Tonight, the best of the best (or at least the most popular names from franchises with social media-savvy fan bases) from Major League Baseball will face off in the not-entirely-meaningless 85th edition of the All-Star Game. Since 2003, the outcome of the All-Star Game has been used to determine home field advantage in the World Series. (Speaking as someone who will argue till I'm hoarse against the Wild Card playoff, I don't mind this. Get at me in the comments.) This is supposed to inspire a greater competitive spirit and encourage participants to give it their all.
All-Stars on contending teams may have cause to try their hardest once they get to the Midsummer Classic, but what motivates them to get there? And I mean that in the most cynical sense. Sure, there's the glory and lasting addition to your Wikipedia page, but what do you really get for an All-Star appearance?
The 2012-2016 Basic Agreement from the Major League Baseball Players Association has this to say:
Each player elected or selected to the All-Star team or as a participant in the Home Run Derby and who attends the event shall receive the following: (a) six complimentary tickets to the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby for use by player guests (players may request fewer complimentary tickets and players may purchase additional tickets for guests in accordance with past practice); (b) first-class air transportation for himself and two guests (to the extent that such expenses are actually incurred); (c) first-class hotel accommodations for himself and two guests (up to two rooms, if necessary) for a maximum of three days; (d) the applicable in-season meal and tip allowance for three days; (e) a $1,000 cash stipend; (f) a gift from the player’s League; and (g) merchandise that is made available by Major League Baseball’s 27 business partners. Players elected or selected to the All-Star team also shall receive a ring and, if they are attending their 5th, 10th or 15th All-Star Game as an All-Star, shall also receive a gift/memento and special recognition. (See Article XV(O)(7).)
While first-class airfare, fancy hotels and lots of swag (not to mention the $1000) sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me, that's hardly enough to get this hypothetical greedy All-Star caliber player—with his All-Star caliber salary—to alter his play. Fortunately, lots of players have additional incentives written into their contract. The bonuses differ by contract, but let's consider what some of this year's All-Stars are making for their appearance.
The Rangers' Adrian Beltre, the Indians' Michael Brantley, and the Tigers' Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera all benefit the most financially, with $100,000 bonuses written into their contracts for making the cut. The Orioles' Adam Jones and Matt Weiters make up the second tier with their $75,000 bonuses. Twenty-six different players will enjoy a $50,000 bonus for making the All-Star Game this year—the most out of any paid incentive bracket. And several others rake in an extra $25,000, $15,000 or $10,000.
But the biggest group of 2014 All-Stars have no monetary incentives included in their contracts. The no-bonus bracket includes such big names (and obvious All-Stars) as Derek Jeter, Clayton Kershaw, and Mike Trout. So rest easy that those athletes—and to be honest, probably the rest of them, too—are really just in it for the recognition. And the merchandise that is made available by Major League Baseball’s 27 business partners, of course.