the money you are making. We are going to make sure you can never make above a certain amount." Then all of these companies agree not to bid for your services. Now ask yourself if this is fair. This is what the owners tried to do to the players.

In any other profession (and any other professional sport besides baseball), this would be a flagrant violation of the anti-trust laws.

It’s perfectly fair that most of the players make more money than most the fans. Few fans are in the top 700 worldwide at their jobs. Few fans work jobs where they have to be away from home so often, jobs which can end forever in a second with an injury, and jobs where 50,000 people boo you if you make one error after twenty great plays.

Professional sports is entertainment, and professional baseball players are just as entitled to make money from the show they put on as are the world’s 700 best movies stars, 700 best rock musicians, and 700 best of anything else that people will pay money to watch.

Don’t be surprised if Dante Bichette, Larry Walker and the rest of the Rockies ask for more money next year. And don't be mad at them either. Just hope that that owner Jerry McMorris is willing going to spend some of the money he makes through all those sell-out games.

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