Is it worth it by Bob Ryan

In life we all make decisions that have an upside…and always… a downside that accompanies it. We have to make the determination….is it worth it?….is the upside greater than the downside….and many times we ACTUALLY don’t know until the action has been consummated. It’s true in the sports world too….For example…..

….it happens continually in MLB when teams sign “huge” contracts with players.  Obviously, the downside is the increase in expenditures for the club….so the real question is ….will this player bring a “return” on the money that’s greater than the expense?  When Bryce Harper signed his absurd $330m contract for 13 years…most of us just shook our heads…. is it worth it?  It seems ludicrous to us every-day Joe’s that anyone could be worth that type of money. Well…..the early response says YES it is worth it financilly….the attendance in 2019 is up 12000 fans/game for the Phillies. I assume that most of the lower level, tier 1 seats, are season ticket holders. Soooo…..these additional 12,000 fans are sitting in the 2nd/3rd tier levels. The seats on 2nd tier average $35/ticket and 3rd tier is about $30/ticket. Assuming about half of these new fans are in 2nd &half in 3rd tier….that’s an additional income of $390,000 per game. That’s an additional $31.2m for 2019(80 home games). Harpers Salary of $33 no longer looks like a financial anchor…pulling everyone else down. Will that “buzz” continue over 13 years?…of course not…but possibly the season ticket holder base will upgrade(move to tier 1) and overall…the attendance will be higher.  I haven’t even mentioned the extra income when fans DO attend…. concessions, souvenirs, etc.  Although gate money is NO longer the primary source of income for MLB teams, its STILL income. It’s the ad time on TV, streaming ads, that reap the biggest money harvest for the owners.  I couldn’t find any data on the increase income by the Phillies for their TV ads, streaming, etc but… I’m sure that one could safely say that’s its increased. On the other hand, will this “star” power keep its hold for most of the 13 years? He already shows some signs of having injury issues. In addition….in this particular case, will Harper’s personality ….with the fans and teammates…become an obstacle? Will the Phillies “go for it all” early in Harper’s tenure then…as he ages and declines athletically, will they still keep investing heavily and trying to compete?….or….will he become a living statue of the past in Philly…did you say Albert?  13 years ago the Cardinals won the Series….some pundits say it was a fluke..they only won 83 games to win their division..then beat the Padres, Mets & Tigers on their route to the world championship ring ceremony.  Look at some of the stars from that team—only Yadi, Wainwright and Albert are still playing….other key players like Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Chris Carpenter, Jason Isringhausen are now found …if at all…in announcing booths, old timer games, golf courses, etc….and…at least to me…it seems like they’ve all been gone a LONG.LONG time. How will Harper be as a productive player in 2031?…  Is it worth it?

…..when the Blues won the first two games of the Winnipeg series….most thought….”its ours”…then dropping both games at home….ugh…I made a quick 180 in my mind, “well…it WAS a good season” then,  wrapping it up in games 5 & 6…incredible!! I haven’t seen all the games…but the ones that I watched were exciting, fast paced, momentum changing back & forth, opportunities for scoring.. sometimes missed.. sometimes foiled by the GK….Binnington usually…the prices of the tickets are elevated…substantially… in some cases.. for the playoffs….Is it worth it?   Right now….most fans who attended would probably say, “yes”

….staying in the Hockey playoff mode….some other observations….the fans at both venues were totally engaged…that cheering/noise/excitement from the fans helps to make the game more exciting for the viewers at home; one just never knows who the hero will be in the playoffs-from bum to hero in 24 hours-Jaden Schwartz….to me Robert Thomas has really “grown” up during these playoff games-controls the puck longer & checks more; the “Big Rig”—Patrick Maroon has shined by adding muscle but also skill around and behind the net; Tarasenko hasn’t been scoring but I’ve noticed him using his speed more often to get to pucks.  Finally….generally I feel like all pro athletes are trying their best throughout the year. I attribute in most cases wins over losses to simply going having the more talented players. Hockey playoffs DO seem different. I see players…who for the most part are very close in skill level… checking on almost every play… more intensity, pushing, shoving around the net….I see the games becoming personal with all the “chit chat” between the players…I’m sure that aren’t asking about the guys family, thoughJ….it really does seem like “effort” has been increased but will effort alone beat teams with better scorers? Will it be worth it?

…staying on the ice…probably thin ice for me…..should hockey teams who are contending… try to procure high scoring forwards sometime during the season….in order to win the cup? Now….it may not be possible since most teams drool over these prolific scorers and trying to grab one would be like to trying to take a baby away from his/her mother. Since 2000, only 3 Stanley Cup champions had goal scorers in the top 3 of the league. Two other Cup champions had only 2 players (different players) in the top 3 of the Points category. In a freak aberration, in the last 3 seasons, it was different. In 2018, Alex Ovechkin led the league in scoring. In 2017 Sidney Crosby #1 in goals and #2 in assists. 2016 saw Crosby #5 in goals and #3 in assists. In 2015, and 2014, the Stanley Cup champions had NO ONE in the top 10 in goals OR assists. It seems like common sense to me that a Stanley Cup championship team needs “the man” to lead them in the close games…their cost would be very, very, very  high….is it worth it to try to get one?

…..MLB baseball realizes that TV/internet enriches their coffers more than the everyday Joe walking through the gate does for them. However, the fans at the game bring the emotion (see hockey section above). Currently costs at stadiums are becoming prohibitive for many people (hence MLB attendance is dropping at a slow rate)…according to Statista’s data on a Dodger game…which may be a bit higher than other cities….but not much…. the average ticket price to see a Dodger game in 2018 was $41. The average price of a ticket across the MLB during 2018 was $32. This is before parking costs (average $15-16 according to CBS News) and food prices at the park. The average cost for two people to go to a game in their car, while spending nothing else at the stadium, would be $79. For three people it would be $111 and for four people it would be $143. But… can’t sit there for 3-4 hours not eating or drinking… A Dodger Dog costs just below $6 and the average around baseball was just below $5.  Buying enough of them for a family, plus drinks (which also have crazy high prices), just isn’t an affordable option for most people. Soooo…people aren’t as inclined to go to the ballpark. Btw…in Atlanta, the Falcons recently introduced family-friendly concessions where a hot dog is $2, a soda with unlimited refills was $2, fries were $3, and burgers and beer were $5. The results worked out well for them as they actually MADE 16 percent more than they did before their affordable options. At some point, MLB has to determine if it’s worth it to have a stadium with several thousand, enthusiastic fans or if the TV payroll is enough.

…..At many….maybe even most…workplaces, a worker may have some “given” sick days provided by the employer. Some work places don’t provide that amenity. The current DL in the MLB is a croc. OK… you’re hurt….you can’t play…why should you still get full pay? In addition, a player from the minors is brought up to replace you. That adds cost to the team. I think that if a player goes on the DL, he is responsible for paying the cost of his replacement (probably MLB minimum scale). Maybe each player gets a few “free” days on DL….5 days, 7 days, 10 days per year…. Whatever…after those number of days, the player begins paying for his replacement. Something must be done to halt these continual trips to the DL.  Is it worth it to keep the players responsible for their health….just as the team should do? For example, if a player injures his arm and misses an entire season, why should he be paid?

….wrapping up a unbelievable career 39 year coaching career this spring is a long-time friend, Steve Nicollerat of SLUH Baseball. Steve & I first met as young teens umpiring little girls softball games on adjacent fields at Mallinckrodt school on Hampton in the South Side. We would continue to bump into each other over the decades….I umpired some of his games, we coached against each other as head coaches(I got slaughtered) and then when I was an assistant varsity baseball coach, he taught some of my kids, we coached in schools that competed in the same league so we saw each other at conference games in other sports.  A tremendous person –family oriented, friendly, unassuming, and one-helluva baseball coach, Steve epitomized what you wanted in a coach. He had the brains, the heart, the drive and soul to make it work. He worked his teams hard on fundamentals, taught baserunning better than anyone I’ve seen do it. And…oh yea…he won. He won over 600 HS games… remember this is in the HS level where you have limited number of games each season. He won 29 district Championships and made the final Four three times. He’s been inducted into the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association (MHSBCA) Hall of Fame. But….most of all…he’ll be remembered for his relationships with the students and families. We wish him well in retirement! His career has definitely been worth it.

….I appreiciate you making to the bottom….hopefully, it was worth it.


  1. Buzz Swanston says:

    Great as always boss. Just wanted to echo your comments about Steve Nicollerat. I have always been impressed with how he handled players, but also umpires and coaches. Congrats to him on an outstanding coaching career.

  2. (Just so you know, I have read all your recent blogs. I have not died. Very Busy time of the year for me. I have agreed with many things and shake my head at others. So nothing has changed). Ha!

  3. Well, a long read for sure. I suppose it was worth it especially as I do think you brought in the business side of sports. And, it’s all about making money in pro sports (college sports as well in most cases but not all).

    The money they are paying Harper is absolutely crazy and I don’t think anyone would suggest he’s worth it. But, if anyone saw the stats you bring to the table it shines an entire new light on it. The attendance up and bringing in about $31 million per year. That almost covers his salary and then add in all the other money that will be spent on food, beer, refreshments and other items probably more than covers his salary. That said, is it sustainable over the course of his contract. Probably not but they need to milk it for all it’s worth right now. Plus, if he gets hot and does well for just a few years the interest may pick up and other players may opt to play for the Phillies. I was shocked he went there but the money was too good to turn down I suppose. I look at what the Angels did with Albert and I’m not sure that has paid off at all but I don’t have any stats to back that up. Maybe it’s the fact I don’tb hear about him. But when he gets close to breaking a record, he will fill the seats I’m sure. The Cards fans will LOVE HIM when he returns to our stadium.

    I sure like the Atlanta pricing policy which really gets the fans back in the seats. Heck, if you are going to spend a night watching a 4 hour game at least get some refreshments that are affordable. I believe that lower prices will cause an increase in sales and I suppose they figured out the break even point to apparently go above and beyond that point to increase sales and thus profits. I wonder if they had to employ more workers to cover the 16% increase in sales? If so, those people make money, pay taxes and everyone is a winner in that case. Great idea and I wish more stadiums did that pricing policy. I know the Blues did it several years ago when the seats were empty. In fact, there was even some free hot dogs at one point but lower prices in general helped to increase people coming to the rink to watch the stumbling Blues.

    The Blues are hot and thank goodness for their toughness and resiliency. And, also their goalie. Bennington has been quite good to say the least and I hope he continues. He didn’t see much action the first 2 periods the other night but sure was shell shocked the third period and especially the last 7 minutes or so. I thought the 3 goals were a sure win but the Jets kept coming and if they wouldn’t have had that 4 minute penalty, I’m not so sure we wouldn’t be headed back to their rink for another game. They get two goals and then put several more shots on goal and force JB to come up big. I hope they can keep going but they need to keep playing the way they have the last series with all the passion and tenacity to move on. I hope they play Dallas from what I have seen of the two teams. But that’s just a rookie fan opinion.

    You sort of threw me a curve on the DL situation. Seems to me if a player gets hurt playing for the club then he should be paid while he is hurt. That said, if he gets the flu or has an appendix removed etc. then maybe he should only get paid for the number of sick days that the organization has in place. I’m not sure a player needs to pay for his replacement although if he has enough salary then I’m not opposed. The big deal would almost come down to the owners coming up with a sick day policy. And, if they were not all the same, some players might opt in for the team that offers the best benefits package, Maybe a 20 day sick pay program vs a 10 day sick day policy. Maybe they could pay for an upgraded benefits plan. Or, maybe the higher paid players could pay a bigger share into a fund to support the players with lower paying salaries. You know, let the rich pay for the poor plan. Maybe a big pot of money that everyone pays into and then is split up by management. Almost sounds like a government plan in some regards. I just don’t see how anyone that is hurt while playing should pay anything for being out and maybe those are the cases that would be the exceptions.

    I haven’t ever heard of the baseball coach at SLUH – Steve Nicollerat. He must be quite a coach and did things the right way over the years. I know SLUH has always been a pretty good team and there obviously is a reason for that in my mind. Plus, being inducted into the Baseball HOF speaks volumes to me. That’s a lot of years coaching and the time he put in had to be considerable. More hours than he could ever be paid for over his career. Do they have a replacement for him as yet or did this come as a big surprise?

    I’m a bit nervous about the Cardinals manager and just don’t see a great deal of passion from him. All I read is he is a players manager and I’m not sure that means a great deal in the Business World of the MLB. Am I missing something that you see? And, I know Matheny was questioned about his use of the pitchers. Has there been a big difference so far this season? I know it’s early, but I don’t see the Cardinals making the playoffs again this year. Any way just an insight thus far. JJ

  4. The Bryce Harper thoughts are very interesting and informative. Really sheds a light on pro sports salary arguments, good job! AH

  5. “Lots of great ideas. When in my grade school and teen days, baseball was a sport – the emphasis was the sport – not the business. We all knew there was a business side to the sport, it can’t be helped, but it didn’t overshadow the sport itself. The business end has now been the dominant factor in the news in regard to success, the hype, the money thrown around. They want to make changes to the game to speed it up, to make it more interesting I guess, or maybe change for change sake just to keep the game in the news to create interest. When you fool with games you change the game – it just becomes another victim of aging – eventually you lose interest. MLB should be careful. Remember the 7 P’s. Is it worth it? It rarely ever is.” TK

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