Albert Pujols & Major League Baseball: Symbols of Capitalism and American Values

December 14, 2011


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.

He's going the distance

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.

"Money may not buy happiness, but it can buy championships."

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?

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About chkeeler

Sophomore at University of Michigan

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5 Comments on “Albert Pujols & Major League Baseball: Symbols of Capitalism and American Values”

  1. verlong Says:

    I’ve been following the Pujols issue pretty closely. My boyfriend is from St. Louis, and grew up being obsessed with baseball. Clearly when this decision was made it was shocking and upsetting for him to hear. My boyfriend was hoping that Pujols would return to the Cards because of his love of the city, and not because of his love of money. Clearly (and unfortunately) he was wrong.

    I believe that the MLB should have a cap on salaries for athletes. I don’t believe that anyone should be paid that much money (no matter what profession), and I don’t think that people should choose one contract over another because of a “small” difference in 34 million dollars. Think about how much good that money could be doing for other things. Also, when salaries are that high, it becomes much more about the players than the team or the game.

    I have no idea how smaller teams will be able to make players stay. I would say from the love of a city, but clearly money is a larger factor than we would like to admit. That is something that smaller teams are currently struggling with. They need to create a friendly environment that players want to join. Another good thing would be able to get them excited about the possibility of building a foundation for a new great team for the future.

    Money can be evil. Pujols’ decision alone proves that.

  2. joethahn Says:

    I really like your interpretation of the MLB as a symbol of the American, capitalist values; it was entertaining to read. Although I was familiar with the regulations, including salary caps, I had never thought of American baseball as a perfect example of capitalism. Prior to reading the post, I did not like the idea of teams not having salary caps, as the teams that have the most money would recruit the best players and have an unfair advantage. But now I see the no salary cap regulation as another form of competition that is, to me, another exciting part of the sport. I hope that the rule is here to stay, knowing that there would be a trend of the “rich getting richer” and “poor getting poorer,” because I feel that there are means of a smaller market teams to climb up the ladder. Guaranteed, once most players become noticed and are granted a large salary from another team he would leave, but there are those who are not motivated not by money, but a desire to build up a dynasty. A good example of this is in basketball with James, Bosh, and Wade, who all taking lower salaries to play together. If the MLB team is able to put together a good staff and roster, that are dedicated to building up a new franchise, and a strong fan base it would be a good start to becoming a top tier team.

  3. nnvirani Says:

    As a die hard Yankees fan, I can never WANT the MLB to instill a salary cap. There is no doubt that a big market like New York brings in more revenue allowing the team to spend more money on top-quality players. This has brought us many championships in the past and hopefully will continue to do so in the future. If I was speaking from a non-biased point of view, I would say that the MLB should put in a cap. This would make it fair for poorer teams to still afford quality players. In the World we live in today, money usually constitutes everybody’s career actions. Some people trade money for playing in a city they like but it is not strange that they would play in a less desirable city to make in the ballpark (pun intended) of 30 million dollars more. A desire to win championships and a love for a city can be the only major driving forces besides money when deciding what team to join. For example, Lebron James could have been an instant billionaire had he signed with the New York Knicks. However, his desire for a warmer climate and championships was the driving force behind his decision to join the Miami Heat. While in Cleveland, he was the heart of the team and the symbol for the entire city and maybe even the state. James was what they needed if the city wanted some notches on their belt. He realized that this was not going to happen if he stayed with the Cavaliers. James was not greedy, he just wanted rings. Pujols took an alternative route, the green road. But then again, baseball is America’s sport and what represents America better than greedy capitalism?

  4. akmcoy Says:

    I really liked your interpretation and analysis of the league’s rules and regulations. I think that the best way to even the playing field for small market teams is obviously to adopt a salary cap, however I’m not entirely sure that that is what’s best for baseball. It has worked for other sports, but I’m not sold that the MLB should follow suit. I think that baseball is a very traditional sport that hasn’t changed many of its rules over its history, and changing this rule could start such a trend. The NHL adopted a salary cap within the past 10 years and they’ve started to alter rules and regulations on a consistent basis now. I would hate to see the same thing happen in major league baseball.

    How can small market teams attract talent? The Tampa Bay Rays have been a perfect example since the 2008 season. Yes, small market teams are at a disadvantage to get superstar athletes, but that’s not the only way to succeed in sports. Some small market teams can succeed by having efficient minor league teams that develop the talent that they draft. Accompany that with a few big name free agent signings and you can build a reputable team, as the Rays showed.

  5. asgersh Says:

    I never thought of baseball as a good example of American capitalism, but after reading your post i strongly agree with your argument. I do not think that the MLB should create a salary cap. Large market teams such as the Yankees create a lot of jobs generate a lot of tax dollars for their state and can be the face of a city. Although it might seem to be unfair for teams that generate the most revenue just being able to out bid all other teams for the best players, there are still superstars that like being the face of a franchise and being the clear leader of a team. This is what I think allow small market teams to still compete. Often the larger market teams go for players who have already proven themselves through their play. Players on small market teams play for the opportunity to prove themselves so maybe they can earn the big bucks. I believe players that want to be the big name and the leader of a team can be attracted to small market teams as well as up and coming players with something to prove. This is what allows the smaller market teams to keep competing year in and year out.

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