A Mere $20,000

In checking up on the results of the recent All-Star Baseball game I read that the winners had little incentive to win — aside from the fact that the winning league gets to have home-field advantage for the World Series. Otherwise, we are told, each player makes a “mere”  $20,000 for winning the game. No incentive whatever.

Does this strike anyone but me as borderline obscene? I mean to take such a figure so lightly when there are people on the streets who cannot eat and have no place to live? That’s a year’s salary for many in this country. We have always realized that athletes are the most spoiled and highest paid people in this country — and perhaps anywhere else as well. Steph Curry recently signed a contract with the Golden State Warriors for $200 million over five years. It boggles the mind. In reporting this we are told that this is OK because he only made $12.1 million this past year which is 82nd highest in the NBA. Goodness gracious! Poor Steph.

It’s small wonder that our kids hold their teachers in contempt because they make such meager salaries when we have arrived at the point where we measure success in dollars and cents. And compared with the athletes, who are our “heroes,” teachers suck. This only adds to the teachers’ plight, given that we now expect them to raise our kids in addition to teaching them.

I have played this tune before, I know. I have dwelt on the notion that those with great wealth have a moral responsibility to take care of those who have little or nothing — after they have bought their new $350,000 Ferrari (true that) or the new mansion for themselves and their close friends and family. It is said they deserve this money, “they have earned it.” That’s bollocks. They haven’t earned that much money. No one earns that much money. But given the fact that those of the rest of us who can ill afford it continue to pay outrageous prices for seats to watch them play and their owners make even more money than they do, perhaps is only fair that they get a larger share than many of them do at present. Perhaps.

To be sure, it is none of my business how much money another person makes or how that person chooses to spend their money. That’s a given. And there are those among the very rich, including the athletes, who are generous in their support of others in need. But at the same time, it is hard to look the other way when the pay-outs for those athletes are so out of proportion with the meager salaries others in this culture make, people who are much more important to the well-being of others — people like the fore mentioned teachers, and firemen and police. These people struggle to make ends meet while the wealthy among us think only about making more money when they already have more than they can spend in a lifetime.

Pity the poor players for the American League All-Star team. They only made a “mere” $20,000 for winning. Little incentive, indeed.

Thinking Short-Term

I thought I would turn my attention from my recurring concern over the death of Western civilization and the birth of a new barbarism for a moment and deal with something much more important to Americans, namely, baseball. Specifically, I want to consider the recent vote to determine this year’s All-Star teams that will play next week in Cincinnati. Surprisingly, the votes reflect a fact that adds evidence to my thesis that our civilization is weakening at the foundation, namely, one more example of short-term self-interest that seems to pervade this country. Let me explain.

The Kansas City Royals surprised everyone last year by making it to the World Series where they lost to the San Fransisco Giants. Apparently, this year they want to win it all so there was a massive PR campaign in Kansas City during recent weeks to vote as many players from that team on the All-Star team as possible. We will ignore the fact that having the fans vote to determine who the best players are is in itself a hair-brained idea to simply note that the campaign in KC worked. The team just added its fifth player to the All-Star team. Let’s think about this for a moment.

The winning team in the All-Star game can claim home-field advantage in the World Series. This is important because the American League uses designated hitters whereas the National League does not. The strategy differs and it would be to the American League team’s advantage to play at home. But if Kansas City, an American League team, has lowered the probabilities that the American League team will win the All-Star game by failing to vote for the best players, they may have just cut off their nose to spite their face, as it were. If they wanted to give their team the best chance to win that game, they should have voted for the best players in the league and not simply tried to pack the All-Star team with their own players. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

As I say, as problems go this one is tiny. But, as I also say, it provides us with yet another example of short-term thinking which has become chronic in this country and which has major repercussions (think: global warming). My own thesis is that this type of thinking — if it can be called that — stems from the tendency we increasingly show in this country to quantify all issues and then weigh costs against benefits. In a word, we have adopted the business model in all other lines of endeavor, even where they clearly do not apply, such as education and health. We seem to be incapable of anticipating consequences and thinking long-term.

As far as this particular example goes, I admit my bias. I am a fair-weather Twins fan and I was disappointed to see Brian Dozier, who is having a banner year by any standards, lose out to yet another Kansas City player in the recent fan run-off to determine the last player to be selected by the two leagues. I dare say Dozier is disappointed, because he has been having an All-Star caliber year. Mike Moustakas, the Kansas City third baseman, took his (!) place. And if I turn my thoughts to the way he might be thinking about the way he was selected to the All-Star team I recall Sandra Day O’Connor’s comment after she was elected to the Supreme Court. Asked if she would have been disappointed to discover that she was selected on the grounds that she is a woman, she replied “not nearly as disappointed as I would have been if I hadn’t been selected.” So it goes. It’s all about winning. Or is it?