Al Kaline, the former "Mr. Tiger", will soon be 80 years old. He retired as an active player 40 years ago after the 1974 season. Al Kaline is, and will always be, in the Hall of Fame. Though it might seem blasphemous for those in the Detroit area-- looking back at his career stats -- one can wonder if he truly deserved the plaque in Cooperstown.
After all, over 22 seasons, he never hit even 400 home runs (though 399 is pretty close). He had a career batting average under .300 (but .297 is a leaner). Only three times in those 22 years did he drive in more than 100 RBI's. Twice in Eiesenhower's FIRST term as Prez, and again in 1963 when JFK eventually made his fateful trip to Dallas. Over Kaline's career, he averaged a rather modest 72 RBIs per season. He was an above average outfielder with a terrific arm, but not much of a base stealing threat due to mediocre speed. Taken together in modern times, would those stats get him enshrined these days if he'd just retired last year? Maybe, maybe not. But times were different back then.
Kaline was also the first Detroit Tiger to get a salary over $100,000 for a year. And that didn't happen until 1969, in Kaline's 17TH season. Sure, the price of everything was a lot lower back then. Bearing inflation in mind, here's a few examples:
In 1969, gasoline typically sold for around 20 cents a gallon. Not long ago it was $4 a gallon, at least in America. Other countries pay much more. So gas has gone up by a factor of twenty.
In '69 a pack of smokes cost about 30 cents. Now the same pack costs roughly 6 bucks. An increase by the same factor of 20, though most of it is due to politicians taxing tobacco products for as much as they can get away with -- not the tobacco companies gouging people. Funny thing about that. States keep passing laws forbidding smoking in various places including, incredibly, bars. It's as if they want to get rid of it altogether. But they don't REALLY want that, because if it happened, they would lose out on billions of dollars in revenues. Who's kidding who?
Seats to a baseball game in '69 typically came in four varieties. For a buck, one could sit in the "bleachers". Two bucks got one in the "grandstands". Another Washington opened up the mysterious world of "reserved" seating. One might be eight rows back from the playing field -- or maybe 30. You coughed up your three bucks and hoped for the best -- preferably not sitting between two fat guys smoking big cigars with bullhorn voices that never stopped yelling. And of course, there was the cream of the crop, known as "box seats". They'd cost you a whopping $4, but dammit, you were close enough to your heroes to hear them talk, spit and scratch their cups.
Thing is, back then even young kids with brand new drivers' licenses could afford to go to a game with a few friends, if mom or dad would let them borrow the car.
Fast forward to the present. Without getting into ticket prices, though it might be a fair assumption to estimate they've gone up by at least the same factor of 20, we have one Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton has been in the major leagues for 5 years, all with the Marlins. Like Kaline, he's an outfielder, although much taller and heavier. Also like Kaline, Stanton is hardly a speedster. Lou Brock on the basepathes he is definitely not. However, to his credit, during those five years, he's averaged 31 home runs per year. Impressive. Yet also during those same five years, he only had over 100 RBIs once -- last year. His five year average is 80. Not bad, but hardly earth-shaking. And here's the kicker -- Stanton's career batting average is a mediocre .271. Last year he improved slightly to .288. That's a respectable batting average in today's game, but no more.
And what just happened? The Marlins inked Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year contract worth $325 MILLION dollars -- the largest in sports history. The math is simple enough. That averages out to $25M a year -- for a 25 year-old guy with a five year career average of .271. They're on the financial hook until Stanton is Tiger Woodsish at the ripe old age of 38. And we all know what happened to his game in recent years. Thirteen years, when the guy could flame out or be injured at any time? Have the Marlins lost their minds?
Which brings me back to the Al Kaline comparison. Getting that $100,000 contract was a big deal back then and, yes, inflation has taken its toll over the years as mentioned above.
But are we to believe Giancarlo Stanton is worth not a factor of twenty, but 250 TIMES what Al Kaline was? For 13 more years that he hasn't even played yet?
Something is very wrong with this picture.
And this, dear reader, is exactly why young kids can't afford to go to ball games anymore.
It truly is a shame.
Or perhaps just flat-out shameful.