Red Sox Again Suggest A Salary Cap…Say $150 Million?
John Henry, owner of the Boston Red Sox, wants to have a salary cap in Major League Baseball. The Red Sox finished last season with a payroll of $147 million, 2nd only to the Yankees $225 million. This is the second time that Boston has called on baseball to control spending on players, the first coming when John Henry made a passionate yet baseless plea for spending fairness after the Red Sox lost Alex Rodriguez to the New York Yankees.
It seemed humorous then that the team that tried so hard to get Rodriguez would be so appalled at the state of salaries in baseball, and it’s funny now.
The Red Sox spend tens of millions more than most teams, and their complaints reak of jealousy over the financial commitments made by their division rival. If the Red Sox had acquired Rodriguez, the Red Sox would have never cared about a salary cap and probably still wouldn’t care now. What baseball needs is for the small-markets to step up and declare that what baseball is about now is broken. Someone besides the team that had a payroll of almost $100 million more than their ALCS opponent needs to show why a salary cap in baseball needs to happen. Thankfully, you know in your heart that MLB has no chance in Fenway of getting a cap for a few overpowering reasons:
1) Small-market teams like the way baseball’s economy works.
In baseball’s current revenue sharing plan, large and successful market teams like the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox have to share their wealth with teams that are not in markets that can provide as much revenue. These small-market teams like Kansas City and Florida are given a cut of revenue from large market teams that in theory keeps them competitive in the market for free agents and draft picks. The reality is that these teams use this money to essentially pay for their payroll, instead of competing for players.
In 2006, the Florida Marlins spent only $14 million on payroll, while getting $32 million back from revenue sharing. The Tampa Bay Rays also have turned a sizeable profit, simply from keeping costs low, and letting other teams pay for their players.
It’s created a race to the bottom, where small-market owners would rather be assured of making money off other teams, instead of risking more payroll dollars spent in the attempt to have a winning team.
If asked today, most small-market teams would not like to see a cap, because that would mean there would also need to be a salary floor, since there is no way the players’ union would agree to a cap without a floor. Speaking of the MLBPA…
2) The MLBPA likes the way baseball’s economy works.
Since the NBA instituted a salary cap and a salary scale, players have had little choice as to how much money they could earn playing in the NBA. The purpose was to maximize the value of staying with a team longer and to normalize spending in the league. Nearly all the teams in the league spend near or over the salary cap level, creating a more likely chance for parity and instilling a need to be smart with money.
But in an economic structure like MLB, players are able to ask for the salary of their choosing, regardless of how much money the team has already committed to spending. A player like Mark Teixiera can get $20 million, even though Derek Jeter is getting $19 million and Rodriguez is getting $28 million from the same team.
No salary cap means that great players have the chance at a bigger pay-day, and all contracts can be guaranteed. A cap would force the money market down, and give teams more pause before committing to fringe All-Star talents.
As stated above, the union would never agree to anything regarding a cap, unless they could ensure that all the teams in the league had to spend a mandated amount of money each season, forcing most teams to spend more money than they do now.
3) Let’s face it, you really don’t want a salary cap.
I’m appealing for you to perhaps admit something that you wouldn’t admit in front of your friends and family. But seriously, you like baseball how it is. You like being able to defend your lousy team by blaming the front office’s lack of impressive spending. Imagine how Yankee fans felt this past season, after the team’s $225 million payroll wasn’t enough to even make the playoffs. It’s embarrassing. But teams like Pittsburgh and Oakland can simply blame the economics on it all for their misfortunes.
But even more than liking the excuses, we like having an “Evil Empire.” We enjoy bashing on the Yankees, the Red Sox and their respective fans. We like having those giants that we can topple. We enjoy having a team like the Rays buck all the expectations and make it to the World Series. We like the drama of a Florida pitcher striking out a New York batter making more than the entire Marlin starting lineup.
And let’s be fair, there’s no other sport with as engaging of an off-season as the Hot Stove League. And all salary caps do is knock out teams from getting a player. And every winter, even Royals fans can dream that maybe their team might one day sign a game-changer like Hanley Ramirez. Sadly for the city of Kansas City, he’s Derek Jeter’s heir at SS in New York. You just don’t know it yet.