I woke up Friday morning last week as I do every other Friday. I shut off the alarm on my phone, and promptly turned on ESPN to watch Sportscenter before I headed off to my afternoon class. I had been monitoring one story particularly for a couple days: where would baseball’s most coveted player sign? Albert Pujols has proven to be the best batter of this generation, and could very well break the all-time home-run record if he continues to play at such a high level. He has won two championships in St. Louis, and several MVP awards as first baseman of the Cardinals. He is an icon to the city of St.Louis, so I anticipated him re-signing with the team on which he has accomplished so much. However, breaking news flashed the screen, reporting that Pujols had signed a ten year 254 million dollar contract with the LA Angels. The number could not escape my mind the rest of the day: 254 million. Then it occurred to me that this was much more than a blockbuster free-agency signing in the MLB offseason; this was a sign of American capitalism.
How could Pujols leave a community and team that had supported him for his entire career? The simple answer is that the LA Angels could provide Albert more money for his talent than could the Cardinals. Although Cardinals fans quickly voiced their disapproval with his decision, one cannot blame Pujols for taking a deal that would give him 34 million dollars more. That’s not “chunk change” by any margin, even to a player of his caliber. The St. Louis Cardinals decided that it was not an economically intelligent decision to offer their star more money. The highest bidder, in this case the Angels, often will get the best resources in a capitalistic society. Those with the most wealth and resources will always prosper. The New York YAnkees have developed a culture of winning by signing superstar athletes to absurd contracts. Similarly, big corporations attract the most talented managers by offering them higher salaries and more power.
The MLB has long been a symbol of American core values. It was created to reinforce American ideals. The fences at the ballparks were all deliberately constructed to be different distances from home plate to make each park unique, and not under the control of a ruling authority. Each player is given the opportunity to succeed at the individual level. Individual player achievement is more highly valued in the MLB compared to all other professional sports. It is also the only sport with no set time length. Baseball idealizes individuality, independence, and freedom. Furthermore, baseball does not have a cap as to the amount of money it can spend on its players. This gives wealthier franchises that generate more revenue the opportunity to attract premier players and coaches. The MLB is a platform of capitalism, where the “rich get richer” and “poor get poorer.”
I pose two questions:
A) Should the MLB adopt a cap to make teams more equal and give smaller market teams a chance to succeed?
B) If the current capitalistic system of baseball is to stay, how can a smaller market team with smaller contracts to offer attract big name athletes to their city?