Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime to Tribute Jackie Robinson?

Sure, last year's event was a big deal, being the 60th anniversary of Dodger great Jackie Robinson's debut in the major leagues, shattering the color barrier in baseball. 60 is a nice round number, more round than 61 (ask Roger Maris), and we all remember the major leaguers from each team celebrating Robinson's number 42 on their jerseys, with each team honoring the Hall of Fame great in a different way.

How do you follow it up for the 61st anniversary? Well, here's what MLB has to offer:

NEW YORK -- In honor of Jackie and Rachel Robinson on the occasion of the 61st anniversary of the late Brooklyn Dodger shattering the sports' racial barrier, Major League Baseball is donating $1.2 million over the course of the next four years to the foundation that bears his name.

Wow, $1.2 million dollars, that's quite an award! That's a seven-digit figure, right? But wait, here comes the fine print (announced by none other than Commissioner Bud Selig):

"On the eve of Jackie Robinson Day, I am pleased to announce that Major League Baseball will increase its current support of the Jackie Robinson Foundations by funding a scholarship in the name of each of its 30 Clubs," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "Major League Baseball has not forgotten and will never forget the great contribution and sacrifice that Jackie made to baseball and to all of society."


To that end, each of MLB's 30 teams will now sponsor a scholarship a year to the tune of $300,000 per annum for the next four years. That's in addition to 11 teams that have donated or are committed to donations for scholarships that won't go away with MLB's mass contribution, including long-time support from the likes of the Mets, Yankees, White Sox and Dodgers. The Los Angeles edition of Robinson's team is in the midst of a 10-year, $105,000 a year commitment.

Okay, so $1.2 million over four years means $300,000 per year. Divided by 30 MLB teams, each scholarship is worth $10,000 per year per team. So counting the 25 people on each team's active roster, MLB is generously donating $400 per player. $400. That's not enough to park 27 cars at Dodger Stadium, nor is it enough to drink 50 beers.

How else does that $400 contribution (fail to) compare? Well, for starters (using the USA Today baseball salary database tool):

  • The median salary for the lowest-payrolled team in 2008, the Florida Marlins, is $395K. So this contribution would represent 0.1% of the median Marlins' salary.
  • The median salary for the highest-payrolled team in 2008, the Chicago Cubs, is $3.175M. So this contribution would represent 0.01% of the median Cubs' salary.
  • For Alex Rodriguez, earning $28M this year, this $400 contribution represents .0014% of his salary, equivalent to less than an hour's worth of his time.

The Dodgers, on their own, give over 10x what MLB is asking of each team each year. Can't MLB rally the other 29 teams to cough up a little bit more dough?

Let me put this $1.2 million (over four years) to one other comparison; Bud Selig earned $14.5 million in salary last year. In one year, Bud Selig earned over 50 times the magnitude of the annual MLB donation. 50 times!

I mean, if we're going to trumpet a contribution to honor a great player whose shadow and legacy transcends the game, shouldn't the gesture be meaningful, or at least more than a pittance?

Jackie Robinson gave so much; shouldn't the game give more than loose change?


Xeifrank said...

I don't think the donation is a pattance. I mean, I didn't donate anything to the cause, did you? I surely have no stones to cast.
vr, Xei

Steve Sax said...

Xei, I can indeed throw stones. Not only have I contributed to the cause, it's a hell of a lot more than the .0014% that A Rod is contributing. And I have a feeling that even you could contribute that percentage of your salary.

MLB's token gesture is an insult.