How the 1990 lockout led to Selig’s big payday

tommy neumann February 15, 2009 2


With all of the talk of Bud Selig’s $18.3 million salary, it’s interesting to look back at a time when the MLB commissioner made only $500,00 and the highest paid player was Rickey Henderson at $3 million per year.

It was on this day nineteen years ago that Major League Baseball had a lockout between the owners and players, lasting 32 days and taking away the majority of spring training, all due to rising player salaries and the owners’ desire to impose a salary cap on their stars.

By the end of the 1989 season, Rickey Henderson was the highest paid player at $3 million per year and MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent was taking home $500,000 per year. Due to these rising ballplayer salaries, the owners felt it necessary to limit the players from making the most money they could in the open market, so the owners proposed an economic partnership in which revenue sharing would play a major role.

Ultimately, MLB Players Association Executive Director Donald Fehr argued against such a change, fearing that a salary cap would restrict the options free agents had when their contracts expired. Fehr also worried that a pay for performance scale would eliminate multi-year contracts.

MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent worked diligently to establish a new agreement between the owners and players, which increased the minimum salary by almost 50% to to $100,000 a year — eventually paving the way for the hundred million dollar contracts that were given out at the end of the decade.

At the time, there was outrage amongst the media and fans that players would strike given that they play a game for a living and they were already making millions of dollars. But in retrospect it was one of the best moves the players association ever made. Players stood their ground and got exactly what they deserve.

So when Mr Selig files his 2008 tax return in April, it is actually Fay Vincent and Donald Fehr that Bug Selig should thank. Without those guys, Selig wouldn’t be taking home almost the same salary as Arod. And while some critics say Selig is overpaid, would it be fair to implement a salary cap or a performance-based payscale for Selig, but not for the ballplayers?


  1. Daniel Kustka February 16, 2009 at 9:02 am -

    Oh Bud, aren’t you a lucky man.

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