They’re Only Pretty Good to Old Nap

Nap Lajoie
Baseball Hall of Famer

 

They’re Only Pretty Good to Old Nap

The other day I ran into this brief space filler story of the sports pages of the 1928 Port Arthur News. It bore the same title as this Eagle column and it was really little more than something we continue to see from some older great players when they are asked to assess the comparative greatness of contemporary front-runners from the leaders of their own eras.

Some late 1920s writer apparently had just sparked the opinion of future Hall of Fame first class inductee Napoleon Lajoie on what he thought of the 1928 New York Yankees as he now watched them play from the grandstand.

Here’s how it went:

NEW YORK.  April 12. ~ The New York Yankees may be the greatest ball club in the world to some people, but to Larry Lajoie, famous second baseman of other days, they are just a pretty good ball club. 

“Of course, you could see a lot of loafing going on,” says Lajoie, but if that club is the greatest of all times, you just know that we had a lot of clubs in my time who were world champions and didn’t know it.”

~ Port Arthur (TX) News, April 12, 1928, Page 26 of 34.

Poor Larry Lajoie. He just couldn’t see that what appeared to him as loafing was really nothing more nor less than the simple luxury that descends upon players who make better money. ~ The 1928 Yankees could afford to pay somebody else to go pick up their pay checks. The 1908 Cleveland Naps ~ in the first of Lajoie’s three-year run at his top annual salary of $12,000 ~ could not ~ and that limitation extended to the mighty Nap himself.

Interesting too though, even with the differences opening up in the salaries of the home run breakout era of the 1920s and the low ball pay of the dead ball era of the first two 20th century decades, that only Ruth had any real performance and persona power to drive his annual take up near the six digit figure range. Only Ruth could pull in 80K a year ~ a figure that today couldn’t buy a club a raw rookie for more than a short-time in spring training ~ if that much.

It is fun ~ and I do write those three words with a smile ~ to play with the best career data we have now, courtesy of Baseball Reference.com ~ and check out the cost of each career home run by ~ let’s say ~ Babe Ruth and Nap Lajoie.

Be advised ~ if necessary ~ that we are playing with rough approximation on the career incomes of any two men who ever played the game of baseball ~ and especially during the early years of the low pay modern 20th century era.

The formula for this overly simple figured data is this: We divide each player’s gross career income totals by the number of home runs each man hit during his career. ~ The answer gives us the raw cost to ownership in total for each man:

Babe Ruth earned $856,850 during an MLB career in which he hit 714 career regular season home runs.

BR HR COST = ($856,850 / 714 HR) = $ 1,200.07 = The per unit cost of each Babe Ruth home run.

Nap Lajoie earned $88,100 during an MLB career in which he hit 82 career regular season home runs.

NL HR COST = ($88,100 / 82 HR) = $ 1,O74.39) = The per unit cost of each Nap Lajoie home run.

OK, before we get carried away with errant conclusion about Nap Lajoie’s relatively comparable HR cost efficiency in his comparison with Babe Ruth, let’s examine one more player to confirm why “money can’t buy you love” ~ when love is measured in home run totals.

Hunter Pence ~ now signed to a minor league contract by the Texas Rangers ~ has spent his 11 seasons in the big leagues (2008-2018) collecting a total of $125,435,000 in salary. During this time, Pence has smashed a career regular season total of 224 HR.

Using our same formula for determining the cost of each home run, Hunter Pence’s cost per HR is $559,977.68.

OUCH! Hunter Pence’s homers better be the very red and very sweet and unsqueezed king brand for that kid of money. All it serves us is to stand as a blink toward serious “cost of the game” research of how the cost of everything today is now driven by the players’ power to drive salaries and benefits through the roof for catches that bring down the ceiling of the business universe with a few incidental planet captures also made by chance and pure good luck on the way down.

Hey! With a gross income from baseball of about $125,435,000 going into our mid to late 30s, most of us could also have settled for a minor league paper with Texas in 2019. ~ And ~ if it didn’t work out, what the heck, it just didn’t work out!

 

******************************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

 

 

 

 

 

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