Today is the anniversary of a memorable date in baseball and it's given me an idea of how Barry Bonds can begin the process of working his way out of purgatory. If it's true that money is the root of all evil, then baseball's-- and Barry's-- current woes began on this historic date forty years ago, when the minimum salary soared 67% . . . to $10,000, pushing the average salary of a major league ballplayer that year all the way up to $20,000. What's that worth today?
Well, using a handy little inflation calculator based on the Consumer Price Index, $10,000 in 1968 is worth $61,954 today, just a tad below the 2008 minimum salary for major leaguers, which weighs in at $390,000.
And the average salary comparisons? Adjusting for inflation, the salaries of Bob Gibson's contemporaries averaged $123,904 per year in today's dollars; Johan Santana's peers, on the other hand averaged $2,824,751 last year, the most recent season for which we have data. That's about $2.4 million more than President Bush got paid, but to paraphrase the Babe, the average ballplayer probably had a better year in 2007 than the Prez. But I digress.
The point is this: When Marvin Miller negotiated baseball's first collective bargaining agreement in 1968 it began a process that directly assaulted the corrupt system of owner collusion, paved the way toward free agency, and made it possible for Barry to earn approximately $185 million in salary through the end of last season. I know $185 million just doesn't go as far as it used to but if prudently invested it will probably yield a comfortable annuity for the golden years.
Okay, here's what I'm thinking. Barry wants to play ball this year but nobody seems to want to have anything to do with him, his ego, and, ahem, his little flaxseed oil issue. What he needs to do is to refurbish his image while maintaining his dignity. I'm envisioning a press conference called by Barry that goes a little something like this, but in Barryspeak:
Thank you all for coming. I'd like to open with a few remarks and then I'll take questions. You know, this year marks the 40th anniversary of collective bargaining in this sport that has given so much to me and my fellow players. It led to our emancipation and brought us riches beyond our wildest dreams.
But it couldn't have been done without the guys who came before the big money. They are the foundation of the penthouse we live in today.
It's time-- no, it's long past time-- that we give something back to the game and honor the sacrifices made by those men back in 1968, and I'd like to make my humble contribution by bringing recognition throughout the upcoming year to the greatest, and most underpaid, player of that season, Bob Gibson. Let me tell you about what this bad man did in 1968 and then you tell me what he was worth.
He started 34 games that year, completed 28, won 22, and threw 13 shutouts. Yeah, you heard me right-- 13 shutouts. You need an electron microscope to read his ERA. It was 1.12. He walked only 1.83 batters every 9 innings and struck out 8. He made 1 error all season. He won the Cy Young Award. Oh yeah, he also stole more bases than the Cardinals' shortstop. And you know what he got paid in today's dollars? About $700,000, give or take a Beamer.
So here's my offer to any team looking for a bat of my caliber in their lineup this season. I will not accept a salary greater than Bob Gibson's was in 1968. Pay me what you think I'm worth up to $700,00, and then I'll multiply it by two or three and donate it to whatever worthy cause the fans vote for. And if it's available, I'd like to switch my uniform number to 45. If it's not available, I'll hit with the batting helmet of whoever wears 45 on my team. If the ear flap's on the wrong side, so what? I'll suck it up like Jackie did. And if you're worried the helmet's gonna be too small, please don't. I'm heading back to where I started.