That is alarmist and hacky, using the war metaphor, granted. The Yankees now have the four highest-paid players in the history of baseball -- two heavy-hitting corner infielders, a lights-out left-handed starter, and a singles-hitting shortstop with limited fielding range. Will Leitch has dubbed them the "Fantastically Overpaid Four."
Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio is calling for a salary cap. One wonders why Red Sox owner John Henry would resist jumping on the populist bandwagon, if only for show. The Sox have reached their ceiling in revenues, have no plans to replace Fenway Park and are have said they will not raise their sky-high ticket prices. They have three teams in their market -- the conference-leading Bruins in the NHL, the NBA-leading Celtics and the Super Bowl runner-up Patriots -- who are flourishing in leagues with salary caps. The optics are irresistible; so's the money.
One has to think, with the doom and gloom shrouding the U.S. economy, and the knowledge that the three biggest general strikes the game has seen -- 1972, '81 and '94 -- each came during recessionary periods in the U.S., that there will be some fireworks after the current CBA runs out after the 2011 season.
No one can predict how it might shake out. The 1994-95 strike, which ultimately drove a huge nail in the Montreal Expos' coffin and killed off a lot of fan interest in the Blue Jays, was not players vs. owners. It was owners vs. owners -- Milwaukee, Minnesota and Kansas City vs. New York. Since then, the Yankees have made the playoffs in 13 of 14 seasons and have spent more money in the past two weeks than some teams are worth. How does it not come to a head, unless there are Jeffrey Loria types who like taking money from revenue sharing every year?
It is important to separate an informed view from a personal opinion. It says here that baseball needs the three R's -- revenue sharing, a revised schedule (i.e., balanced) and realignment, where the most profitable teams are grouped together in the same division. Salary caps are too simplistic by half, but what we've seen in the past two weeks is out of whack.
It probably will come down to whether the less profitable teams band together and if the McMansion teams -- Phillies, Mets, Cubs, Angels -- realize, as their front offices have, that they're not going to beat the Yankees by being more like the Yankees. The Red Sox have taken that to heart -- they're all about plowing their massive revenues back into player development, or using it to sign players from the Pacific Rim.
Those franchises might have to lead the way on any restructuring that will hold the Yankees' checkbook in check. It is amusing that everyone was cool with all of this up until yesterday and then turned into Linda McQuaig, but it seems like something has to give.
Here's a collection of thoughts on the signing:
Maury Brown, The Biz of Baseball: "The biggest catalyst for the spending involves how the latest CBA is structured as it pertains to new stadium development. Clubs may write off a portion of their revenue-sharing obligation by deducting bond payments and maintenance costs. By cutting those costs, at a 31 percent rate that is assigned the Yankees as part of the CBA, they are sheltering a sizable chunk of change.
"... the biggest loophole for the Yankees involves the tax-exempt bonds issued to build new Yankee Stadium. Nearly all of the $967 million in bonds that have been issued are tax exempt. To add more salt to the taxpayers’ wounds, the club is looking for an additional $259 million in bonds, all tax-exempt, as well."
Neil deMause, author of Field of Schemes, in an interview published Monday, had more to say on the Yankees' billion-dollar boondoggle: "I guess if the Yanks take their boodle and plow it into enough player salaries, the other teams might see a bit of money trickling down via the luxury tax. I can’t see that that will make up for the effect of giving the Yanks even more financial firepower to sign free agents, though. Add in that the other 29 teams are themselves kicking in more than $200 million toward the New York stadiums -- by allowing the Mets and Yanks to deduct stadium costs from revenue sharing -- and it's hard to see how this benefits anyone but the Steinbrenners and Wilpons.
"... I don’t think anyone in MLB seriously thinks they can bring the Yankees down to earth. Several years ago (commissioner Bud) Selig threatened to audit the Yankees for underpaying themselves for TV rights - which they’re almost certainly doing, to avoid revenue-sharing payments - but so far as anyone knows he never followed through.
"From a financial perspective, it's good for all the teams when one of them gets richer, even the Yankees. On the field, it’s not so hot -- though given recent history, being richer hasn't exactly made the Yanks world-beaters."
Roy Firestone of HDNet raised some similar points on MLB Home Plate's Inside Pitch this afternoon. The gist of it was:
- "People having opt-outs, that should be illegal. It's not fair to the fans, first and foremost."
- There is the spectre of three to four teams facing bankruptcy within the next few years.
- The "one story no one seems to be looking at" is the loss of advertising revenue from the auto industry, which far and away is baseball's No. 1 advertiser. The Yankees just lost a sponsorship deal with General Motors.
- "I'm telling you that ad revenue for television is going to reduced dramatically in the next 6-8 months ... I think that we're looking at a collision course, a kind of baseball armageddon."
- Firestone noted it's come to the point where some franchises, such as Baltimore and Kansas City can't even have one marketable star. Think back to the American League in the late 1980s. Cal Ripken Jr. played in Baltimore. Kirby Puckett was in Minnesota. Ken Griffey Jr. was in Seattle. Kansas City had George Brett. Milwaukee had Robin Yount and Paul Molitor -- people you looked forward to visits to your team's city. That isn't there for the casual fan so much anymore.
- "I believe there should be a salary cap, I believe people should push for it and I'm a pro-union guy ... the money's not the issues, it's the players having the entitlements, the opt-outs, and by the time you look up, you have four players on one team making $88 million, which is more than most teams."
Wallace Matthews, Newsday: "... no one could have imagined the kind of shameless shopping spree the Yankees have been on this month — $167 million for CC Sabathia, $82.5 million A.J. Burnett and now, a reported $180 million for Teixeira — at a time when more than 10 million Americans are out of work and another 4 million might join them in 2009.
"But no matter. Those 4 million out of work will be offset by another 4 million, the ones who can still afford to pay their way into the new Yankee Stadium. And the luxury boxes, averaging a half-million dollars a pop, are at 100-percent capacity, scarfed up by those corporations who can still afford such luxuries, even if they have to use your tax money and mine to pay for them."
Roch Kubatko, Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (which covers the Orioles): "The teams that worked the hardest in terms of changing their proposals and pressing agent Scott Boras -- the Red Sox, Nationals and Angels -- ended up with nothing."
Washington Times: "After 2011, the players union and team owners must hash out a new collective bargaining agreement. And it could get ugly, as we're already hearing some owners, including the Brewers' Mark Attanasio, push for a salary cap. League officials and the player' union will probably point to the current system as creating good competitive balance and strong revenue sharing, despite the Yankees free-spending ways."
(Aren't symposiums just a way of masking one's lack of original insight on a topic? Bingo.)
Brewers Owner Suggests Salary Cap After Yankees Spree (Bloomberg News)