The Extra Variable

If my current employer offered me the same salary to stay home rather than work, it would be a bit like winning the lottery. I suspect that most people would react similarly. As a sports economist, I have written extensively about how sports mirrors life and vice versa. This is one area in which sports is different. Elite athletes want to be playing — not just sitting and collecting a paycheck. Someone might suggest that this stems from a desire to maximize lifetime earnings, which sitting on the bench will ultimately diminish. I would not dismiss that as a factor, but even players late in their careers seem to exhibit the same desire. Certainly, there is some price for which players would be willing to sit rather than play, but the existence of this “compensating differential” for not playing seems to run counter to traditional labor settings.

Things brings me to my primary subject — the Chelsea’s or NY Yankees of the world. Much has been made of the Chelsea leviathan. Currently, their second team would stand a chance of finishing in the top 5 in the EPL, but I doubt that they will maintain such depth for very long. Two of their stars, Richard Carvalho and Arjen Robben have already voiced displeasure at their lack of playing time. Joe Cole has not gone public, but a national-team caliber player cannot relish being left off the group players dressing for games much less playing. How long will Sean Wright-Phillips, Damien Duff, and Herman Crespo be content with limited time? I don’t have a crystal ball but would venture a guess that the team’s number of big-name starts will diminish by next season if not in January.

Luxury tax systems such as the Yankees face reduce the financial incentives to stockpile players. Even absent the luxury tax, the Yankees would not easily be able to stockpile (veteran) players on their 25-man roster. Michael Young would not likely come to the Yankees just to sit for 150 games per year, nor would Roy Halladay to become a middle inning reliever. Instead, clubs with big financial advantages will have to content themselves with stockpiling young talent as the Yankees did in the old days.

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Author: Brian Goff

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