6th November 2009
Vitriol seems to come in its biggest doses when it comes to baseball. It just seems to incite some deep emotion that other sports, don’t. Sure, the NBA, NHL, and NFL has its far share of fans that get bent out of shape, but that seems directed at the players, or the occasional owner, even referee, but rarely at the league’s underlying structure.
Here’s an example:
- In the last ten years, the Los Angeles Lakers have won the NBA Championship four times, three of them in a row from 2000-02.
- In the same span, the New England Patriots have won the Super Bowl three times, twice in a row in 2003 and 2004.
- And yet, the insanity over the Yankees winning in 2009 (and in reality, the other 27 times) brings up calls for change to the system.
I get that the system is far from perfect. MLB’s revenue-sharing system, and the soft cap known as the Luxury Tax need tending to, but that is not enough for many.
I see it as analogous to the angry bear. When feeling threatened, the response is to lash out, even if it’s indiscriminately. The Yankees won (again) so it must be the lack of a salary cap that’s at the root of the matter.
It’s funny that the sport that has no salary cap, is the one that spends the least on player payroll. That ‘s right, uncapped, there is less spending on player salaries than capped leagues (52% compared to 56.7% for the NHL, 57% for the NBA, and 59% for the NFL).
A cap is…
- Politically difficult (there have been not one, but two work stoppages in MLB due to attempts at putting one in place)
- A salary floor is needed to go with a cap to keep clubs from pocketing revenue-sharing dollars.
- Even if you could put a cap in place, you still would have disparity due to high revenue making clubs being able to outspend on scouting, etc. that fall outside the system.
I added more details on the topic today on The Biz of Baseball (see Reasons for Not Having a Salary Cap in MLB Are Numerous)
Oh, and then there’s the fact that while it’s true that of the top 10 teams with the highest Opening Day payrolls in 2009, five of them made the postseason (Yankees, 1 – Red Sox, 4 – Angels, 6 – Phillies, 7 and Dodgers, 9). Only three teams were in the lower half of the league based on player payroll, with only one of them (Twins) being in the lower third of the league (Cardinals, 17 – Colorado, 18 – Twins, 24). But if you look at the league payrolls, and see how some teams spent compared to winning, it’s a tale of “money doesn’t always mean winning” (for details on all 30 clubs, see my annual report, Ranking Who in MLB Got the Biggest Bang For the Buck in 2009).
But, that won’t stop many from saying we need to eat the rich.
Here’s my solution that is in Friday’s “Reasons” column:
So, the talk of a salary cap should remain that: talk. The system is not perfect, but taking a wrecking ball to it is not the solution. Put in a hard-slotting system for the amateur draft. Create an international draft. Make breaking through the Luxury Tax threshold painful – very financially painful – for those clubs that dare to flirt with it.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown’s full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.