World

February 29 Has Been A Rare Yet Interesting Date In Baseball Finance

February 29 Has Been A Rare Yet Interesting Date In Baseball Finance

Welcome to February 29, the day that occurs every Leap Year. For precocious prospects Jackson Holliday of the Baltimore Orioles or Jackson Chourio of the Milwaukee Brewers, this is only the sixth time they have experienced the date. So it is “rare” for them at ages 20 and 19, respectively.

Still, the date has importance in the financial history of baseball

A total of 23,114 men have been in a Major League Baseball game since 1876. Only 16 were born on February 29. Two of those were among the game’s finest – Pepper Martin of the St. Louis Cardinals and Al Rosen of the Cleveland Indians.

Martin was part of the legendary Gashouse Gang. That talented group of wild and crazy guys helped St. Louis rule the National League in the 1930s. In a 13-year career, Martin batted over .300 six times, was a four-time All-Star and led the NL in stolen bases three times. Despite being wildly popular, his top salary was a reported $9,000 in 1934, which equates to $209,145 today.

Rosen was a slugger for 10 years (1947-56) in Cleveland. Despite hitting well over .300 with power in the minors after missing four years due to World War II, he did not become a regular until 1950. All-Star Ken Keltner held the Indians’ third-base job until then.

Over the next five years, Rosen averaged 31 homers, 114 RBI, .298 average — and won the 1953 American League Most Valuable Player Award

Despite that, Cleveland cut his $42,500 ($478,934 today) salary to $37,500 ($425,078 today) for 1955. A broken finger that did not heal properly and back injury from an auto accident curtailed his production in 1955-56. He retired at age 32.

Rosen later was team president of the New York Yankees (1978-79), Houston Astros (1980-85) and San Francisco Giants (1985-92).

Big Bucks 60 Years Apart

Economics sure has changed over the years. Nothing underscores this more than two financial transactions that occurred in Cleveland on Feb. 29.

On that date in 1956, the Indians were sold to a group that included Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg. The former Detroit Tigers slugger had become general manager of the Indians, a club two years removed from a 111-win season and which finished second in 1955 with 93 wins. Attendance was great.

The roster was loaded. Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Early Wynn and Bob Lemon led a pitching staff that including rising star Herb Score. Hall of Famer Larry Doby and Rosen led the offense. Young slugger Rocky Colavito was a rookie.

And for all of that, Greenberg’s group paid a whopping $4 million for the franchise.

Fast forward to Feb. 29, 2016, in Cleveland where ownership opened the purse strings for a different $4 million payout. It all went to 37-year-old infielder Juan Uribe. He hit .206 in 73 games and retired.

Big Money … At The Time

On Feb. 29, 1972, the great Henry Aaron became the first MLB player to sign a contract for $200,000. Hammering Hank was 38 years old, had already hit 683 homers and was chasing Babe Ruth’s cherished long-ball record of 714.

The sum of money was something that Aaron never imagined when he made $6,000 a year as a 20-year-old rookie in 1954. For his 23-year career through 1976, he was paid about $2.1 million total according to Baseball-Reference.com estimates.

For those wondering, Joe DiMaggio got the first $100,000 contract, with the New York Yankees in 1950. That means it took 22 years for the game’s top salary to double.

Fast forward another 22 years to 1994. Bobby Bonilla of the New York Mets was the game’s highest-paid player – at $6,300,000 a season — an astronomical 3050% increase.

Add another 22 years to 2016 and the game’s richest deal for that year belonged to Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw at $32 million – an increase of another 407.9%.

By 2038, the top contract may be as mind-boggling to baseball fans then as those increases are to us today. Mind-boggling by leaps.


Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button