Take Me Out to the Ball… Wait He’s Making How Much?

Chuck Sipps, Assistant Arts and Life Editor

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Philadelphia is my home town. It’s a place where pizza is cut in triangles, we call subs hoagies, and cheesesteaks are better than any hotdog or Italian beef. It’s also the place were Bryce Harper, a professional baseball player, is getting paid $330 million dollars over 13 years to hit a ball with a stick.

That is a ridiculously high figure, especially when you consider Philadelphia’s ever evolving budget crisis. Harper’s contract is the most lucrative in MLB history, at least for the next few days. Mike Trout is rumored to be signing a 12 year 430 million dollar contract to stay with the Los Angeles Angels. If I ever have a son, I want him to at least try baseball.   

Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies, cost $458 million to build. The price tag for two players is more expensive than an entire stadium. In what world does that make sense? Are these two players worth that much? To be honest, I don’t really know. Baseball is a boring sport that involves a lot of math. I am not here for it. It’s also full of acronyms. You gotta now what  ERA, AB, HBP, SLG, ROE, NWO, and GIPD means to be a fan. Full disclosure, I made one of those up and you probably didn’t notice.

What I can say is this, as a Philadelphian, I am expected to be excited by the Harper signing.  MLB (another acronym?!) pundits think the deal is a good one for both sides. For what it’s worth, Harper has a impressive resume. At 26, he is a baseball prodigy.  He was MVP in 2015, has six All-Star appearances in seven seasons and two seasons in which he batted at least .319. I don’t understand what the .319 actually means, but I can still appreciate that he really does hit the ball with a stick rather well.

This article isn’t meant to be a condemnation of Harper or Trout. Good on them for setting themselves up for life. This is meant as a condemnation of greedy sports team owners. Remember the budget crisis I mentioned earlier? Well, it’s been a concern in Philly for decades. Teachers, cops and other city workers are undertrained, understaffed and inadequately funded. The city was also in a budget crisis back in 2004, when Philadelphians were forced to help fund to build new stadiums for the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies.

Philadelphians were expected to cover the vast majority of the combined $970 million price tag for the two stadiums. Why are average Americans expected to cover the cost of building sport ball arenas for billionaires? $970 million wouldn’t have fixed all the issues plaguing Philadelphia, but it surely would have helped.

This problem isn’t just in Philadelphia either. Franchises have relocated throughout history to find more economically friendly cities to call home. The Rams, Raiders and Chargers have all recently moved, because their demands for increasingly expensive stadiums had not been met. The sad thing is how often the cities are painted as the villains for driving away the noble sports franchises. Excuse me if I won’t shed a tear for greedy billionaires literally taking their balls and going home.     

I understand why it’s easier to talk sports than the failures of public works. One is only sad for an afternoon, while the other is a much larger problem that can’t be solved with a shrewd trade or free agent signing. Despite the vastness of these problems, they still must be solved. To do that, we need to face some hard truths and deal with the issues that plague America.

Philadelphia Mayor, Jim Kenney, is proposing a new $5 Billion spending plan to improve Philadelphia schools and public safety. You may not have heard about it because it is not a sexy news story. What is sexy news? Some dude named Bryce is getting paid $330 to hit a ball with a stick in Philly for a decade. Until we give issues that concern the public good the same level attention that we do to a silly game, then nothing will change. Play Ball!

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