Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Part 3: Demise of MLB...

The Salary Cap:

One of the issues that has always hurt MLB is the discrepancies between the salary totals of the different MLB teams. A passionate baseball fan always knows the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers are going to be in the top five in total salaries. The problem is teams like the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Montreal Expos (formerly), Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals are never going to have a real chance to compete since they don’t have the same resources to spend on salaries. Over the last couple of years, teams like the Oakland Athletics, California Angels and the Minnesota Twins have made it to the postseason with smaller payrolls, but it is a rare occurrence. These lower revenue teams spend money drafting and cultivating players to compete against the higher spending teams. The problem is once the players become free agents, these lower revenue teams do not have the money to retain them.

While it will never happen (at least in my lifetime), MLB needs to consider adopting a salary cap in line with the NFL’s hard cap policy. At the start of the NFL season, you know everyone is competing on a level playing field due to the salary cap. Every week the underdog has the opportunity to win the contest. Look at the teams that have made the playoffs over the last five years. There are maybe five teams in the league who have not made the postseason in that timeframe. That is not the case for MLB.

Unfortunately, even with MLB’s new salary cap, the lower revenue teams really don’t have a fair chance at winning games. During a three game series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Yankees, the Royals might win one contest if a Yankees’ pitcher has a bad game. Due to the amount of money the Yankees have spent on players, they should have no problem winning two, if not all three games, easily. To the baseball fan, this is not an enjoyable product, if the underdog does not even have a chance to win some of the contests.

In 2002, Robert Trigaux, a columnist with the St. Petersburg Times, wrote an article entitled, “Is baseball’s brand strength enough to avert demise?” In the column, he noted how MLB must do a better job to ensure all the teams are even and competitive. “Sooner or later, Major League Baseball must fix itself. It must follow the leads of the National Football League and other pro sports that each season manage to offer fans a decent field of competitive teams. Baseball, on the other hand, tends to stick us over and over (with occasional exception) with postseason replays of the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves.”

As MLB begins to negotiate the new collective bargaining agreement, they need to consider fighting for a hard cap to level the playing field for teams and its fans. The Players Association will balk, fight and threaten to strike, but MLB must hold a hard line on this issue. For the future of the game, and to ensure people still care about baseball in the smaller market, the owners must fight for a hard cap. What is the benefit to these small market/lower revenue teams to try to win every year? They know they are “behind the eight ball” before the season even starts. How do you think the loyal fans, or even the season ticket holders, feel about this no-win situation?


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