Other stories filed under Opinion
Column: Which is better for an athlete: NFL or MLB?
January 25, 2019
In recent weeks the name Kyler Murray has been a top the sports world and constantly in the headlines. The Oklahoma athlete has been in the spotlight since he won state three out of his four years in high school football at Allen High School. The phenom went on to commit to Texas A&M where he spent one year on the bench, before transferring to Oklahoma. During his two years at Oklahoma, Murray added impressive accolades to his resume, such as winning the Big 12 conference title, the Heisman trophy, and the most surprising, getting drafted 9th overall in the Major League Baseball (MLB) draft. The freak athlete played baseball and football at the university where he posted impressive stats in both sports. Now as Murray prepares to move on to the next level, the question arises: professional baseball or professional football?
Similarly to anything, every professional sport has its pros and cons. To begin, the National Football League (NFL) has grown to a promising stage for athletes to showcase skills, make money, and voice their opinions on an international stage. The NFL is a more popular industry than the MLB, and it brings in more money on average per year. According to Bloomberg, the NFL rakes in $14 billion in revenue compared to about $10 million in the MLB market. The professional football market is strong and seems to be constantly rising, which allows players to elevate their profiles. Another upside to the NFL are the signing bonuses. Baker Mayfield, the first pick in the 2018 draft, received a signing bonus of $21.85 million to add to his $32.68 million guaranteed contract. The first overall pick in the MLB draft, Casey Mize, received a signing bonus of $7.5 million.
Along with all this fame and money the NFL comes with several cons as well. According to the NFL Players Association, the average career of a professional football player is 3.3 years compared to an average of 5.6 years in the MLB. Many players will have their careers cut short due to injuries. In 2017, an average of 6.3 injuries were reported per game. The most common injury that is suffered in a NFL game is a concussion. League data shows that 261 players suffered concussions in 2012, 229 in 2013, 206 in 2014, and 275 in 2015.
Although the MLB is not as popular and players do not receive much praise, the league is filled with benefits that the NFL does not possess. The average MLB salary is about $4 million compared to an average $2.1 million in the football league. The highest paid NFL player in 2018 was Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers who received $66.9 million in part of his 4 year, $134 million contract. The highest payed MLB player in 2018 is Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw who received $33 million in part of his 7 year, $215 million contract. Kershaw has the opportunity to make up to $6 million more in bonuses.
The MLB contracts do look promising, however not all draft picks will make it to the major league level. Players drafted in the MLB First Year Player Draft are usually sent to rookie ball, a lower tier team affiliated with the major league organization. Based on the performance displayed in rookie ball, players will be assigned to a level in the organization. These levels include, Triple-A, Double-A, Advanced Single-A, and Single-A. As time goes on, players will work there way up based on the success or failure of the players above them. The average organization has about 290 players throughout the six levels, and only 40 are on the major league roster. This means only 13% of players per organization will see the field for their team. This system of moving the ranks humbles the incoming players because no matter if one is drafted first round, or signed undrafted they all start at the same place.
This decision can be a life-changing choice for the Oklahoma athlete and there is a lot to think about. Personally, I think it comes down to which sport you love the most. Both leagues are filled with benefits and problems, but if you truly enjoy the sport then it is worth the trouble. The NFL and MLB debate will never be solved, but Kyler Murray will be a true superstar in either sport.