After struggling with three drafts in Word on this subject, I finally decided to just wing it and compose on the fly on this topic. It is an important topic and one that radically divides major league fans. The inequality in payrolls has been debated ad nauseum on Sportsline and across the baseball media.
The large revenue teams and their fans feel they did compromise with limited revenue sharing. They think small revenue owners are just lining their pockets with cash, they're cheap, and won't spend the money on their teams. That think a cap is unnecessary and kind of like how things are now. Their teams have an opportunity for post season success if their front offices are not inept.
Small and some mid-revenue team fans think the large revenue teams have their heads in the sand. They want a system where their teams, if run well, have a chance at post season glory. They hate watching good players leave a city because another team can pay their heroes more money. They want fairness. They want a slaary cap like in the NBA and the pre 2010 NFL. Fans don't want to see their teams' owners be forced to spend big chunks of their personal wealth to keep up with other teams and their much greater revenues. That's because many of those owners simply will not bankrupt themselves to do that, the Jerry Coangelo led Arizona Diamondbacks maybe being the exception.
So what are the solutions? How do we bridge this expanse? Can it be done? Will I stop asking questions?
Yes, I think it can be done. It can be done because we all love baseball. We enjoy a well pitched game, a timely hit, and a great play in the outfield. Emerald fields, warm days, and arguing over strategy are part in parcel of the experience whether you are a Yankees, Cardinals, or Royals fan. We have a common interest there. I have thought of some ideas short of a salary cap that the game could implement. Some will require some sacrifice on all parties, including the players association. Their help maybe the hardest part of this deal. Some of these suggestions you all have seen before. A couple may be new. Then I will end this with a hypothetical situation that very few folks anywhere would want to see.
1. Cap on bonuses and pay for draftees. All teams can benefit from that.
2. World draft. In the end, if you don't like the team that drafted you, tough. It is a earned privilege to play baseball, not a right. Maybe a Japanese star would like Pittsburgh. Maybe he would end up enjoying the town he gave it a chance. Heck, they might even become Steelers and Penguins season ticket holders. As a compromise though, a team would have a three year window to sign the draftee. Two years for Japanese major league players.
3. Push back free agency one year. I know the players will whine about that one, but raising the minimum salary some might offset this. This would allow the better run smaller revenue and the mid-revenue teams to keep their players just a bit longer before their free agency.
4. Fund to help smaller markets sign their own players. Have to be a drafted player, or one traded for before year two in the majors. Only type A free agents qualify, Carlos Beltran with the Royals mid-decade or the Twins Joe Mauer today. Up to 5 million a year in aid. If two players fit the category, up to 3 million per player. Maximum of two. The league could do this out of TV revenue and money from fines (if the fine money is not already going to charity).
5. Smaller revenue owners may have to kick in a little extra cash. Not whopping amounts mind you, but if you are worth 800 million, adding 10 million to your payroll out of pocket, if not being done already, would help. That amount won’t kill your net worth. Having to fork over 60 million a year or more would hurt the old net worth a lot. It's not like these owners are sitting on a pile of cash. Much of those nets are in stocks, land, businesses, and other assets. Disposing of a lot of them at once could affect others who have nothing to do with baseball.
Any other ideas like how to change arbitration would be welcome. The idea is to be creative in a workable way and see what we all can come up with in order to help every team have an opportunity for success. That opportunity will have to be earned by good management though, and not just handed to anyone.
A last point. We as fans need to begin thinking of baseball as one entity with 30 franchises, not 30 individual businesses with no tie to each other than some common rules. It is not the last bastion of free enterprise. MLB grants the franchise rights. MLB distributes national TV money to teams. All 30 teams deal with one union, not 30 different ones.
Now for the senario that should scare every fan in every market. Well, except two.
Two very rich individuals, who just sold highly successful business for mucho dinero, decide to buy their hometown teams, say the Twins and Astros. Each man (or woman) sets aside 10 billion dollars to run the team, If they can earn 4% on the 10B, they would have 400M for salaries, using the normal revenue streams to run day to day operations and improve facilities and the minor league operations. If the Yankees have revenues of 275-280M, how are they going to compete, The one problem that they haven't had to face since before the 1994 strike is some owner spending more money than them in payroll. Many of the newer fans here do not realize that under Ewing Kauffman, the Royals were usually either the leader or top five in payroll. There was a big difference between kicking 6-7 million of his own cash and kicking in 100M of your own cash to be top five. Another problem large market teams haven’t had to face was not being able to resign their own players brought up through their systems. Imagine if Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera had signed contracts with the Astros because the Yankees couldn’t afford to pay the 47.5 million a year over 6 years each was offered by that wealthy owner. Compromise involves placing yourself in the position of the hunted rather than the hunter sometimes.
I know this has gone long. There is much I haven’t been able to cover here. All I wish for is for all sides to sit down and hammer out a system that rewards well run teams with an opportunity to win in the post season no matter what city the team is located in. Then, if your team blows, you know it is because of poor management and not that someone can simply outspend you.