A question for MLB fans

I was watching Sportscenter last night, and Mike Lupica was on decrying the economic situation in baseball. In the end, he said that the current collective bargining agreement should be blown up, and replaced with a system that includes a salary cap and revenue sharing, and if it takes a work stoppage to get it done, fine.

So I was wondering, would you baseball fans support an extended work stoppage (strike or lockout) if it was the only way to achieve a more equitable system?

From what I understand, the problems with Major League Baseball will not change significantly until something is done. That said, I cannot bring myself to use the words “support” and “work stoppage” together in the same sentence (except as examples, as I’ve done here :)).

What I would support is a bunch of people being less short-sighted and selfish (on all sides of the disagreements), but that’s what I would support in the Middle East, too, and I don’t see it happening.

I’m sure BobT, RickJay and plenty of others have much more educated opinions on all of this than I.

if these baseball teams that are complaining about baseball’s economic system would stop complaining about it and hire competent front office personnel, they would find that they don’t need revenue sharing checks to build a winning team.

the oakland A’s have built a very good team on a 40 million dollar payroll. teams like the royals, tigers, etc could do the same thing if they would just shut up and do the necessary work.

the only thing the owners are trying to do is come up with a collective bargaining agreement that puts even more money in their pockets than the current (expired) one is doing.


We’ve had a bunch of threads on this topic before, which will soon be moving to Great Debates I imagine.

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Mike Lupica is a complete idiot.
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The Players Association will never support a salary cap. Never. Ever. Ever. They will not bargain away their ability to make as much as they can.

Revenue sharing is much easier in the NFL because there is no problem with local TV contracts as there really aren’t any. However teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs own their own networks and they can juggle their books depending upon how much they want to pay themselves.

I will try to find some threads about this topic where everyone has discussed this before.

I would also suggest visiting http://www.baseballprospectus.com and look for the Doug Pappas articles.

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:

  1. To take money from the players.
  2. 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.

And look what happened - the Yankees swooped in and said “Thanks for developing this Jason fellow; we’ll just take him thank you very much.”

Uh, get yer facts straight there, guy.

GQ is for questions with factual answers. Since this question is a matter of opinion, I’ll move this to IMHO.

I apologize for this hijack, but, while generally I support the greedy players as against the greedy owners, I cannot do so this old chestnut. Logic is not on the players union’s side.

When the players union says that its members have the right to earn as much as they can, that is true so far as it goes, however, that argument disregards the very nature of collective bargaining. In a collective bargaining context management always always always has the right to negotiate how much it is going to pay for labor. Baseball has been the exception, not the rule. In collective bargaining there is no inherent right of the workers to gouge managment for as much as they can in addition to the rights set forth in rest of the collective bargaining agreement; in fact, the collective bargaining agreement is the vehicle which sets, and by its very nature limits, how much labor will get.

When Ford negotiates with the UAW they agree that the auto workers will get $X/hour, plus $Y in health benefits and $Z for pensions. When the contract is agreed to, the auto workers union’s member’s wages and earnings are capped for the length of the contract, and Ford can use and rely on that knowledge in its pricing structure for its products for the length of the union contract. What’s true for the auto industry should also be true for the baseball industry; baseball management should be able to set in stone by way of collective bargaining how much it will pay for players because that’s the whole point of a collective bargaining agreement.

When the collective bargaining contract expires the union comes back and tries to get more. The UAW says to Ford “This time we want $X+ per hour, and $Y+ in benefits and $Z+ in benefits.” The amount that labor gets is not capped for all time, only for the length of the collective bargaining agreement.

Coming at it another way, setting a cap of earnings is the very nature of an employment contract. When Julia Robert signs on for $20 million a movie she has limited her earnings to $20M. She doesn’t get $21 million. If she doesn’t want her earnings capped at $20 million, she must go work for herself. Then her earnings won’t be capped by her employer. Baseball is no different, no matter what the players’ union says.

Getting back to the OP, as a diehard baseball fan I would hate a work stoppage or lockout, but it wouldn’t kill me either. If that’s what it would take to get the MLBPA to face reality and accept a salary cap as part of the collective bargaining agreement I would hold my nose and accept it.

The Minnesota Twins won two World Series when they had what I think was among the lowest payrolls in baseball. That’s only evidence that Carl Pohlad is a living salary cap.

Also, from here, you can see that the Twins again have the lowest payroll in baseball, but as of this posting, the Twins have the same record as the Yankees and are still leading the AL Central by 1.

It was reported a little while ago that the Twins were also leading the league in attendance, although that may have fallen off a bit.

So…small payroll, small market teams can compete. A salary cap would only line the owners’ pockets a some more.

[Borg Pohlad] Competition is irrelevant. Build me a stadium or you will be contracted. [/Borg Pohlad]

Fact: The A’s, small payroll team, have a number of young cheap stars. (that’s why they are so successful on such a low payroll)
Fact: Over this last offseason, their superstar, Jason Giambi, was wooed away by the Yankees wielding a bigger contract than the A’s could hope to match.

Conclusion: even if small market teams do what the A’s did (suffer through almost a decade of losing seasons while rebuilding), as soon as they become successful, teams like the Yankees swoop in and throw money at their biggest stars.

With which of these do you disagree?

By this logic, Alex Rodriguez capped his earnings at $25.2 million a year when he signed with the Rangers.

A more correct salary cap analogy would be the Screen Actors Guild agreeing that no more than $35 million could be spent on acting “talent” for any one movie, because we don’t want Miramax to be able to outspend Joe’s Movie Production Shack for actors.

In baseball’s labor negotiations, never once have the owners stated that they are negotiating from a position that claims they don’t make enough money to pay the salaries. If they did take that position, the owners would have to open their books to inspection from the Players’ Association.

The owners’ are loathe to do this. It would expose all of their accounting tricks, such as “underpaying” for local TV contracts. The Dodgers don’t get a lot of money for their local TV contract because most of it comes from Fox, which also owns the team. All News Corp is doing is shifting some of Murdoch’s dollars from one ledger to another. The Cubs also benefit from such an agreement since the Tribune Company owns both the Cubs and WGN.

As for the Jason Giambi situation, one could make the arguemen that Oakland did a fine job of keeping for many productive years at a relatively low salary. Once they could no longer afford his asking price, the A’s could go out and find a first base prospect (Peña) who makes the major league minimum and hopes that he pans out. Power-hitting first basemen aren’t as hard to find as you would think.
I think this is a wise investment of Oakland’s resources.

The Yankees have the luxury of being able to spend their much larger resources on established talent. But they have also done a very good job of developing young talent (B. Williams, Jeter, Rivera, Soriano).

A salary cap is a treatment in search of a disease.

I don’t even think that the owners are seriously considering it. They know it’s a non-starter. They want an increase in revenue sharing and feel that that would be a bit more palatable to the players.

But ARod did agree, by the terms of his contract with the Rangers, to a limit on his earnings! He’ll get ONLY $25.2 million, or whatever the figure is. That’s an awful high limit, but it is a limit. When his contract expires, he can try to get more from the Rangers or some other team, but individually for the length of his contract, he’s stuck with that figure. (And I know that perhaps if his employer is willing ARod can conceivably re-negotiate his contract before it expires, but the point is that at this point there is limit on his earnings for the length of his contract.)

Every employee’s compensation is limited by what the employee agrees to pay him. Every employee, the minute he agrees to work for another for a certain amount of compensation, has agreed to a limit on his compensation DURING THE TERM OF THE EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENT. That applies on a micro scale between one employee and his own employer, and on a macro level for the term of the collective bargaining agreement for every union but the MLBPA.

(And perhaps SAG. At least in SAG the spear carriers work for scale. In baseball, the spear-carrying utility infielders have their own million dollar deals).

But there is a “scale” wage for players. There is a minimum salary ($200,000 or so) once you make it to the majors. Some utility infielders make a lot more, but that’s because someone is willing to offer it to them, which is insane. It’s often much easier to just bring up a new guy from the minors to fill a substitute role and get rid of a veteran who is making too much for you.

However, some of those utility infielders are paid more because their employers PERCEIVE that they have some value.

And? Giambi’s contract will be a drag on the Yankees within Year Four of the seven-year contract, especially with Nick Johnson in the fold. All things considered, the A’s are probably better off right now with Carlos Pena, and definitely better off with Pena starting in, say, 2004.

Re: the Giambi situation–

Giambi wanted a no-trade clause. The A’s wouldn’t give it to him. They could have locked him in for a lot less than the Yankees are paying him.

The A’s don’t have him because the A’s didn’t want him.

Say what you will about the big bad Yankees. Hell, I may even agree with you. But Giambi is a bad example.

BS, he would have picked something else. He wanted to be a free agent, no matter how much he said he liked Oakland.

Yes, I would take a work stoppage, IF we could get this whole thing figured out. I mean, people hold up the A’s, but you wonder why the A’s are the only team held up? I mean, low market teams might have breakout years, but what happens when the stars they’ve built up want a big contract that they can’t pay?

First thing, first, revenue sharing. Local TV revenues (where the Yanks really get their big bucks) should be split 50% to the home team and 50% to a general pool that would be split equally in 30 parts for each team. Also do the same for ticket sales (after all you can’t sell tickets if there was just one team playing… need two to tango)

Secondly Salary caps and minimums. You can’t have greedy owners simply pocketing the extra revenue cash. You have to set a minimum (based on average revenue receieved from sharing). Then double the minimum and get a maximum cap.

And while the owners are considered scum, the players association isn’t much better. They only care for the top 10% of wage earners and not all ballplayers (such as those in the minors). The owners actually made a smart ploy. They told the MLBPA that if they got rid of the DH, they would add one more player per major league team. The union rejected it. A union isn’t supposed to be for the richest, but for all… and the MLBPA shows that it is no better than the owners.

You don’t know that. He asked for a clause, they denied it. If he was going to give them a discount, he has every right to ask for that clause. Griffey took less money from Cincy since he wanted to go home. Sheffield asked for money from LA to waive his no-trade since he was going from no-tax FL to high-tax CA. If they offered it and he passed, they can say it was he wanted to be a free agent.

 Salary caps are just a windfall for the big revenue owners.  If Steinbrenner budgets $125M for salaries, and they cap it at 85, do you think he is going to cut ticket prices? Cable rates? No, it goes to profit. The NFL the main revenue is the national TV contract. In baseball the revenue is local. The Yanks got over 50M in local cable revenue lats year. That would pay off many teams player payroll before they sold a seat or a beer.

Didn’t they show the Twins got more revenue sharing last year than their payroll?

Milwaukee is such a small market? Gee, who moved the team THERE? Oh, Selig did - they were in Seattle, when he bought them and moved them.

Hey Chicago is a big market - how many times have their teams been in the Series? Bet most of you weren’t alive for the White Sox - 1959. Better bet for the Cubs - 1945. The RED SOX won the Series more recently than either. WHen they won the Yankees had won 0 series. They now have 26.

The Phillies, large market, have won 1 Series. They started in 1890 (1883 is you count the Quakers) The Series started in 1903.

One interesting point I heard about Montreal - there is a school of thought that the area has become “more French” in recent years with the separatist feelings, with the French-leaning moving to Quebec and the English-leaning out. The English speakers supposedly support baseball better. Any locals have an opinion? Maybe the best they can support is a AAA teams like the old Royals? There is a AAA-level team in Milwaukee…oops, that 's the Brewers…

When a “small market” team has a breakout year and then has players it can’t afford, they go and replace him with a younger player who makes less. It’s really not that hard to figure out.

Also if you configure the contracts correctly, you can keep players for most of their high-producing years. Cleveland did this in the early 1990s and enabled them to grow into a powerhouse and make it to the World Series twice. Eventually Cleveland was able to turn its success in the field to success at the box office and the Indians became a “large market” team.

Now that Cleveland wasted a lot of its money on aging veterans who weren’t that good (Wil Cordero, Travis Fryman) Cleveland has had to cut back its payroll and Cleveland has returned the land of .500 ball.

Kansas City doesn’t have a lot of revenue and what they do have they waste on guys like Donnie Sadler and Chuck Knoblauch. Pittsburgh blew a wad of cash on Derek Bell. The Devil Rays just can’t do anything right.

A work stoppage won’t cure stupidity on the part of the management of several franchises.