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Never begrudge a player for trying to sign the biggest possible contract. Ever.

Players can and should sign for the biggest deal, if that’s what they want.

Lorenzo Cain #6 of the Kansas City Royals celebrates after scoring against the Detroit Tigers on a double by Melky Cabrera during the third inning at Comerica Park on September 4, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. The Royals defeated the Tigers 7-6. Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

It’s still somehow free agency season, which means one thing. Well, two things: dumb rumors and fans complaining about how much money baseball players make.

You don’t have to search very long to find an opinion about a player who signed elsewhere or is looking to sign elsewhere for more money than they could have achieved in their previous place of employment. A clear case in point here is Eric Hosmer. The Kansas City Royals would love to have Hosmer back next year, but his price point is most likely beyond what the Royals are willing to pay.

If and when Hosmer signs elsewhere, there will be a subset of Royals fans who will be unhappy at Hosmer. You’ll find it in the comments section and on social media. Hosmer will be ‘greedy’ or ‘not caring about his legacy’ or whatever. The language is all the same.

Granted, this is a subset of fans. A majority of fans will sadly shrug, correctly chalk up his decision to business, and will cheer the hell out of him when he returns to Kauffman Stadium for the first time as a member of another team. Heck, Billy Butler got a standing ovation in 2015 after signing with the Oakland Athletics, and at times it felt like nobody even liked him.

But this idea that baseball players are inherently greedy, or have no loyalty, lingers around the game. It persists, despite it being pure lunacy. Look: you should never, ever, begrudge a player for trying to sign the biggest possible contract.

The reasons for this are numerous, not the least of which is that baseball players are humans in a profession with precious little autonomy, if any. Players have no control over where they are drafted. They have no control over what their minor league experience will look like, or when or if they get a chance to even climb to the big leagues. They can be traded to any organization at any time, without their consent or knowledge until it happens.

And a player must have six years of MLB service time before they are granted the right of free agency, which usually happens at around 30 years old. The result of this is that most players get just one chance to cash in big. One chance. And even after signing a big deal or even an extension, a baseball player can still be traded, again without consent or knowledge (unless that player specifically negotiates a no-trade clause).

If you decide to leave your job for one with a greater salary elsewhere, no one is going to call you greedy or disloyal. This is true regardless for how much you make; a janitor looking for a more lucrative, secure position is just looking out for himself and his family, and a lawyer seeking to advance in her career by taking a position with a more prestigious, higher-paying firm is doing the same. That we don’t afford baseball players, who again are humans like the rest of us, the same benefits is ridiculous.

But the biggest reason that you should never begrudge players for signing the biggest contracts is the below graph, from Nathaniel Blow over at Fangraphs.

mlb player share league revenue

Baseball has been wildly successful. In 2006, the average team valuation, per Forbes, was $376 million. In 2016, the average team valuation, again per Forbes, was $1.3 billion. Major League Baseball revenues topped $10 billion for the first time last year, and it was the 15th consecutive year of climbing revenues.

Player salaries just haven’t jumped as much. Yeah, they are significantly higher than they were five or ten years ago. But that’s not telling the whole story. It never was, and it never will. The money baseball makes as a business goes somewhere. It doesn’t just evaporate. And it’s going to the owners and the executives—not the players.

Whether or not you think that’s fair or not is not even relevant. What’s important is empathy. Players, real human beings with real feelings, hardships, and dreams, are fighting for their share of the bounty that is Major League Baseball. We should not resent them for doing so.