Friday, December 10, 2010

The price of not having a salary cap

I feel bad for the fans of the middle and small market teams in Major League Baseball, I really do.  Am I excited about the players the Red Sox picked up at the Winter Meetings?  Absolutely.  Who wouldn't be excited to add Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to their teams.  The problem is that fans of most major league teams can't even fantasize about that possibility.  In fact, they get to look forward to losing great stars like these if they came up with their franchises.
As a life-long, multi-generation Red Sox fan, I know this is the only way we can compete with the Yankees.  I'm absolutely convinced that within the constraints of a salary cap the Red Sox management more often than not would build a better team than the Yankees, who get to rely having much more money than anyone else, including the Red Sox, and that tradition of winning, a tradition that'll never end as long as they can always outspend.  They can afford to make mistakes on these huge salaries, essentially eating the cost, and just go out and buy more talent.  Don't fool yourselves into thinking the Red Sox can do that.
At least the Red Sox have the wherewithal to shoot a big wad on occasion, something most teams can't do; but they cannot afford to do it every year, make a mistake or have bad luck.

8 comments:

tpubgu said...

I reread your piece a couple of times just to make sure I understand your position. I think I do but I still can't agree with you. Just because the evil Yankmes buys the best players to fill their roster, the BoSox must do the same, with less margin of error, to remain competitive. I simply see this as, "Having your cake and eating it too."

Why should fans in Tampa Bay emotionally and financially invest into the Rays when they know their best players will be gone after a couple of years? Last year Prince Fielder, of my beloved Brewers, turned down a $100 million contract to remain with the team because he knows he can get much more as a free agent next year. This is the reason why baseball is seeing a shrinking fan base, lower TV ratings, and is no longer perceived as America's Pastime.

Baseball is polarizing its fans between the haves and have nots, and in the long run the have nots cannot keep up. They may be able to build a team to make them competitive for a couple of years, but in the end they still end up being a farm team feeding their best players to the big money teams.

Fans, who love the game of baseball, should be concerned how MLB is ruining their game. However, soon no one will care.

Brent said...

Zeb,

There is no way that I can agree with you. The Red Sox and Yankees are the US and USSR of Baseball with the rest of the teams being the rest of the world.

2010 Opening day payrolls for the Yankees was $206 Million while the Red Sox came in at $162 Million. Numbers 1 and 2 for payroll at the start of the 2010 season.

And for your contention that the Red Sox don't eat salaries and then go out and buy more talent, well the numbers don't lie. At the start of the 2010 season the Red Sox had over $30 Million invested at 3rd base. The lowest paid was Bill Hall at $8.5 Million. And yet you claim that the Sox don't just eat the costs and move on?

There needs to be a salary cap and floor in Baseball like there is in the NHL. Because right now, I look at the AL East and say that there are 3 teams that have a shot. The AL Central, 3 teams. The AL West, 2 teams. So already you are saying that 6 teams aren't credible. And of the 8 teams that could be considered contenders, 2 of those will have to have everything break their way.

The way I look at it is when teams that have a stud for a player look to trade him for marginal prospects before he becomes a free agent and bolts for the high paying markets, you either have too many teams or a competitive balance problem. I go with the 2nd. And the Red Sox are part of that problem.

Littlecuz said...

Seems I'm somewhere in the middle on this. I agree a cap would solve some problems, but as Brent points out they also need a floor. When you have teams like KC and Florida that have payrolls less than what they got in the revenue share you have a problem.

But to put the blame solely on NY and BOS is erroneous. The Cubs, Mets, Phillies, and Tigers were all closer to the Sox in playroll than the Sox were to the Yankees. Your all right in that there are have and have nots, but the haves number greater than 2.

Pedro and Bay went to the Mets because they out bid the Sox.

As for the Sox eating contracts they do it all the time. Renteria and Lugo are just 2 of the most recent examples of the Sox eating portions of contracts to just off load the player.

However due to their revenue being less than the Yanks they don't have the money to eat as many contracts as the Yanks.

More to the point is that the bottom tier teams can't afford to make any mistakes, nor eat any contracts. That is the real reason a cap is needed.

R.J. said...

I understand your position but in my case I can't invest myself emotionally into a Padres team that has to "constantly" rebuild and is only competitive on the odd years when the Dodgers and Giants are on the downswing.

I'm contemplating rooting for the Angels since a lot of their games are televised on Fox Sports West here in San Diego.

Zebster said...

I've reread what I wrote and I'm not sure how you all have completely misread it. I AM FOR A SALARY CAP. Nothing you guys have said do I disagree with.
The price of not having a salary cap is the mess we're in. It's only because the BoSox have maximized perfectly their resources that they can "compete" with the Yankees but they have no margin for error. A salary cap, even $150 million dollar one, would help tremendously; but it would serve to constrain some player salaries and so the players union won't go for it -- foolishly.

Littlecuz said...

I understood you for the salary cap Zeb, where I disagree with you is that Boston can afford to make mistakes/eat contracts. I gave examples of them doing it. There are even examples of this ownership over paying players. Drew, Lugo and Lackey are examples. They've not been willing to risk long term deals.

The difference this year is that they are willing to take the risk. My contention is that the moves they've made or not made in the past were done out of lack of desire, not lack of funds. This ownership sets a budget based on what they are willing to spend, not what they can afford. There is a difference.

I think your comments apply to the previous ownership, but not this one.

Zebster said...

And Cuz, that's not entirely true that I said that. There's clarification on the msg brd. Maybe we'll still disagree though.

tpubgu said...

I saw this article on Yahoo news today at http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ycn-7406660 and thought it would fit this topic:

Fan reaction: The Yankees pay too much for free agents - but it doesn’t matter

By ODell Isaac II, Yahoo! Contributor Network Dec 16, 4:15 pm EST This article was produced by a Yahoo! Sports user.

The Philadelphia Phillies signed pitcher Cliff Lee(notes) to a five-year, $120 million contract, bringing back the ace they traded away in 2009 and giving the Phillies the best pitching rotation in Major League Baseball. In so doing, they also drove a stake in the hearts of millions of New York Yankees fans, including myself. Fans and foes of the Yankees were shocked by the move, primarily because it marked the first time in recent memory that the Bronx Bombers opened their coffers for a free agent and were turned down.

Very quietly, the Boston Red Sox signed outfielder Carl Crawford(notes) to a seven-year, $142 million contract, making Crawford the first position player to sign such a large contract without having hit 20 home runs in a season. Although Crawford is one of the fastest players in the major leagues and would have looked pretty nice in pinstripes, this doesn't bother me nearly as much, as the Lee signing. The Sox clearly overpaid for Crawford, at least by the unwritten rule that power hitters get the big bucks.

It used to bother me when my beloved Yankees would throw obscene amounts of money at free agents. I am no longer troubled by this. Here's why:

1. The league allows it. It's true that the lack of a salary cap in Major League Baseball creates a gap between the haves and have-nots of the league. Larger-market teams have an advantage over smaller markets because they generate more revenue and have more money to wave in front of top-name free agents. While the Minnesota Twins and the Milwaukee Brewers of the world will always complain about this, we are not likely to see a salary cap in Major League Baseball anytime soon. When the big-market teams are good - when they are legitimate playoff contenders with real World Series aspirations - it increases television ratings and puts more butts in the stadium seats. This translates into more money for the league.

2. The Yankees are not alone. George Steinbrenner may have started the practice of buying championships, but the Yankees are by no means the only teams who attempt this now. In fact, I am certain that part of the motivation for certain teams to land big free agents is the opportunity to stick it to the Yankees.

When the Yanks signed infielder Alex Rodriguez(notes) after the 2000 season, it signaled the end of a free agent tug-of-war with the Red Sox, who were also vying for A-Rod's services. They wanted Rodriguez - everyone did - but they also wanted to stick it to the Yankees.

The Sox picked up Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez(notes), instantly giving them one of MLB's most feared lineups, and giving them another chance to stick it to the Yankees.

Lee signed with the Phillies for millions less, partly because he does his best work against the Yankees, and partly, one assumes, because his wife did not want to go to New York. If the Phillies, the presumptive favorite to go back to the World Series, meet the Yanks in the Fall Classic, what will Cliff Lee be dreaming about?

You guessed it: Sticking it to the Yankees.