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Baseball is Not Broken

September 22nd, 2010 | 15 comments »

I literally stopped what I was working on when I saw a Google alert pop up in my Inbox that read “Major League Baseball: A broken sport in need of fixing.”

As much as I analyze, and sometimes criticize Major League Baseball, I do not believe it is “broken.”  In fact, I stand by a piece I wrote a couple of months ago, proclaiming MLB to be the healthiest of the sports leagues.  Chief amongst the reasons for this proclamation is the fact that is the only sport I believe is not in danger of a strike/lockout at the end of the current collective bargaining agreement.  And despite all the arguments for a salary cap, I remain firmly against one.

I never do this, but I think I’ll pick apart this article that arrived in my Inbox this afternoon piece by piece.  I’m on board in the beginning…

In this writer’s opinion, the revenue sharing system in Major League Baseball is a good concept, but has still not been implemented correctly. 

I agree.  You can see my piece in The Hardball Times on how the leaked financials showed revenue sharing needs some work.

I believe that teams that generate substantially higher revenues should have to contribute significantly more into the revenue sharing pool than they do. 

How much more? Oh, probably anywhere from about 200-400% more.

Sound insane to you? If it does then your mentality is probably part of the overall problem and not the solution to the colossal mess we have in Major League Baseball right now.

And now he’s lost me.  Revenue sharing should be increased by 200-400%?  I don’t think so.  While the leaked financials did illustrate that revenue sharing is necessary, they also showed that teams may be relying on that money to cover operating expenses while pocketing revenue.  Not to mention that owners of clubs in larger markets pay significantly more for their club, and deserve to reap some benefit with that.  In 2002, three teams were sold and bought.  The Red Sox, who are obviously in a large market, sold for $380m (taking on about $40m in debt).  The New York Mets, another large market team, sold for $391m.  The Marlins, the poster child for small market teams, sold for $158m.  Ever heard you get what you pay for? 

If you want to call this counterbalancing solution “socialism” then …so be it.

Hell, call it whatever you want to.

I call it restoring a competitive balance in Major League Baseball, which has been hijacked, primarily, by a virtual cabal of corporate entities that operate within the framework of the broken system that MLB has implemented. 

I don’t know where to start, but I’ll stick with that last paragraph at this point.  Obviously the author is insinuating there is no competitive balance in balance.  Untrue.  I’ve shown this chart before to demonstrate how the leagues compare from 2000-2009:

  Percentage of Teams Participating in Playoffs Number of Different Participants Number of Different Champions
MLB 27% (8 of 30 teams) 23 of 30 8
NFL 38% (12 of 32 teams) 29 of 32 7
NBA 53% (16 of 30 teams) 29 of 30 5
NHL 53% (16 of 30 teams) 30 of 30 7

The biggest difference?  I’d argue it’s the playoff format.  Baseball allows in the least number of teams.  The NBA and NHL let in more than half their teams.  So, at the beginning of the season, you have a better than 50% chance of making the playoffs.  Does this mean the NBA or NHL is more balanced competitively than MLB.  Nope.  In fact, as you can see above, MLB has had the highest number in terms of different champions during this time period.  No competitive balance, huh?

To put it bluntly, MLB, the Players Association Union and the New York Yankees are all greed mongering power players that are in collusion, have ruined the game of baseball, and have threatened the very fabric of professional sports in the process.

Thank God that the NFL, NBA, and NHL have all implemented some form of salary cap that has prevented their sports from becoming the ridiculous and idiotic mockery that MLB has become.

I feel that MLB is probably the closest thing to Professional Wrestling that has ever existed in the history of organized sports, and I even hesitate to call MLB a real sport anymore because the results of the games and seasons are nearly as predictable as hokey wrestling matches, where the conclusions are all scripted and ultimately predetermined. 

I hate the Yankees too, but not because I think they’ve ruined the sport.  I think most of us just wish we had an ownership group like they do – one that cares about fielding a winning team and isn’t just in the ownership game as a tax shelter or for some other corporate reason that leaves them less inclined to pour their profits back into baseball.

Oh, and the other leagues aren’t a “ridiculous and idiotic mockery” when they reject contracts that fit within the rules of the CBA ?  How about when they launch a labor website where they take shots at their own players?  Or maybe when they a player air his Decision and subsequent smoke-filled rise from the floor with his new teammates on national tv?  Puh-lease.

The New York Yankees (the team with the highest payroll in the league by an incredibly wide margin) have made it to the playoffs 15 out of the last 16 years, while the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals (teams with traditionally the lowest payrolls in the league) have failed to make the playoffs for that same 16 year period …and beyond. 

Perhaps even more frighteningly, this trend, or gap between the haves and the have-nots of the league seems to be expanding …with no end anywhere in sight.

So, to all you skeptics of the notion that money cannot buy success, …do the simple and undeniable math.

Ask yourselves, honestly, why does one team succeed and sit in the lofty penthouse of the league while others fail miserably and wallow in the smelly outhouse of obscurity?

What’s the common denominator here?

This isn’t a brain teaser or rocket science, …it’s good old fashioned common sense.

It isn’t too hard to figure out that The New York Yankees willfully and shamefully buy their success.

All of it.

And Major League Baseball allows this to happen because of their greed for the financial revenue that the New York Yankees bring in regularly to the league.

Can money buy you a winning team?  Probably.  Can it buy a championship?  Not necessarily.  Can you win without being the biggest spender?  Absolutely.  Who have the Yankees been battling it out for the division lead with all season?  The Tampa Bay Rays, who rank 21 out of 30 in terms of payroll.  It’s not the first time they’ve done it either.  What about the Red Sox and Mets, the league’s #2 and #5 payrolls?  They’re already mathematically eliminated.  Meanwhile, you’ve got the Rangers and Padres, at #27 and #29 respectively, very much in the playoff hunt.   

And if you want to know why the Pirates aren’t improving, I point you again to my piece in The Hardball Times on the leaked financials and what they taught us.

Why not just triple, or quadruple, the luxury tax and solve most of the problems with the lack of parity and stop the rapid erosion of competition within the sport?

In this suggested equation, none of the revenue would be lost for the sport and the competitive nature of the game would be greatly restored. 

This would change nothing.  The Yankees would simply continue to factor the competitive balance tax into their budget.

Lastly, I realize that are still many people in complete denial about the very premise of this article (that there is, indeed, a broken system that has led to an environment of gross inequality within the sport). 

The people who argue against this premise usually are quick to refer to the Tampa Bay Rays as an example that some teams “don’t need to spend money to win” in MLB.

This is complete and utter nonsense.

First of all, the Tampa Bay Rays are an anomaly that came about in a perfect storm of player development as a result of years of losing. 

An anomaly?  Really?  In 2008, the Rays contended for the championship in the World Series.  In 2009, they had their second straight winning season.  In 2010, they’re in a heated battle for the division title against the Yankees.  One year might be an anomaly.  Three years is not.

Unfortunately for the Rays, they will lose Carl Crawford (arguably, their best player) to free agency in the off season; they will lose their closer Rapheal Soriano (one of the smarter trades they accomplished, acquiring him before he attained superstar status), and they will lose Evan Longoria and David Price (their other two franchise players) as soon as their contracts expire and they become eligible for free agency. 

And to all the skeptic of this reality, these are not scenarios that are based on speculation, …these are cold hard facts:

The Rays simply don’t have the economic resources to retain these players for the amount of money that the free agent market will ultimately demand.

 First, Soriano wasn’t some unknown they took a chance on who surprised everyone with a great year.  I’m a Braves fan and was devastated to lose him.  He was already lights out, and the Rays paid the not so paltry sum of $7 million for him, along with trading the Braves a reliever. 

As for the Rays not having the economic resources…untrue.  They showed net income of over $11 million in 2007 and over $4 million in 2008.  They’ve also shown a willingness to increase payroll.  That’s where the real problem with revenue sharing lies.  The Rays have increased payroll (they’re at double their 2007 payroll in 2010) and scouting and development costs, have put a winning product on the field, and have suffered decreased net income as a result of the current revenue sharing system. 

That’s where the work needs to be done.  And it will not be done by increasing revenue sharing by 200-400%.  It will be done by revamping the system to one that rewards teams for putting their money back into the game instead of pocketing it all.  It will be done by creating incentives and rewards for people who act more like the Yankees and commit to putting a winning product on the field, whether it’s through signing free agents or improving scouting and developing.

Baseball is not broken.

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