Regarding payrolls

Joe Posnanski did a typically tremendous job discussing the Yankees’ payroll and why, even though the Bombers may not win every year, the current system in Major League Baseball is patently unfair.

You’ll get no arguments out of me, but I’ll reiterate: It is not the Yankees’ fault they spend so much money. The Yankees are doing precisely what they should do. They have by far the largest budget for payroll because they gross by far the most money.

The onus is on Major League Baseball to fix the system, something that, as Posnanski points out, the league hasn’t appeared all that eager to do.

There have been billions of proposed solutions to baseball’s payroll disparity. Revenue sharing from online assets and the luxury tax may slightly even the score, but clearly do not do enough to let the Royals and Pirates compete for free agents with the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and the like.

So the simplest conclusion is that baseball needs a salary cap, either a soft one like the NBA’s or a hard one like the NFL’s.

Both are problematic, though. The NBA’s system creates situations like the Knicks’ current dilemma, wherein it will take them several years to get out from under the weight of past mistakes. The NFL’s cap relies on a weak players’ union, as players under contract can be cut without penalty to the club.

They’re a bit more complex than that, of course, but it’s immaterial: The MLBPA is strong enough that even the hint of a salary cap would likely spell a strike, and no one wants that.

You’ll find few answers here. Back when I was in college and I thought I knew a whole lot about everything, I thought the answer was a true free-market system. (Oh, me at 21. What a beautiful fool.)

I recognize now that’s not a perfect solution, because I realize cable revenues and ad sales are inflated in large markets like this one, and concentrating a greater number of teams in the large markets would probably choke off interest in the rest of the country and ultimately hurt the sport.

Still, it strikes me that in some ways, the Yankees have the most money to spend because they must have the most fans. The largest fanbases then get rewarded most frequently, and so, from a purely utilitarian standpoint, the system is working.

So I wonder if the best way to mitigate the Yankees’ financial dominance would be to add another team to the market. Instead of punishing the Yankees for having the most fans, perhaps the league should do something to diminish the size of their fanbase.

As fans, of course, we say: No way that affects anything! I’m a (insert team here) fan for life, and no new team in my area would ever change that.

But cable ratings for the Mets and Yankees tell a different story. There are likely as many bandwagoneers in the area as there are die-hards, and a winning team will always prompt people to tune in or show up. A third team in the market would create more competition for fan and advertising revenue, even if there would still be plenty of both to go around.

There’s a reason a Google Maps search for McDonald’s in New York, NY looks like this and the same search in Pittsburgh looks like this. More mouths to feed necessitates more franchises.

I don’t know. I assume people much smarter than me have thought about this a lot harder than I have and done a lot more research and everything else. I’m just thinking out loud is all.

All I’m sure of is that it’s silly to fault the Yankees for taking advantage of their situation. We should only fault the situation.

4 thoughts on “Regarding payrolls

  1. I’m perfectly fine with the system the way it is. Can you imagine how dreadful the Mets would be if they couldnt outcompete other teams for FAs?

  2. I think all types of caps have thier pros and cons, but I have to say that IMO the NBA’s cap is the best to me. The NFL is nice and straight forward, but its just so harsh. Teams who draft and develope good players are often forced to cut players lose because they cant afford them all.

    I like what the NBA does in a sense that a team can essentially spend as much as they want, as long as its on thier own players. Its kind of saying that hey, if you are already stacked with talent, then you cant take anyone elses. But if you grow your own, you can keep it, unlike in the NFL.

    I alos think the NB has it right with the rookie pay scale. You never see any of this nonsense of guys holding out, or teams having to pass on drafting the best players due to salary concerns.

  3. Instead of a salary cap how about a salary floor as a percentage of the team’s revenue. This way owners can’t simply pocket the money.

    If we’re going to remove the free market from the sport at least do it in a way that forces owners to try and be competitive.

    Somehow I doubt the player’s union would mind…

  4. as i see it, there are 2 things really hampering MLB’s quest for parity (assuming thats an actual goal to begin with). 1) is the players union strength, that you mentioned. no way are they settling for a hard cap. the yankees ability to pay the way they do have unquestionably made all players richer. 2) is the limit on major league teams. if you had a euro soccer league system with promotion and relegation, you could really reward and punish teams for spending money and having the best players. so what you get is this weird hybrid.

    i dont have a good resolution, as i dont particularly like the idea of the yankees perennially paying their way into the playoffs, but on the other hand, carl pohlad died a multi billionaire. he could have bought his on dynasty if he wanted it, but he didnt. so why reward his skinflintedness?

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