3.05.2011

The Zito Conundrum, and Why it's Better Than the Alternative

BASEBALL!
This is sort of a continuation of the first post, but I'd like to go over one of the things that the Barry Zito contract has pointed out to me.

People knock on Major League Baseball because it lacks a salary cap. Yet baseball (with a few exceptions) continues to be the league with the most parity, where small-budget teams are constantly competing with and beating the big-market teams.

Sure, the Yankees (No. 1 in payroll) and Red Sox (2) and Angels (8) have huge payrolls and offer lucrative contracts to players, but honestly, as we saw from this past year, those teams don't always win. The Rays (21) made the playoffs in first place, and their payroll is significantly less than the salaries of the Yankees infield.

The Athletics (28) finished in front of the Angels. The Padres (29) lost out on a playoff bid on the last day of the season. Even the Reds (19) made the playoffs with a payroll in the middle of the pack.

There have been ten different World Series Champions in the last ten years.

Parity. It's a beautiful thing.

Which brings us to my next topic: contracts. 


We're hearing all this chatter about the NBA and NFL collective bargaining agreements. One of the bigger issues in both of these negotiations is the process of player contracts. 

Sure, baseball has its fair share of bad contracts, but the presence of bad contracts in other leagues is so much more prevalent than in baseball. The sheer enormity and complexity of the minor league system, the developments of player rights and arbitration, and the process of free agency make it so those in baseball who make the big bucks really earn the big bucks.

Let's look at it in terms of comparing leagues.


Stephen Strasburg is a real talent. A real talent. It's really unfortunate that he got hurt,
but he'll come back and I'm sure he'll be fine. Strasburg is making $2.5M this year, in addition to the $7.5M signing bonus. But he's good.


In the NFL, JaMarcus Russell made $32M guaranteed off of his deal with the Raiders. Albert Haynesworth is making $41M guaranteed to argue with Mike Shanahan.


Over in the NBA, TROY MURPHY, who is, at his best, a complementary bench player, is making almost $12M in 2011. Corey Maggette is making $10M a year. In fact, the Warriors just have a knack for overpaying for players that just don't deserve the money.


Back in baseball, Barry Zito may be making $126M over the duration of his deal, but he at least had some really solid seasons (including a Cy Young award) for the Athletics before signing the big contract with the Giants. And he's still an important part of the team. An extremely overpaid part of the team, but important nonetheless. 


But look at the value that baseball teams get from their players. The absence of mid-level exceptions and mandatory rookie deals that permeate the NBA and NFL makes it so the Giants can pay Buster Posey less than $500,000.


It makes it so that Brian Sabean can continue to be the Bargain Bin Baron (copyright right now), and gives Billy Beane the ability to come up with something interesting enough that  Brad Pitt is playing him in a movie.


What I'm trying to say is, yes, there are bad contracts in baseball. But the level of overpaying in the NBA and NFL is so much worse than the MLB. How did Adonal Foyle make  $42M over six years? Please tell me how!


Is the MLB contract system broken? Maybe it needs a little tweaking, but players like Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Cliff Lee, and Albert Pujols EARNED their money, haven't they? If you look at the list of highest paid players in baseball, they're arguably more deserving than those in the NBA and NFL.


Comment starter: Who's the worst player making the most money (in any sport)?

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