Contracts are mind-numbing affairs and not even the prospect of a Bangladeshi whitewash can make me read about the dispute between the West Indies players and their board. Today’s Wall Street Journal, however, had an interesting piece on President Obama’s efforts to link performance with increased professional pay, an issue many sports managers grapple with:
Mr. Duncan adds that not linking student achievement to teacher effectiveness is like judging a sports team “without looking at the box score.” That may not be the best metaphor. Major League Baseball forbids contracts that provide bonuses for “playing, pitching or batting skill.” Highlighting the delicacy of defining objectives when pay is tied to performance, baseball sees paying a player for hitting more home runs, for instance, as counterproductive; it can lead a hitter to swing for the fences when the team needs a bunt or a base hit. Some contracts do reward playing time, though. Mets pitcher Francisco Rodriguez gets $150,000 if he finishes 50 games this season, another $150,000 for finishing 55 and $200,000 more if he gets to 60.
Makes sense, no? The same logic applies neatly in cricket. I wouldn’t give more money to a bowler for taking more wickets, since that’s likely to make him more expensive. And for batsmen, scoring runs isn’t always the highest priority; sometimes, you need to stick around and wait.