First, there are rumblings of a call for a salary cap from baseball owners:
Some baseball owners say it may be time to reconsider a salary cap after the New York Yankees spent nearly a half-billion dollars on free agents during a recession that may cause some teams to retrench.
“I would ask, if it’s such a bad idea, what sport doesn’t have a salary cap other than us?” Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said Wednesday.
Now, admittedly, I’m a Yankee fan, and I like the team being able to spend big to bring in exciting ballplayers, so take my opinion on this with a grain of salt (like the ones so clearly visible on the pictures of the french fries in the old Stadium), but here’s the difference between salary caps in baseball and other sports: you can’t guarantee success with a high payroll in baseball. Look at the last twenty years of world series champs: it’s not about payroll. Even the Yankee run in the late nineties was about homegrown talent.
If you buy the best players in basketball, you can manufacture a dynasty–that’s why the cap makes things more competitive. In football, if you can afford to pay your 48th guy as much as other teams pay their 24th guy, you can create a better overall team and dominate. Baseball, on the other hand, is such a crapshoot that you simply can’t guarantee success. Now yes, the Yankees have a huge advantage with their payroll, and yes, they contend every year–but they haven’t won in years. They haven’t come close to winning in years. This competitive balance argument just doesn’t hold water.
AND…even if a competitive imbalance did exist, it shouldn’t impact day-to-day ticket sales, which would be the real issue for team owners. The Yankees sell out every game, home or road. That’s a good thing. For everyone. Any team can beat any other team on any day, literally. That’s what makes baseball great.
I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a cap–well, yes I am, because I want guys like CC and Tex coming in every year. I’m mainly saying that I don’t think it will have the kind of impact that would make it all worth it. Keep this in mind too — franchises will always have things that make them more attractive to players. The Yankees will always, no matter what MLB does, be a more attractive to franchise to certain players. There’s the history, of course. The biggest market in the country. The international acclaim. The city itself. The Yankees simply make more money than other teams; if they can’t use it on free agents, they’ll throw it into facilities, locker rooms, training technologies, scouting, player development — you simply can’t level the playing field. In fact, it might be in other teams’ best interest for the Yankees to keep throwing cash at free agents — if they ever took, say, the Marlins or Red Sox or Rays approach to player development with their resources, the balance of power could really shift forever.
(EDIT: Here’s a much, much, much better analysis of the whole thing.)