Professional baseball has few problems. That of course, is a subjective statement. Compared to the NFL, NBA, and the NHL who are each facing major crisis; the most MLB can complain about is sluggish attendance in a slow economy — Except for the Phillies!
Ken Rosenthal however, believes that baseball is facing a major crisis in the form of ‘disparity’. Well to be fair he doesn’t say it’s a huge problem. He seems to only suggest that most owners will agree that baseball could achieve better competitive balance by realigning its divisions. I respect and always read Rosenthal’s work (on FOX and MLB) but I disagree entirely.
But Rosenthal does seem to suggest that, because teams like the Yankees and Red Sox have dominated the playoffs over the past decade and half, realignment of the baseball leagues is necessary. It’s drastic and detailed (Realignment Map). But I question not only necessity but the efficacy of such a move.
How does splitting up the Red Sox and Yankees? The dominant teams win because they have better players. The Orioles, Blue Jays and Rays will not necessarily have a better shot of making the playoffs by removing the Sox. And do we really want a division in baseball consisting of the D-backs, Padres, Rockies, Astros, and Rangers? Why should one of those teams get an automatic bid to the playoffs? No disrespect to any teams. The D-backs and Padres don’t make the playoffs for reasons other than simply playing in a division with the Dodgers and Giants.
And what about the rivalries? Splitting up the Sox/Yanks or Phillies/Mets means we get more Blue Jays/Phillies and Yankees/Nats. Bring it on! Take away the 15 games that make up part of a 120 year-old rivalry. And financially do the Mets and Yankees really want to split television ratings 15 games a year? I admit a north and south side rivalry in Chicago is intriguing, but that’s what Interleague Play is for.
If you wanted to create parity in the league, look no further than the NFL. A salary floor and a salary cap are the answer. I’m not necessarily in favor of either – the Phillies are looking for third straight NL Pennant. I have no qualms with baseball; however, a salary cap would tether the over-spenders.
A $180 million dollar salary cap would help in keep the Yankees from dropping $20 million dollar salaries on any player with a .300 average or 15 win season. A cap might stop the Red Sox from paying $50 million dollars for the privilege of negotiating with a pitcher (How’s Dice-K turning out anyway? Worth $50mil?).
Look, I don’t suggest the Yankees are the only ones at fault. Just as much as they ‘make it rain’ on the league every winter; teams like the Pirates, Marlins, and Royals have a responsibility to field quality teams. The owners in those respective cities consistently pocket hundreds of millions of dollars by keeping a payroll beneath $50-60 million. The Marlins consistently grow blue chip talent (Miguel Cabrera, Josh Beckett) only to sell it for new seeds. The K.C. Royals could have had a roster with Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye, and Johnny Damon in addition to young talents like Alex Gonzalez and Josh Greinke. A salary floor at say $100 million would make sure that these teams don’t sell the farm, and therefore be obligated offer big free agents contracts or re-sign burgeoning players.
Some might say a free market and player loyalty is the problem. Loyalty is not the issue; Derek Jeter has been on the Yankees for half my lifetime. Money isn’t the issue. Did you know the Pirates consistently rank among the top teams in revenue? Did you know the Yankees consistently rank nowhere near the top?
MLB shared revenue dishes $450 and million to each team, so not being able to turn a profit is nearly impossible. I believe Michael Scott had the same issue with a budget surplus. The Yankees take that surplus (shared revenue) and buy fur coats, while the Pirates buy a used down coat at the local Farmer’s Market. So who is to blame when the guys with fur coats look better than the Farmer’s Market coat?
Remember I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with MLB’s current structure. I enjoy seeing whether or not the big spenders get their money’s worth. I enjoy seeing underdogs like the Rays make a Cinderella like run. And I enjoy the way the Phillies have dominated the NL East the past few years, but if Ken Rosenthal thinks simple realignment will solve the issue of competitive balance or lack thereof he is wrong.