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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why Major League Baseball Might Need a Salary Cap

It should take a look at the English Premiership, where most teams (of the 20 in the league) are happy to be there and have absolutely no chance of winning the title. The ones who win the title are perennial contenders Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea (a relative newcomer) and Liverpool. Yes, Manchester City has a lot of money now, but they're not usually in the conversation. Others in the Premiership -- such as Aston Villa, Bolton, Everton, Fulham, Tottenham -- have little chance in winning it all. Check out the odds that the bookmakers put out at the beginning of a season, and there are more teams at 1,000 to 1 or higher than there are fewer. Or at least it's very close.

If the wealthy teams in Major League Baseball continue their spending ways, the stats have shown over the years that while excellence cannot be bought (translated: the Yankees don't win it every year despite spending the most money, it must be paid for (translated: you cannot contend for the World Series for the most part unless you're in the top 10 in payroll). So, many of the teams have little or no chance of winning a division let alone a World Series. And that means that at some point it might not be economically feasible for teams in places like Kansas City and Pittsburgh to exist, let alone play .500 baseball (17 straight losing seasons and counting in Pittsburgh) or contend.

Is that what Major League Baseball wants to be? Look, I know that the players' union wants to maximize the money that players make, but does it want to do so at the expense of most players' having a chance to play for a contender? Because that seems to be the path that Major League Baseball is on, that is, so long as fans of the teams with no chance continue to show up in reasonable enough numbers for the also-rans to sustain themselves. But if they continue to sustain themselves, then they're probably merely providing entertainment, as the home fans will get to say that they saw the stars for the visiting teams. And that trend has started -- this season, both the Washington Nationals and the Pittsburgh Pirates advertised in Philadelphia to induce Philadelphia fans to travel to their ballparks. A friend did just that for a Pirates' game and said that it seemed more like a home game for the Phillies, because Phillies' fans predominated.

Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers, Angels, Cardinals and perhaps a few more. Without a salary cap and with an economy that has its aches and pains right now, how healthy is Major League Baseball for the long run?


Blogger Chad said...

Why not implement a salary floor to force the rich owners to actually spend some of their money on the team. I remember reading that Florida is the most profitable team in MLB, plus they receive the largest chunk of the revenue sharing. It's not in the best interest of baseball to allow these owners to put out sub-par teams and collect subsidies.

Using a floor would generate more competition for the services of players, since the Pittsburghs and Washingtons would need to acquire more expensive talent.

Caps are only good at giving more money to the already rich owners. Plus you can hardly say that the cap has worked in conjunction with guaranteed salaries, ie NBA. Currently to compete in the NBA, you need to become awful, aquire a lottery pick and start to rebuild. The Sixers are a great example of the boring middle class, they'll never compete with LA or Cleveland, and they'll never be able to sign a big free agent like LeBron. So its mediocrity until they learn to lose and get a new star.

So again, salary floor, not cap!

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a discouraged Pirate fan, and stopped following major league baseball years ago when my team no longer had a chance of winning. I have no idea how many other fans in other markets where the teams can't compete are as discouraged as I am.

The major leagues came up with the draft years ago to stop the Yankees from winning every year. It's time to balance things out once again.

The NFL maintains balance by sharing TV revenue. Forcing the Yankees to share their local TV revenue (bearing in mind that their competitors are responsible for bringing half of the players to the game) will provide teams with enough revenue to remain competitive. A negotiated salary cap will also help.

1:37 PM  

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