According to her online bio, Abbott was a star pitcher with the Tennessee Volunteers, setting NCAA records in career victories, career strikeouts, career shutouts, and single season strikeouts. She also pitched 23 no-hitters in college, 6 perfect games, and ended her college career as the Collegiate Player of the Year in Softball.
After graduation in 2007, Abbott joined the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. Her career highlights include
In addition, Abbott was a 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist and a 2010 gold medalist at the World Championship.
It is not a stretch to say Abbott is the best pitcher in NPF history (yes, better than Cat Osterman). I hesitate to say best ever because I am a strong believer in the great Jennie Finch- but that’s a story for a later time.
And now Abbott is the first woman in the NPF to land a million-dollar contract. In fact, she is the first woman in any North American team sport to be paid so well.
The typical player salary in the NPF is no more than $20,000. In fact, teams within the league must keep a roster of at least 18 players and have a salary cap of $150,000. Abbott, though, will be able to earn much more by qualifying for bonuses. The bonuses will come from attracting at least 100 fans for a few games, home or away, no matter if she pitches or not.
Once again, she landed this contract because she has been the best pitcher in the NPF. And there are no signs that she is slowing down. She finished the 2015 season with a 0.31 ERA, 13-1 record, and 149 strikeouts in 90.1 innings. No other pitcher in the league compared to Monica; in fact, the pitcher who had the second-best ERA only pitched 27.2 innings.
Though Monica brings a lot to a team in the NPF, everything from fans to publicity, one could argue that she is not the most valuable female player in North American team sports. This can be seen if we compare the best player in the NPF (Monica Abbott) to the best player in the WNBA (Elena Delle Donne).
Looking league to league, the women in the WNBA bring in more money and fans (which is what pays players), meaning the women in basketball should be making more than their current salaries and more than any other player on a professional women’s team. That doesn't mean the WNBA players are trying harder than the NPF players; it simply means that right now, the WNBA is the more popular league and therefore earns more revenue.
That being said, we need to take a moment to celebrate what Abbott has accomplished. Abbott has created a name for herself and her team. Having her name plastered all over newspapers and TV shows will help create recognition for her and the NPF, hopefully generating more revenue and giving all softball players the chance to earn more than what their salary cap allows. Though this will take time to implement, the NPF has a chance to utilize stars like Abbott to increase their fan base and make more money.
So in time, it may be the case that the best player in the NPF will be the most valuable team player in women's sports. But although Abbott signed a ground-breaking contract (one that all softball players can strive for one day) and is currently the highest paid woman in team sports, she is not currently the most valuable team player in North American women's sports.
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