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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Baseball, teaching, and money

Letter writer Alan Farmer of Phoenix doesn’t understand the meaning of the law of supply and demand. In the 9-25 Arizona Republic, Mr. Farmer, who is a dissatisfied teacher, is upset that Diamondbacks’ baseball pitcher Brandon Webb is not willing to take a pay cut for 2010 on an $8.5 million option offered by the team. Webb missed the 2009 season because of a shoulder injury which was operated on recently.

Mr. Farmer complains about his 10 hour workdays and that Webb can make more money pitching 6 innings than Mr. Farmer makes in a year. He thinks that athletes should be grateful that they make so much money for the small amount of time they have to work. He goes on to whine some more about how much time teachers have to put in for little pay while athletes like Webb play a game and become millionaires.

I think Mr. Farmer would not see anything wrong with the shoe being on the other foot even though teachers don’t deserve $8.5 million per year any more than sports stars do. However, that is where the pesky law of supply and demand kicks in. No one will pay to see Mr. Farmer teach his classes, and no one will sponsor TV coverage of him doing the same. Webb has the advantage of being in a business that involves big bucks, plenty of TV money and exposure, sponsorships, rich owners, and a demand for players who are good at playing baseball. He also is in a business where his career may be over because of injury and if not, it will be over anyway when he reaches about 40.

Mr. Farmer gripes about players like Webb getting millions for working "a few hours a week." They may only play a few hours a week, but when guys like Webb are working they are applying an immense skill to their game. I wonder if Mr. Farmer could throw 9 innings of sinker balls and change up pitches to get out highly skilled major league batters like Webb has done for many years. How about throwing a 95 mile per hour fastball? Or, could he hit .300 batting against guys like Webb or perhaps Dan Haren (who make $11 million per year). Of course, he couldn’t do any of those things. Unfortunately for him, there is more demand for good ballplayers than good teachers which is a shame but whoever said life was fair.

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