Look, let’s get some simple facts out of the way first.
1. The major leagues do not have as significant a problem as they claim.
I have actually heard people say that “75% of all teams have no chance to compete,” when in fact 27% of all teams MAKE THE PLAYOFFS and at least half of all teams come close.
In fact, the only team that really has no chance at all of competing based on their current economic situation is Montreal, and Montreal’s a self-made disaster; they’re poor because of their own incompetence, not because Montreal can’t support a team. There a few other teams (Tampa Bay, KC, Pittsburgh) who are disadvantaged, but who COULD compete if they were better run. Small market teams like Cleveland and Oakland have done very well.
2. A salary cap will not significantly help competitive balance.
Look, what do you want to set a team cap at? $100 million? $75 million? Unless you set it absurdly low, teams like Minnesota will STILL underspend and pocket the difference.
The only reason for a salary cap is so that owners keep more money that would otherwise go to the players. Setting a salary cap at, say, $85 million would still leave the really bad off teams like Tampa Bay and Montreal with $30 million payrolls and insufficient revenue. You’d slightly reduce the distance between the Yankees and the runnerups, but not so much that the Yankees still would not outspend them. And since a team cap would have a deflationary effect on salaries, eventually the difference in real talent buying power would be the same as it is today, because
3. The difference is REVENUE, not payroll!
The Yankees’ competitive advantage isn’t that they spend more. Hell, when did spending more make you competitive? Their advantage is that they MAKE more; their revenues are many, many times what the Royals or Pirates make. THAT, really, is the advantage the Yankees have; they play in New York City.
It is critical to understand that a team’s revenue potential is the only “Advantage” it can possibly have. Payroll is a CHOICE. The Minnesota Twins could spend $100 million on payroll if they wanted to; their owner is much, much richer than Geroge Stienbrenner is. They don’t choose to because they can make money spending $25 million, and because the marginal value of more salary isn’t the same to them as it is for the Yankees. (OR so they claim; it may also be that Carl Pohlad is simply fattening the Twins for the kill, to get a big contraction buyout windfall.)
Anyone who compares team’s relative economic situation by using PAYROLL is talking out his ass, and if you want a perfect example, look at the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies have been spending very little money on payroll recently and Bud Selig, being both dishonest and not terribly bright, has actually held them up as an example of a team that can’t compete. Yet they play in PHILADELPHIA, the fifth largest metropolitan area in the United States. Philadelphia is more than twice as large as Cleveland; it’s much larger than Houston, Atlanta, St. Louis, Seattle, or any number of cities with good ballclubs, and Philly is teeming with baseball fans. There is absolutely no reason in the world Philadelphia could not run a winning, financially successful team. The Philadelphia market could support a $100 million team; hell, Philadelphia could probably support two teams (it is the largest baseball city with only one team.) If the Phillies suck, folks, it’s because they’re running their team badly.
Take an honest look at the teams that don’t do well on the field. Anaheim plays in LA, for God’s sake. The Phillies are in a huge city. Toronto is a very large city and once sold out an entire season, the only team to ever do that. Chicago is huge. Baltimore enjoys an enormous market. Miami’s big, Dallas is big, Montreal is not a small city, denver isn’t small and has good attendance… if you look at most unsuccessful teams their lack of success is bred in their own business and team management errors.
The teams that have legitimate disadvantages not of their own making are the teams in small cities: Kansas City, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Oakland (because they lose fans to the Giants) and Tampa Bay. I don’t count Montreal; their problems are entirely self-made. Montreal’s a big city that used to support the Expos really well before idiots took over the team. A salary cap will not change any of this. Unless the cap is so absurdly low that there is no spending difference between teams, the Yankees will still be able to outspend the Royals.
The real solution, IMO, is revenue sharing, especially of television revenues. I don’t think teams should share ALL their revenue because then they’d have no motivation to increase their own revenue, but 50/50 sharing of all TV revenues is only fair. This would give the Royals, Pirates et al. more revenue up front and give them the means to run viable businesses.
Will this happen? Not on your life. And here’s the really critical point:
4. Bud Selig, and the owners in general, do not care about competitive balance.
I can’t stress this enough; they don’t give a shit. Bud Selig doesn’t give a hoot if the Devil Rays can beat the Red Sox; why should he? What he cares about is making money. If teams can make money and lose, that’s just as good as making money and winning. And so you have to understand that they want a salary cap to take money from the players. A salary cap has NOTHING to do with competitive balance, nothing at all. It’s just to take money from the players; that is the only thing it would do, and that is the only reason they want to implement it.
Selig’s only goals here are:
- To take money from the players.
- To take money from the taxpayer (by getting state-funded stadia built.)
He has never been given a mandate to increase competitive balance and he never will; the owners don’t care about that. They’re looking to improve their bottom line now AND increase the value of their franchises so they can sell them for a fat profit.
It makes no difference to them if competitive balance improves or worsens, and you MUST consider their strategy in that light. A salary cap will enrich the owners. It will do absolutely nothing for the fans; it will not improve any team, it will not make going to the game any cheaper, and it will not improve the on-field product.