We Are Glad Matt Kemp Stuck to Baseball

Updated: May 4, 2012

When he was young, Matt Kemp had a decision to make. A freakish athlete in high school, Kemp was forced to make the choice: sign with the Dodgers and chase a baseball dream or choose basketball and hope to make a career out of it later-on.

It’s safe to say now that he chose wisely.

A “good decision” in this case is to choose the sport that you are best at and that you have the most chance to make a career out of. Kemp, who recently signed an 8-year, $160 million contract clearly made the right decision. Kemp was probably better at baseball than basketball at the time, but all else being equal, baseball is always the right choice.

With ESPN piercing my eyes all last week with the over-hyped NFL draft, I am also reminded that — all else being equal — choosing to play professional football would be the wrong decision.

Professional football and basketball demand a certain amount of athleticism, but baseball has always required a specific and unique skill set. Athleticism in a baseball player is a benefit, but it’s not a necessity. When a baseball player is dominant AND a dominant athlete, you end up with guys like Matt Kemp, Ken Griffey Jr., and Torii Hunter, among many.

If you can hit a baseball and are a freak athlete, there is a pretty strong argument that baseball is the sport for you.

Dodger fans are glad that Matt Kemp made the decision he did.

Granted, there aren’t very many young athletes who have a real choice or guarantee of stardom in the professional ranks of multiple sports, but here is some food for thought:

The one positive about the NFL is that there may be more opportunities. With 53 players on any active roster, there are nearly 1,700 jobs available at any time plus the players that are on any team’s practice squad. This makes the NFL more “possible” for any given athlete in comparison with the NBA (about 360 players) and even Major League Baseball, where there are 750 players on active rosters.

While there are only 360 NBA jobs, an NBA player’s career averages over six years and NBA players’ average salaries were, as of April of last year, $4.79 million per year.

Major League Baseball players are second on the highest-paid list for major American sports. Hardballers averaged a little less than $3.1 million in 2011. There are more than twice as many Major League Baseball jobs than the NBA, plus more players injured at any one time, still earning their money. A 2007 study found that Major League Baseball careers average 5.6 seasons.

In contrast, NFL players have an average salary of just $1.9 million and an average career of only 3.5 seasons.

Also of note is the concept that NBA and MLB contracts are guaranteed. Unlike the NFL, a player cannot just get cut in the NBA or MLB.

Here’s a good article that helps me make my point. As you can see NFL players are paid less than even hockey players, on average.

When I see the NFL draftees get so much attention and media hype, I can’t help but think that they should do everything they can to enjoy themselves now.  In 5 years, most of them will be out of the league. Andrew Luck, the number one overall pick is “only” making $22 million over the next four years. If the Colts don’t cut him.


Dodger fans know that Matt Kemp fancied himself a two-sport prep athlete in Oklahoma. At 6′ 3″, Kemp had enough height to probably play at least college basketball and may be athletic enough to have been a wide receiver in the NFL. According to this article, he was heavily recruited by many schools, including Oklahoma, to play basketball. Instead, he chose to chase his baseball dreams. At the age of 28, Kemp is a “bargain” for the Dodgers — only costing them $160 million over 8 years.

VinScullyIsMyHomeboy.com posted this video on YouTube of Kemp throwing down.

The point is that, if you have the real option to focus on a single sport, chasing a baseball dream may be the way to go. While every sport has stories of guys who never made it, the combination of ridiculous athleticism and baseball skill is especially unique. When you factor in how much baseball players get paid, the length of a typical career, and the physical beating that a football player takes in comparison, baseball comes out head and toes above the rest.


Ya, but at least basketball is exciting to watch.

callie main
callie main

Gotta love the stats, Owen! Thanks for putting it on paper ~ I always thought there was too little time for these guys ~ and now I see how the millions of dollars are too quickly gone, too!