How Much Is Too Much?

In today’s New York Times, Murray Chass expresses his feelings about free agent contracts signed during this offseason.

Matthews, at 32, is too old to be called a child, but he is a poster child for the latest economic excesses of the owners. Gil Meche is on the poster with Matthews, and there’s enough room on it to include a bunch of others as well.

The owners are out of control and, as usual, they have no one to blame but themselves….

Like workers in other industries, professional athletes should be able to earn as much as they can, with no artificial restraints, like payrolls caps, limiting their pay. Rock singers and rappers can do it. So can actors and television anchors. Why not athletes?

But in their desperation to add a lusty hitter or an effective pitcher, the owners lose all perspective and spend exorbitantly and foolishly.

So, my question to Chass is this: How much should Gary Matthews and the other players mentioned in the article—Gil Meche, Ted Lilly, Vicente Padilla, Jason Marquis, and Daisuke Matsuzaka—be paid? If you know that these contracts are too high, then you ought to know what the right contract is. So please, share that information with us.

I understand that these contracts are much higher than we’ve seen in recent history, and I can’t say that any of these contracts are optimal. However, MLB has experienced an increase in revenue growth, so the up-tick in salaries is expected. How much of a rise is a difficult question to answer; therefore, stating that these salaries are foolish, without any support for why, is a bit of a stretch.

4 Responses “How Much Is Too Much?”

  1. David Pinto says:

    People like Chass have written this same column for 30 years. They just don’t understand the economics of the game.

  2. rob says:

    i think chass understands the economics of the game just fine. without saying it this way, he presents a great point about whether average players are worth the money they are receiving right now. chass says that the owners don’t need to spend the money just because they have it. he’s not an economist, so i disagree with jc’s thought of suggesting chass present the ‘right’ dollar number for these guys. his point is that

    chass implies that perhaps it is better to play a young or unproven or lesser known player instead of the average player either with name recognition or coming off a good year that is on the free agent market. the performance may be similar and the dollars less. we’ll certainly see as the next few years unfold but it is not unreasonable to think that jason marquis will not perform significantly better than sean marshall would.

  3. Herb Urban says:

    Spending $7 million a year on Jason Marquis distorts the market, regardless of how much cash owners have burning their pockets. Any downturn in attendance or TV revenue will alter next year’s free agent market, yet all these large contracts for mediocrity signed this off season remain fixed.

    A few years ago teams irrationally overspent for durable middle relievers (i.e. Scott Eyre, Bobby Howry). This year the hot trend is supposed innings eaters. Owners seem to be spending more on intangibles than actual measured skill, but what else is new.

    Do teams not have stockpiles of journeymen SP toiling in their system capable of putting up a 5.50 ERA over 180+ IP? Surely, some must be out there.

  4. rob says:

    i think rob neyer’s jan 5th piece about how much starting pitchers are worth in today’s market speaks to whether some of these guys are overpaid.