Over the course of his major league career, Mickey Mantle made $1,328,000 playing for the New York Yankees while appearing in 12 World Series and winning 7 Series Championships. Today, $1.3 million a year is paid to the 25th man on the team and in many cases the manager of the team. So today, salaried money is Big money. We all know that and at times we may complain about it……but there are subtle ways in which the steady climb in salaries has influenced the game……for the better.
First and foremost, we see a better product on the field. Now hold on, I don’t necessarily mean that today’s players are “better” than those of yesteryear. But today, we certainly see better conditioned athletes playing the game today – which transforms into a better product on the field and a higher entertainment value as well. This development is influenced by the amount of money paid to these athletes in a variety of ways…….
For one, unlike players of old they become rich for life if they manage their money well and they don’t have to drive a beer truck in the off season to make ends meet or work in a clothing store as Yogi Berra once did. Instead, they have the ability (and usually do) to hire personal trainers who come to the workout room in the player’s home on a daily basis. They also tend to eat right and live right as a whole. Ballplayers of old…..not so much.
Babe Ruth was famously known for having six hot dogs delivered to him during the seventh inning stretch on a regular basis. Tubs of beer were commonplace in the clubhouse. In general, alcohol fueled a ballplayer’s life. After a game, there was a neighborhood bar that welcomed a player with free drinks forever until the night became dawn.
Mickey Mantle himself once said, “If I’d have known I was going to live this long, I’d of taken better care of myself.” He was speaking of course about the fact that Hodgkin’s disease claimed his father at an early age…..but still that was a choice he made in being reckless with himself throughout his career. Today, players tend to think more about “tomorrow” because their futures are secure.
And again, this spills out onto the field and we get to see (for example) a Mike Trout making one over the wall catch after another. Or, players being dedicated to playing through minor aches and pains because they are expected to be on the field when they are making (for example) in excess of $1 million a start as Zach Greinke will this year.
Yes, it’s a boatload of money. But in most cases, we are getting a good bang for our buck. And we don’t have to worry about a Mickey Mantle (my boyhood hero by the way) taking the field in the midst of a blazing hangover from the night before…….
Footnotes: Read more about the astonishing ability of Babe Ruth to exist on a singular diet of beer and hot dogs. Also read Jane Leavy’s revealing look at Mickey Mantle on Google Play for $7.99 (no kickbacks).