This Day in Baseball History: January 21st, 1960

Does it look like he was superimposed to anyone else?

On January 21, 1960:

Stan Musial insists he get a $20,000 pay cut.

In 1957, Musial and the Cardinal were having a typical contract negotiation. Musial, who didn’t use an agent for contract negotiations, told the Cardinals that Ralph Kiner made $90,000, and he wanted to be the highest paid player. So, he asked for $91,000, but the Cardinals wanted to make him the first $100,000 player and gave him as much. They continued to pay him that for the next few seasons.

He responded in 1957 by hitting .351/.422/.612 and coming in second in the MVP voting. The next season, he still hit well, but he fell to .337/.423/.528 and 12th in the MVP voting. His production really fell off, however, in 1959 when he hit .255/.364/.428. Believing he failed to live up to his contract, he told the Cardinals he deserved a pay cut to $80,000. He took it happily and vowed to make up for it.

Musial rebounded in 1960 with a line of .275/.354/.486, and he would actually improve the next two seasons until plummeting in 1963. Not surprisingly but coincidentally, he was elected into the Hall of Fame on this day in 1969 in his first ballot.

We would love this story today — a millionaire player giving money back to the team when he underperforms –, but “The Man” certainly didn’t have to do this. He was beloved in St. Louis, and I doubt anyone had been getting on his case about it. Yet, this would just add on one more thing people love about Musial and what made him such a great player and person.

As for doing this in today’s game, I’m not sure how I’d feel about it. On one hand, it would be a great story. A player, realizing he failed to live up to expectations, takes a paycut. If the GM then took the money and added it to a contract in order to keep or sign a player, then it would be even better. Also in those days, the player had zero leverage in his negotiations, and Musial still took a pay cut. If a player in an era like that can take a pay cut, then why can’t one do it now when he has a lot more leverage.

On the other hand, what happens if the team doesn’t use it? The owner gets it? That certainly isn’t right. The players also get jipped their first few years in the majors (however, I do feel baseball’s contract system is better and more fair than any of the other sports) if they succeed. Guys like Hamels had to take $400,000 (I realize I shouldn’t pity them, but when guys like Carlos Silva make tens of millions, it is unfair to Hamels), so when it comes time to make the big bucks, they should go for it and keep it (you essentially overpay for free-agent years because you underpaid them in pre-arb and arbitration years; maybe that’s not what was intended but that’s how it works in practice — which brings me to a thing I saw on FanGraphs where it works out to a 40-60-80 ratio in the three arbitration years, but isn’t it more 60-80-100 and the free-agent years usually are 110-120?). Taking pay cuts have other negative effects. When Chipper stated he would take a pay cut to help keep Tim Hudson, Schuerholz had to explain to Chipper that this gave Hudson more leverage in negotiations (if you get good value on Chipper, you still overpay for Hudson, and it, thus, becomes a wash). When a free-agent knows someone took a pay cut, they could use that to their advantage (then again, who am I worried about — the team or the player?).

It’s a weird situation. I like it because it shows some loyalty on the player’s part, but do the owners give the players more when they overperform (see Albert Pujols in every year of current monstruous contract that should be even more ginormous)? Do the owners put more into the team when it overperforms? No, so why should a player take less money for having a bad season? Then again, it would have been great if Andruw took a huge pay cut and just worked hard for the Dodgers this upcoming season (Before you talk about the union, I realize the union would throw a fit at taking less money and they probably should, but the union isn’t the boss of everyone. Remember, they’re supposed to work for the player, not the other way around. Does it work out in practice like that? Maybe not, but someone could buck the system).

Okay, so that got a little away from Musial, but here’s the brief recap — Musial = great player, person, example. The End.

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3 Responses to “This Day in Baseball History: January 21st, 1960”

  1. Ron Rollins Says:

    The CBA doesn’t allow players to take pay cut.

    The most that can happen is if they are still before the free agency window and getting year to year deals, the clubs have to offer them a minimum salary of at least 80% of the previous years.

    Regardless of how bad they were.

    Once again, Stan proves he was the classiest person to ever play the game.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    Ah, I did not know that. Hmmm, I’m sure Boras could find a loophole if it somehow got him more money or at least hurt one of his non-clients and an agreement was reached that none of his clients could be hurt by the ruling.

  3. Ron Rollins Says:

    He could as long as the union is for it. If they aren’t, it would never happen.

    The union would never do what’s right, especially if it meant less money for a player.

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