MLB’s Money Trees Keep Growing 

My grandpa was always on point with his dissemination of knowledge. He was an endless well of experience and advice. If I had actually absorbed half of the jewels he dropped on me,then maybe I’d be signing the historic eight-year, $248 million contract extension that the Tigers just blessed two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera with.

Cabrera became the highest paid player in the history of sports last Thursday when he inked the “big-balling is my hobby” extension. Combined with the two years and $44 million remaining on his current deal, it means he’ll make $292 million over the next ten seasons which reportedly is even making Lebron James jealous .

I could write a book on the enlightenment that my grandpa blessed me with on those long, slow, traffic-congested, Belt Parkway rides from Queens to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn for my baseball games with Grace Gravesend Little League.

He covered politics, race relations, sports, music – you name it. It was like a rapid fire information and brain-formation rush. With all of the media hoopla concerning Cabrera’s contract and whether or not the Tigers overpaid for his services, I started remembering conversations I had with my grandpa about players making millions of dollars. Back in the ‘90s, salaries in baseball really started exploding and everybody had an opinion. We would ride and listen to analysts denounce the rising salaries of ballplayers as if they held a gun to the owners' heads. 

The backlash the Tigers are receiving for Cabrera’s robust contract is typical reaction to a player receiving a record-breaking contract. The sabermetric soldiers are calling it a statistical and financial failure. The romantics are bashing it as another win for capitalistic greed and the ballplayers that aren’t satisfied with out-earning 99 percent of the population, but must push the limits of gluttony to new levels each free agency.Even Commissioner Selig is throwing shade. "I have a ton of respect for the Detroit organization, Selig said on the inaugural episode of MLB Network's HighHeat with "Mad Dog" Chris Russo on Monday. "I'll tell you one thing. Not a great history of long term contracts (in MLB). We shall see how it all works out." 

Before we continue to blast the players for being greedy and denounce ownership as inept, let’s keep one thing in mind; Anytime I asked, “Grandpa, do you think the players make too much money?” (It usually followed a sports talk radio rant from a teacher in some county in Long Island waxing poetic about how he would be happy to make a piece of what MLB players make, and he can’t understand why they hold out for more money and negotiate so uncompromisingly) Grandpa, who was a fire chief in the FDNY, would always respond the same way: “If the owners couldn’t afford it, they wouldn’t pay the players that money.”

Grandpa always saw things for what they were, removing the emotion from the situation. “If the owners are paying these guys $10 million a year,” he would say, “then you best believe that they are pulling in 100 times that in tickets sales and ballpark revenue and hats and jackets, etc. When you consider how much they make for the league, they might even be underpaid.”

If my grandpa was around today he’d be sneering at these cats referencing A-Rod and Albert Pujols’ deals as examples of why Detroit struck out with Miggy’s deal. Pujols, who signed a 10-year $242 million contract with the Angels prior to 2012, hasn't produced to the level expected by the team's front office and fans. The 34-year-old first baseman is averaging a mere 24 home runs, 84 RBI and hitting .275 during his first two seasons with the Angels.

A-Rod signed a 10-year, $275 million contract with the Yankees prior to the 2008 season. After the steroids scandal, some would call him a hated villain of baseball.

It is what it is.

The Yankees still got a World Series out of that deal and even if A-Rod never plays again, he obviously didn’t put even a small dent in their coiffeurs. Same goes for the Angels, whose owner Arte Moreno is rolling in dough. I wouldn’t shed a tear for any for these teams.


See, grandpa got it. He wasn’t a capitalistic pig and didn’t have super conservative ideologies. Actually, he was the last of 13 children to pass. He grew up poor in Brooklyn in the 1920's and '30s. He didn't even have enough money to pay $2.00 per week lab fees, so he dropped out of college and joined the military in WWII, before acing the fireman exam, moving his family to Queens and selflessly serving his community for the next four decades. He didn't come from paper, but he understood how money works. He never felt like a player should be grateful to anybody for making as much scratch as possible. He would also tell me, “As soon as you can’t play anymore, a team will just get rid of you. Get as much as you can while you can. There’s no loyalty in that kind of business, just results.”

And that’s what the Tigers are paying for. The type of “results” Cabrera’s been putting up are worth the $31 million a year he will be pulling in during his extension years, surpassing Clayton Kershaw for the highest AAV in MLB. I was against the Dodgers giving Kershaw – a pitcher who participated every fifth day over the course of a 162-game season – $30 million per. Pitchers aren’t a big enough part of the everyday action to justify Kershaw’s contract – a $215 million extension signed with the Dodgers in January. And they are more susceptible to injury, as evidenced by the fact that Kershaw is already on the 15-day DL, after making just one start, due to back issues.

It’s much more justifiable for a team to pay an everyday position player like Cabrera all that cash because he impacts every game. With that in mind, I also tend to echo grandpa’s sentiments that the way media covers these mega-signings makes the public detest them. Trust, I know Cabrera's looks obnoxious to the naked eye:

· Mike Ilitch bought the Detroit Tigers for $82 million in 1992. He will be paying Cabrera $210 million more over the next 10 years.

· Miguel Cabrera will earn $49,423 per at bat over the next decade. Median annual income of a household in Michigan: $48,471.

· Miguel Cabrera's last deal was $152 million, plus this one for $248 million. Detroit is paying $400 million for 16 years of Miggy.

But he’s only getting paid what the market allows. If you are against the contract, then you tell me what will owners do with the billions of TV and cable contract dollars that they are raking in? Keep it? These cats can’t buy enough mansions in Malibu, Japanese escorts or hotels in Bermuda, to get rid of all of the cash MLB is rolling in. Somebody has to get paid and obviously, there are always several “big market” clubs that have a treasure chest to unload on the right talent.

The Yankees frugality didn’t serve them a bit of good in the standings last season, so they dropped a grip this offseason, $458 million to be exact. The Dodgers and Magic have been spending like sheiks to rebirth the Dodgers Dynasty, even dethroning the Yankees as the kings of excess. The Associated Press estimates LA's payroll at $235 million.

No other team comes within $30 million of them, but most every MLB squad is making money. Let’s not forget the small market clubs, whose owners have ridiculous amounts of cheddar and are either too greedy, stingy or too damn smart for their own good, to break the bank on upper-tier free agent talent. They will pay a grip for a new stadium with steakhouses and day spas though. These guys sit back and collect millions from the big market teams who have to revenue share and pay luxury taxes on their exorbitant expenditures.

The intended purpose of revenue sharing is to maintain fair competition between large market and small market teams. Because baseball has no true salary cap a team can commit as much money as it wants to building a club. To prevent the larger market teams from simply outspending small market teams for players, the larger market teams have to share some of their revenue and the small market teams are supposed to invest that surplus in staying competitive. Most of the time, these owners pocket the money and complain about how they are being outspent and can’t compete.

Don’t knock Cabrera for playing the game. He’s a back to back MVP. Two years ago he won the first Triple Crown in MLB since 1967 and he’s just signing for what his talents command on the market. Do you think the Tigers are really concerned about Cabrera’s production when he’s 40? They locked him up so that he will most likely end his career in Detroit and to have a player who really has no equal in the game as a batsman is invaluable. By 40, the Tigers are hoping Cabrera has won them two World Series a couple more MVPs and is about ready to ride off into the sunset as the greatest Tiger ever. Al Kaline who?


Same goes for Angel's outfielder Mike Trout, who cashed in on one of the best starts to a career in major-league history Friday when he agreed to a six-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Angels, as reported on . The outfielder, considered by many to be the top multi-tool player in baseball, has finished second to Cabrera in the American League MVP voting the last two years.

The deal is reportedly worth in excess of $140 million and buys out his final three years of arbitration and first three years of free agency. The deal runs through the 2020 season, but the 22-year-old will still be only 29 when he's ready to smash the market again. Trout has posted a .324 average with 57 homers, 238 runs scored and 82 stolen bases the last two years. His Rickey Henderson-like combination of speed, power and defense, makes him the rarest talent in the game. Nobody can mash like Cabrera, but no player can mash-it-up like Trout. These are two once in a lifetime players who happen to be up for a big pay day.

Nobody should have a beef with Trout's contract. It certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it doesn’t indicate any kind of spending trend. The Shadow League reported in March that his plush deal was just around the corner:

The Angels didn’t have to lace Trout so generously, but the contract is a good-faith gesture, while the sides negotiate a six-year contract extension with Trout, which should pay him at least $145 million through 2020, according to reports.

"For Arte and the Angels going out of their way like they did…they could have easily paid me the league minimum or whatever, Trout said in an ESPN interview with Karl Ravech and John Kruk on Thursday… "I’m just happy where I'm at… I’m healthy…There will be a chance to make more."

It’s a significant raise from the $510,000 Trout made last season when he was unanimously considered the most underpaid stud in the game . In 2013, instead of blessing the youngster, the Angels played small ball… and renewed his $482,500 rookie contract for just $20,000 above the major league minimum.

Trout didn't say much because he has less than three years of MLB service and he knows his time will come.

That time is now for Trout, who’s been putting up numbers worthy of a $20 million player since he stepped in MLB cleats. Sometimes you “overpay” for a player when you don’t want anyone else to have them. That applies to anything in life. When taken into account how much money the franchise will make off the player's success and recognition,  it's debatable whether player's of Cabrera and Trout's significance can be overpaid. Even when they are sleeping, MLB is marketing them and caking off of them one way or another. 

Cabrera has 365 home runs, 1,260 RBI and a .321 career batting average. Only seven players have ever flossed such numbers in the history of the game. Over the last 10 seasons Cabrera has averaged a .324 BA, 35 HR, 120 RBI and 191 hits. That’s boss numbers. His checks need to reflect that and they do now. Step off with the criticism unless you can hit 97 mph fastballs and 88 mph wicked sliders thrown from left-handed batters. MLB is constantly planting seeds and growing its money trees. Those that advance to the head of the class will get a nice, phat, nine-figure apple off of that tree.


If grandpa was around today, he’d also say: “That’s just the way the game is played. Don’t hate on Miggy or Trout because they in fact play that game better than anyone else.”

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