Sharing the Wealth: A Baseball Debate

In an article on the Baseball Prospectus website yesterday, Keith Woolner proposed a new revenue-sharing plan for MLB. After looking it over, it appears reasonable. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I’m of the opinion that good front-office management makes up for a lot of revenue and payroll inequities, and that revenue isn’t really needed, at the moment, at least. I’m not at all sure that it won’t be necessary or desirable at some point in the future, though.

So, let’s try to set up the best revenue-sharing plans we can, fans. How much should the Yankees pay? SHOULD the Yankees pay? Should the Royals get anything? How much?

  • DynoSaur *, I couln’t get your link to open. However, I agree that something needs to be done. The Yankees have a $135 mm payroll; some other teams have a quarter that much.

While we’re directing folks over to Baseball Prospectus–which (argh) seems to be down at the moment–make sure they take a look at Doug Pappas’s brilliant series “The Numbers,” which distinguishes baseball’s real financial problems from those which are simply the fevered concoctions of Bud “the job of the Commissioner is to advance the interests of certain owners over all of baseball” Selig.

I’ll link directly to Pappas when the site is back up. In the meantime, y’all should check out Baseball Primer, especially this article and the subsequent commentary.

And december: You realize that payroll != revenue base, right? That is, just because a team doesn’t spend a lot of money on payroll doesn’t mean they couldn’t if they wanted to (coughCarlPohladcough).

Here’s the link to the latest of the Pappas articles.

OK, december, you obviously think the Yankees should pay. Who else do you think should? How should it be determined? How should we determine who gets paid from the fund?

I’m comfortable stating that the current revenue sharing plan is stupid at it’s base. As the system is based upon payroll, rather than “market size” (which would be another good thing to define), it’s created a heavy incentive for those owners who care more about turning a profit than winning to slash payroll - hence the Twins and Expos.

One thing I’ve always wanted to have answered: If baseball is such a failing enterprise (as Selig continues to insist, in the face of Forbes, Congress, and common sense), then why are past and current owners clamoring to continue in ownership? If this off-season’s musical chairs between Harrington, Henry, and Loria has taught us nothing else, it’s that something keeps the same guys coming back and purchasing team after team…

When baseball was ‘Americas National Pastime’ and the owners and players really cared (or appeared to care) for the fans, there was no need for ‘revenoo sharing’.

When the 3 card monty (where’s 'at team now? :confused: ) started with the Boston Braves moving to Milwaukee in 1953 and a year later the St. Louis Browns moving to Baltimore, followed by all those other moves, Giants, Dodgers, Senators, etc. Baseball lost much of it’s appeal to me. Enter the 1970’s and the strikes and it was pretty obvious then fans were out of it.

I am just waiting for the final implosion.

Pretty much the same is true for all major sports. Too much money has ruined the game.


[sub]BTW, what do the Baseball Braves and the Football Rams have in common?[/sub]

Sorry for the hijack above, I just couldn’t help it.

Philo, did the owners of the Wasington Senators, St. Louis Browns or Philadelphia Athletics really care or even appear to care about their fans?

This nostalgia for imagined loyalty is pure delusion.

I tend to look at all of the complex ideas like Woolner’s as unworkable. I think simplicity is a part of the equation.

The simplest thing to do is split local TV money. If the visiting team got, say, 25% of the local broadcast revenues, teams would still have incentive to improve their teams (for their gate reciepts, and the 75% of their own TV revenues), but the “revenue floor” would be raised. It also recognizes the reality that the Yankees do not generate their income by themselves.

I would also love a sytem where teams could draw from a communally-created pool for matching funds to resign their own free agents.

Finally, Bud Selig needs to be shot.

No, hung.

No, drowned in a cesspool.

No, … (heads for the pit)

And Gadarene’s right, Pappa’s stuff is indespensible.

To be fair about this, Philo, the disparities in revenue weren’t all that great back then. You didn’t have teams like the Yankees getting the immense cable contracts while teams like the Expos can’t give rights to their games away.

Admittedly, this is partly the fault of Expos’ ownership (Claude Passeau was like Carl Polhad’s evil-er twin); but it’s still a fact that the Yankees currently pull in a WHOLE lot more money than any other team.

The question is, does this need to be rectified, or can intelligent management overcome income disparities? And, if the answer turns out to be “yes, it needs to be rectified”, what’s the best way to go about it?

PhiloVance wrote:

Considering that baseball has more fans and a bigger revenue stream (even in inflation-adjusted dollars) now, than it did in 1970, I don’t see any “implosion” coming up.

Okay then, for the optimists, here’s a question…

IF Forbes is correct (i’m far from convinced), the Brewers are the most profitable team in baseball and, therefore, the most profitable team in the history of baseball. If that’s true, the Selig family should be happy as clams! They should LOVE the current system! IF the FOrbes theoiry is coirrect, the Seligs are rolling in dough, and the current system benefits them more than it’s ever benefitted anybody else.
IF that’s so… why would Bud Selig want to change a thing? Why would HE, of all people, contemplate a work stoppage? Does he hate money? Is he just plain stupid? Or is he secretly plotting the destruction of baseball?

Absolutely. Without the opposing teams, there would be no game to broadcast at all. All local broadcast revenues should be split 50-50 between the team and the league, with each team receiving an equal share of the community pot. This revenue sharing should also account for the steep discounts some media-owned or -affiliated teams give in the contracts to be broadcast on their own networks. That’s a common accounting ploy with some of the teams in big markets, including the Yankees, Dodgers, and Rangers.

Well, first of all, looking at the numbers, the Brewers were the most profitable team in baseball last year no matter if you believe the MLB numbers or the Forbes numbers. As you say, why should he want to change anything?

Quick answer: he (and the owners he represents) want to make more money. And it’s easier for them to see profits as a result of lessening expenditures as opposed to paying more, but winning more (y’know, how the Yankees got so popular in the first place?).

Frankly, (and, obviously, I have no evidence here), I think Bud is jealous that he’s not as strong as the commissioners in any of the other major league sports. I also think he’s a ridiculous egotist who wants to be remembered as The Man Who Took The Stongest Union In History down.

Um, astorian? Revenue sharing is one of the the primary reasons why the Brewers made the most money, according to Forbes. Selig wants to increase revenue sharing, resulting in even more money pouring into the Selig family’s bank accounts.

So do you still think there’s some sort of contradiction there?

But, then, what keeps the Yankees, etc. from leaving and creating their own league? Do you really think the Royals’ contribution to a Royals/Yankees game is worth half the money when NY provides ~8 times as many fans per game - whether the game is in NY or KC?

(the 8 times figure is a rough comparison of what I seem to recall the relative populations being. Whatever the actual number is, I think the point is clear).

Even if a 50/50 split is equitable, I’m not sure it’s workable.

Self-interest. A “league” with only a handful of big-revenue teams would be a terrible product.

I’m not sure I understand what a ‘revenue stream’ is. I understand that baseball (MLB that is) has more money today than back in the fifties, and maybe even adjusted for inflation. But you’ve got to also consider that we have a few more people in the US since then also. In addition, more money/revenue stream/whatever does not make for a better product.

My disenchantment with organized baseball has a lot to do with the changes. Playoffs, interleague play, designated hitter, etc. The checkerboard actions of the owners, the greed of everyone involved just excaberated (sp?) that.

C’mon, PhiloVance, it’s been thirty years since they introduced the DH. I think the DH detracts from the game myself, but if that’s the sort of terrible thing you hate about modern baseball, you’re really just looking for reasons to be disenchanted.

You’re probably right. S’why I loved Field of Dreams, the film version of Shoeless Joe. :o