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NEW TRIVIA QUESTION: While Hank Aaron finished 3rd in the 1963 MVP voting and Willie Mays finished 5th, the Dodgers Sandy Koufax won the Award. There were three other Dodgers who finished in the Top 10 of the voting. Who were they?
ANSWER to the Trivia question in the previous column: Bob Lemon was the seven-time 20-game winner on the Indians the season Herb Score was injured.
To say Hank Aaron and Willie Mays were grossly underpaid is an unbelievable understatement. In the era when Pete Rose wanted to be the "first $100,000 singles hitter," it begs the question; if Aaron were in his prime today, how much would he be worth as a Free Agent. His best season of the 1960s was arguably 1963.
I once asked Aaron during a one-on-one interview at UPI Radio, "could an MLB team even pay Henry Aaron today?" He smiled politely and said "they would find the money."
In 1963, Hamerin' Hank led the league in several hitting categories and was an outstanding defensive player who had his highest Stolen Base total of his career. In 161 of his teams 162 games he scored 121 Runs and drove in another 130. He hit 44 Home Runs and batted .319. He also stole 31 bases. He was atop of the NL in Slugging Percentage, OPS and Total Bases. Aaron collected 201 hits and there were 29 doubles mixed in. As for Run Production; Total runs accounted for minus Home Runs; 207!** The entire Braves team only accounted for 1162 which means Aaron was worth almost 20-percent of the teams run production. Aaron finished third in the MVP race for a club which finished sixth in the standings. For this he was paid $53,000.
The most comparable player today, based on a full season, is the Angels Mike Trout. In 2019, a good comparison year, Trout nearly matched Aaron in every category. He played in fewer games at 134 but hit 27 doubles, 45 homers, drove in 103 and scored 110 while batting .291. He topped the AL in On Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage and OPS while also leading the league by drawing 14 Intentional Walks. Wherein Aaron finished third in the MVP, Trout won the Award. Their fielding averages were also close with Trout leading Aaron .987-.979. But his Run Production was only 168 compared to Aaron's 207. However, he played in 27 fewer games.
A big difference is that Aaron walked less and struck out less. Aaron never struck out 100 times in a season, topping out at 97 and that was rare. Trout on the other hand, has only struck less than 100 times, once. His low was 90. During those 100-K years, Trout averaged 142 punch-outs.
The numbers were amazingly similar at nearly the same age. Aaron was 29, Trout 27. While Aaron barely made over $50-grand, Trout was paid $36 million dollars! So to answer the question of what Henry Aaron would be making in salary if he were playing in his Prime today; in the range of $36-$40 million dollars a season and the sky would be the limit. He never made more than $240,000. Trout made more than twice that as a Rookie!
There are of course other factors which would be involved but based on the strict numbers it's fair to say in 2021 and beyond a $40-million dollar a year salary would not be out of the question for the great Henry Aaron.
**- This statistic is created by adding the total number of Runs a player scored plus the total number of RBI, then subtracting the number of Home Runs since a player gets both an RBI and Run Scored with a Home Run.
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