Thursday, June 25, 2009

Steroids, Bleacher Ticket Prices, and Economic Rationality

"I think it has to be spoken very loud and clear on the stance, and baseball needs to stand as they have. I'm very, very satisfied with the testing program they have in place now. For a guy who's tested positive today under what happens now, like Manny Ramirez, it almost takes an idiot to participate in that. For the society, for the up-and-coming players and youth out there, I don't think those guys should be recognized at all."
Ryne Sandberg

When I was a grad student at Northwestern in the late 1970s, I went to Wrigley Field a couple of times for day games (they didn't have lights then). Taking the el, and sitting in the bleachers, it was an inexpensive form of entertainment. (I think bleacher seats cost $2.50 or $3 then and during the week they were in ample supply.) Baseball had free agency but most people didn't have cable TV (I certainly didn't) and player salaries were much more modest than than are today.

Compared to then, current ticket prices and player salaries are both astronomical. And, of course, the superstars make a ton of money. The argument for a player to take steroids to improve performance (or recovery time from injury) couldn't be plainer. The upside of improved performance is vastly higher compensation--- as long as you don't get caught cheating. Let a player do a cost-benefit analysis on the risk reward trade off and it might still come down on the side of taking the steroids.

I wonder if those who are Democrats in their politics are nonetheless Republicans in their baseball fandom. Given the furor of the Mark Sanford affair, and the recognition that the Republicans have been shooting themselves in the foot with their holier than thou approach might not baseball be in a similar boat?

From where I sit, rising income inequality is a substantial factor in why so many big league ballplayers have gone down this route. If player salaries were more modest overall, fewer would risk tempation. As it is, some players literally could not afford to go without.

And if ticket prices were more modest, going to a ballgame would be something a moderate income family could afford.

No comments: