Once the unquestioned national pastime, Major League Baseball retains first place in one fat financial stat: 21 ballplayers now earn $20 million or more per season as compared to the NFL, where only three players have hit that level.
On the cusp of the World Series opener pitting St. Louis against Boston, is the salary disparity between the stars of summer and the big boys of fall a fiscal hint that the grand old game is perhaps poised to catch or even slide past the National Football League as America's most revenue-rich sport?
Inside baseball at least, that's certainly a hope.
"Baseball players' salaries reflect the level of revenue that's generated in a free-market system," said Greg Bouris, director of communications for the Major League Baseball Players Association. In other words, capitalism doesn't lie.
Outside baseball, however, it is that very same players' union that many experts cite when explaining why MLB has seven times as many $20 million players as does the NFL.
"That union is just flat-out better at redistributing income than [unions] in the other leagues," said Allen Sanderson, a senior economics lecturer at the University of Chicago who teaches the economics of sports.
"I've always looked at this ... as two pigs, one trough," he said. "There's nothing in economic theory that says the owners [in any league] deserve all the money they're getting, and there's nothing that says the players deserve it, either.
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