View Full Version : Baseball - whats the solution?

02-18-2003, 09:22 PM
As all the baseball fans on this forum know, baseball has some unique problems as far as revenue sharing go. Whats the solution to the obvious challanges facing MLB right now? Obviously a luxury tax isn't effective if it is double the median team salary. Doubly so with no floor. Forget what the unions want, what the small markets want and what the Steinbrenners want. What's the most equitable solution that also ensures a chance for all teams to compete at the highest level, and to keep their key players once they become free agents.

Is the NBA system the model we should be looking at?

02-19-2003, 01:55 AM
I don't have a good working knowledge of all the major sports economic systems. But, the NFL's system certainly makes it possible for any team to win the Super Bowl. It's just a matter of ownership, management, coaches, and the players putting everything together.

Josh W
02-19-2003, 02:11 AM
You need to have a goal in mind before you can achieve it.

I agree that the economics of baseball is screwed up right now. The fact that the Yankees spend so much more than the KC's of the world makes it plain silly that they are even in the same league.

But what do we want? If we want a league of complete parity, then model it after the NFL. If we want something in between, maybe the NBA is the way to go.

Baseball is still all about talent, though. Teams have spent tons of money 'buying' championships (i.e. Florida), but more teams have spent over $100 million and failed (Boston, LA). The importance of talent now is in the front offices. Guys like Brian Cashman will always be so highly sought after it's silly. For different reasons, guys like Billy Beane will also be adored.

If they don't have the money, the franchises with the best front offices have a good shot at it. Teams like Oakland, which knows how to push talent just right, to get a group of young studs at the majors at the right time, is the only way to go.

And that's too bad....it should be decided on the field. And in order to do that, something needs to be done with the finances.

I think that there needs to be a salary floor, or else some owners will put a bare-bones team on the field and make money. And that's not fair to the fans or the sport.

And I think that there needs to be a salary cap. Not necessarily a hard cap, but a softcap of sorts.

If we want parity, the cap could be inversely proportional to the previous season's success.

But I think that a great model, for what I look for in sports, would be the NBA....dynastic teams are still possible, but there is still a decent rotation of teams at the front. Sure, teams like Cleveland and LA Clips have eternally sucked, but it's not as bad as baseball.

Long winded, roundabout response. Oops.


02-19-2003, 03:15 AM
The NFL system won't work for MLB because of a huge difference in how revenue is generated. MLB receives the vast majority of its revenue locally, through ticket sales and local cable TV rights. The NFL essentially has negligeble local revenue. With basically only one meaningful revenue stream (National TV contract) it is very easy to set up a system where everyone is happy.

For MLB, however, its not so simple. The Cubs would have to give up a big portion of their local TV money to the Twins. Plus since many team owners also own the cable channels, the actual value of the rights fees are often distorted.

02-19-2003, 03:22 AM

The NFL system simply can't work for MLB. I mentioned some of the key reasons in my response to Dynasty.

I agree that on the surfact the NBA system seems fair. Soft cap, luxury tax and right for home teams to keep their stars.

The NBA has an advantage in that one really only needs to keep 2-3 premier players to form a perennial title contender, so its easier for NBA teams to maintain that dynasty. In MLB, keeping 2-3 stars simply won't do it because no one player can dominate to the extent that a Shaq or Jordan can.

So it may not work as well for MLB as it has for the NBA, but anything is better than the current system. Its a shame the union is so stubborn and won't accept a floor. What is going to happen now is the elimination of the middle class in MLB. The union, with its hard line stance on no upward limits has basically screwed the majority of its constituency to protect the ARods of the league. Which is too bad.

They also need to implement the international draft pronto. Its silly that the Yankees can simply go and buy the top international players. The knicks weren't able to go and buy Yao. The Yankees shouldn't be able to go buy Godzilla.

Josh W
02-19-2003, 05:38 AM
I agree 100% with an international draft. The Yankees are the desire of nearly all international stars, from Matsui to Orlando Hernandez, to Hideki Irabu who refused to play for any other team, including San Diego, who drafted him.

Is it the union that won't accept a floor? I'm pretty sure it's the owners.

You are right that 2 or 3 players a championship team does not make. But 4, and it's really close.

You get 2 aces, a closer, and one big bat, decent role players (of the Rick Fox/Robert Horry) capability (I guess these would be akin to an innings-eating 3rd starter, a setup man, a #5 hitter and a leadoff hitter), and you're dang close to a championship. Just ask Arizona. Of course, Johnson and Schilling aren't run of the mill aces (is there such a thing?).

But the problem with a naked NBA parallel is that there is still, as you said in your response to Dynasty, to much disparity between the haves and have-nots. If you want all teams to be at least moderately competitive, you need all teams to have similar (not identical) payrolls, which requires similar amounts of money to spend.

And the only way to accomplish comparable bankrolls is to institute grotesque revenue sharing. And, to be honest, I think that this is the first step. Without it, Pittsburgh, KC, Montreal, Toronto, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Florida, Tampa, etc will never compete with the Cubs (who never spend money, tho they have it), LA, Boston, Baltimore (when Angelos feels like it), NY, NY, Seattle, Texas, etc.

But the extent of revenue sharing that would be required would never ever fly to the owners. No way Steinbrenner et al are giving up there money to hurt their team and to help others.

Maybe a more realistic scenario is MLB yanking control of more teams like they have with Montreal...make the cheapskates spend more money. If they don't, they lose their team.

Or get fair scouts, but that's a funny joke.

And more money for Double A center fielders.


02-19-2003, 07:16 AM
It's late and I'm kinda drunk so I apologize in advance for such a crappy response to such a great post.

Here are the most run-of-the mill aces I can think of in recent memory. Obviously, this is slightly skewed because if these guys were TRULY run o' the mill, I wouldn't remember them! (in no particular order):

1) recent vintage Orioles' era Mike Mussina
2) Ron Darling
3) Kenny Rogers
4) Kevin Tapani (sic? That Twins dude)
5) Mark Gubicza
6) latter years Jim Abbott (remember him?)
7) Scott Erickson

That may have been the crappiest list in 2plus2 history. I hope D.J. or Bill Murphy will chime in.


02-19-2003, 12:10 PM
"Forget what the unions want, what the small markets want and what the Steinbrenners want."

--Hard to do, since that sentence pretty much summarizes every problem baseball faces today.

IMO, MLB is doomed as "America's pasttime," and seriously on the ropes as a major american sport. Here in Milwaukee (rich in baseball tradition, believe it or not), MLB has become little more than a passing curiosity. I get a similar vibe when I talk to friends in KC and Minneapolis (except when the Twins are winning, of course), and assume the same goes for the other noncompetitive "small markets."

Fortunately, the best thing that could happen to baseball in the long-run is what is going to happen: A wide-scale implosion. I would not be surprised (nor disappointed, for that matter) to see 10-12 teams either fold or move within the next 10 years. I assume that should be enough to wake up all of the key players mentioned in your sentence.

02-19-2003, 03:23 PM
An NBA model would be great for MLB. A soft cap and 100% luxury tax (which serves as a de facto hard cap).

The reason that NBA teams tend to be 2-3 guys making tons and a bunch making far less is that that's what you need to win in the NBA. With the same system in MLB, you'd surely see 4-6 guys per team making big dollars. Keep in mind also that the NBA has annual limits (max salaries) so that you can also control the distribution of $$ within the cap that way.

Also, in regards to an international draft - you just need to make the current draft apply to every man, woman and child on earth above a certain age (currently 17, I believe). Draft rights are retained for, say...3 years, and anyone not drafted is a free agent. Pretty soon, every decent Japanese and Cuban player would be 'owned' by one ML team or another. In the long run, I suspect this would address the "Yankees get 2/3 of foreign players" problem.

Of course, to control the managerial disgraces taking place in small markets like Montreal, Milwaukee and Kansas City (where owners continue making a solid return on investment based in large part on revenue sharing while their payrolls remain miniscule and their teams generally suck), you'd need a salary floor (something like 2/3 the soft cap would work).


02-19-2003, 03:33 PM
"...Montreal, Milwaukee and Kansas City (where owners continue making a solid return on investment based in large part on revenue sharing while their payrolls remain miniscule and their teams generally suck)"

--Granted, I'm exposed to the Brewers' propaganda machine known as the Milwaukee media, but I haven't heard anything about a solid return on investment lately. They made some pretty good dough a couple of years ago when their new stadium drew record gates (to watch AAA ball on the field), but I don't think they're making much money nowadays.

As for managerial incompetencies, well, I just don't know. The Brewers basically canned their entire front office last fall, including Bud's daughter Wendy. Whether or not the new guys continue to produce a garbage product is yet to be seen.

02-19-2003, 03:43 PM
I believe that the majority of the parity in the NFL comes from the very short schedule, and the fact that the difference in talent is fairly small. The games won or lost frequently come down to a single penalty call or stupid mistake; this isn't really a product of talent distribution. It's really that the short-term luck factor is smaller in football than people think. A 13-3 team can easily go 9-7 with an injury. This has really been the case with most every team for as long as I can remember. Otherwise, there were just 2 good teams in the league at any time. The rest of the league was pretty flat in talent across the board. This was also the case this year, where the Super Bowl teams were clearly the best teams in the league.

Baseball is a long-run sport. Flukes are pretty unlikely, so good teams rise to the top. I suspect that this would also be the case in football, if you were able to run the schedule out ten times. The real problem with baseball is that there are too many overpriced players that lead to teams' downfalls. See Bichette, Dante; Castilla, Vinnie; the whole Rockies roster. Also, the Metropolitans of NY. Mo Vaughn? The only things that he's hitting is the bong and a dozen donnies at Dunkin's. This Mets issue is wide-reaching in the free-agent market. Now a good player, at the peak of his career, wants more money than he might has asked for since Mo Vaughn is getting a phat contract to sit on his ass and be hurt. This is the problem with baseball. Mo Vaughn, guaranteed money, and the like. Unfortunately, this won't change soon. Owners and GM's can win games; see the A's, Twins, and even the Angels. They go with younger guys who will play hard, and they will win.

02-19-2003, 07:01 PM
Is it the union that won't accept a floor? I'm pretty sure it's the owners.
Umm...no. The MLBPA was as dead-set against a salary floor as they were against a salary cap. They reasoned that if they accepted the need for a floor, the same logic could be used to justify a cap. Their position was and is that a completely free market is the best situation. Parity and fairness have never been their concerns.

You get 2 aces, a closer, and one big bat
You aren't seriously arguing that a closer is worth more than 8/9ths of the batting order are you? Or that he should make more than the 3rd starter? Closers are the most overrated "position" in baseball. I'd say you need 6 premium players - 3 starters and 3 position players - with at least 2 preferrably from those down the center (C, 2B, SS, CF) due to their disproportionate defensive importance. If you can't get a decent bullpen together for a relatively small amount of money, you're doing something wrong.

Josh W
02-20-2003, 07:09 AM
My favorite baseball teams ever were the mid to late 90's mariners, anchored in the bullpen by Bobby Ayala and Norm Charlton. Not great names or players in those days (save charlton in 95).

And, for the regular season, I agree that a closer is grotesqauely overrated. But in the postseason, they are immensely valuable.

With very very very few starters that throw many complete games these days, a bullpen is key. And having a goto guy to shut down the opposition is very valuable.

As for being able to assemble a good bullpen cheap, that's almost laughable....not the cheap part, but the being able to assemble a good bullpen.

There are so few good relievers today, that many are commanding more dollars, and there just aren't enough to go around, hence the difficulty is assembling a good 'pen. My guess is that in the next 5 years, relievers contracts will grow more than any other position in any sport. I don't think there's any doubt about this.


02-20-2003, 03:03 PM
Watch what happens in hockey next year when the CBA expires. Then you'll get an idea how motivated a union and league can be to handle the big market-small market discrepancies. I'm not saying they WILL resolve them. Every hockey fan understands that either they'll solve them or 5-10 teams will probably have to fold. Many teams are making decisions or signings and simply saying "we just have to hang on until 2004, and then go from there".

Hockey is in a much worse situation for this than baseball, since there is essentially NO national TV contract AND many of the smaller market franchises are also being killed by currency exchange and imbalanced tax rates.

02-20-2003, 03:39 PM
The tax rate thing is huge.

I don't understand it. Hockey is the national pasttime in Canada, yet the government burdens the teams with such heinous tax structures that they are almost totally unable to compete. Its sad.

As for baseball. I think its interesting that a city like St. Louis is able to be well run, keep a huge fan base, and compete year after year. St. Louis is the same size basically as Milwaukee, KC, Pittsburgh, etc. It can be done, but you have to run the organization well.

Of course, if you are Oakland, you can run your team well and STILL not draw. That sucks.