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How Much Have MLB Salaries Risen When Accounting for Inflation? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Friday, 21 January 2011 15:11

Maury BrownGot a great tweet today from Cork Gaines who does the Rays Index blog, and also submits to Business Insider. When it came across Twitter, it surely must have made eyes bulg: CHART OF THE DAY: Baseball's Salaries Up 6,600% Thanks To Free Agency

In looking at salary minimum and average salary info from ESPN, and calculating the change, Gaines came up with the figures.

As mentioned, eye-popping.

But, if we’re going to go back to 1970 – a considerable period of time – then factoring in inflation has to come into play. Seeing the tweet, I went back and looked at my figures, albeit supplied from the MLBPA’s annual reports.

What the numbers bear out is that from 1970 to 2010, when accounting for inflation, the average salary in MLB has grown, not 6,600%, but rather 1,783%. By comparison, when accounting for inflation, the minimum salary has risen 510%.

And remember, this is from 1970, before free agency was granted. In 1976, the year after the Seitz ruling where players of at least 6 years service time became free agents, the average salary in leapt 48 percent from an average of $51,501 to $76,066. That 1976 salary would be worth $266,197 now. What would the percentage of increase be from then to now when accounting for inflation? 1,032%

This isn’t to discount Gaines’ work. It’s a great look at how the numbers have changed. But, as is the case whenever you sit down with an old-timer that says, “Back in my day, gas was a quarter,” it has to be taken into the context of how inflation factors into it (by the way, a quarter in 1970 is now worth $1.37 in today’s dollars when accounting for inflation).

Here’s my version of Gaines’ chart running on Business Insider:


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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