Major League Excess - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Major League Excess

There’s no place like Derek’s home, at least hereabouts. As much as I love the Grand Old Game, there’s no way of defending the wretched excess of Major League Baseball’s player pay practices. Local fans were treated this week to an example of the ridiculous pass we’ve come to in a page one story with color photos in the “Tampa Daily Thunderstorm” of the biggest and most valuable single-family home in Hillsborough County.

The home doesn’t belong to a rapacious capitalist of the sort our rookie president is trying, with little success, to paint Mitt Romney as. No, the owner of the gaudiest home in Hillsborough did not get to the top by snatching food from the mouths of widows and orphans and exporting jobs to third world countries where workers make 10 cents an hour and would boil their shoes for dinner if they had shoes. Our un-humble homeowner was able to build digs that would make Gatsby blush by fielding ground balls and hitting baseballs toward, and occasionally over, the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium.

Derek Jeter’s gaudy pile on Davis Island, hard by downtown Tampa, contains 30,875 square feet, roughly the size of Luxembourg or the largest truck stop on the Jersey Turnpike, and has nine bedrooms and seven bathrooms. The house has two zip codes. The kitchen and the in-laws’ guest bedroom are in different time zones. Several families could live in the house and never come in contact with one another or with Derek. It’s further from one end of Derek’s home to the other than the longest home run he ever hit. Republicans could stash all their delegates at Derek’s place, less than a half mile from next month’s national convention site. 

The house that Jeter built is appraised at $12.3 million. The second most valuable home in Hillsborough is rated at a comparatively Scrooge-like $6.3 million. But Jeter, who will be paid $16 million for his services by the Yankees this year, probably won’t have trouble in the short run keeping up with his mortgage and paying his property taxes.

Unlike our rookie president, I don’t believe there should be a cap on how much money individual Americans make, so long as they come by it honestly. Someone smart once said envy is the only one of the seven deadlies that’s no fun. There’s certainly none of that operating here. I would find it a trial just walking through such a preposterous house, let alone trying to live in it. No way to make such a behemoth cozy.

Derek is entitled to such style of home as he prefers and can afford. But the chez Jeter is certainly something to think about next time a fan with a real job, and the modest income that goes with it, pays $45 for a ticket for a mediocre seat to a ML game (after paying $15 to park in an area where there’s at least a 50-50 chance that various valuable parts of his car will have been stripped and sold on the street before the seventh inning stretch) and comforts himself with an $9 beer and an $8 hotdog.

I remember buying tickets for decent seats at Fenway Park in the eighties and getting change from a ten. Back then, for the price of that same seat now, not only could I sit anywhere I chose, but Carl Yastrzemski would have driven me home after the game.

Financially, it’s a whole new ball game. And it isn’t just stars like Jeter distorting baseball finances (and that of other major league sports). The Major League Baseball minimum salary is $480,000 per year and the average Major League player is paid more than $3 million per year (notice I didn’t say “earns”). This is the reason why, for the average fan, take me out to the ball game often necessitates a later trip to bankruptcy court. It’s the free market (except when team owners hold up local governments for tax-payer funded ball yards). And I’m for free-markets. But even the biggest fan of free markets knows they can have their mad moments. Derek Jeter’s new home is proof of that.

There. I’ve said it and I’m glad.

Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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