Derek Jeter

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Derek Jeter played his last home game for the New York Yankees last night. He finished his career with a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth. Those who don’t believe in clutch hitting should study Mr. Jeter’s career.

But this is about economics. Apparently Keith Olbermann, the lefty announcer whose career is mainly noted for his multiple firings, crunched some numbers and concluded that Mr. Jeter’s career was good, but not great. (Actually, I doubt very much that Olbermann crunched the numbers himself. Excessive intelligence has never been his problem.)

Even in sports, big data can only take you so far. Qualities such as leadership, team-building, and performance when the game is on the line are difficult, if not impossible, to quantify. I predict Mr. Jeter will be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in the first year in which he is eligible.

And Olbermann may have some good data, but he’s not an economist. He criticized Mr. Jeter for earning $12 million this year while having, at best, a mediocre season. Let’s look at last night’s game. The average ticket price was a whopping $850. This high price was the direct result of Mr. Jeter’s presence in the lineup. Yankee Stadium has about 50,000 seats. That’s a cool $42.5 million for one game. If anything, Mr. Jeter earned less than his marginal revenue product over the entire 162 game season.

George Steinbrenner, the late owner of the Yankees, reportedly described the value of a player as “how many fannies he puts in the seats.” It’s the fans’ willingness to pay that determines what a player is worth. Olbermann needs to learn some economics before he plays in our sandbox again.

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About Tony Lima

Retired after teaching economics at California State Univ., East Bay (Hayward, CA). Ph.D., economics, Stanford. Also taught MBA finance at the California University of Management and Technology. Occasionally take on a consulting project if it's interesting. Other interests include wine and technology.