Monday, July 23, 2007

Does Baseball need a Salary Cap?

Absolutely, and without a doubt, Major League Baseball should develop a salary-cap system to control the finances that are beginning to spiral out of control in the sports world. In an era that has dealt with a huge inflation rate over the last 10 years, selected baseball owners have the taken advantage of their positions in the baseball market and have created contracts that were "unthinkable" in the decades of the last century.

While I do agree that the luxury tax and revenue sharing ideas have helped cause somewhat of a soft cap on baseball, it hasn't done the job completely. Large market teams have considerable control over their destiny and success. Padres owner John Moores once wrote in the Wall Street Journal shortly after his team had, ironically, reached the World Series "Unless baseball changes the way it does business, it risks seeing its fans drift away, tired of their teams' futility. Perhaps 12 of 30 Major League teams have any possibility of reaching post-season play, and fewer still have a realistic hope of winning a pennant." That statement speaks volumes. Because Baseball is of course "America's Pastime", however the focus is now the keyword "past".

Football has slowly become the sport of the current age. The shorter season and the single game per week theory has equaled higher ratings and higher anticipation for the weekends. Not to mention the evolution and improvements in physical science that have led to stronger and quicker players which equal better action and entertainment on the field. More importantly, the NFL's salary cap has created an atmosphere that allows nearly any team in the league to have a chance to succeed in a given year. Football fans love the mindset of knowing their underdog team has a much better chance of playing for post-season contention than in Baseball because the cap prevents large market teams from "splurging" with their revenue and buying out the free agent market.

While the luxury tax and revenue sharing rules have helped soften the blow that league was starting to endure in the late 90's, it does not prevent large market teams from creating monsters. Let's take the Yankees for example. New York has payed oodles of cash through luxury taxes over the last few years and are yearly repeat offenders of the tax threshold that keeps teams in the clear. However, the mindset in New York is to win championships and anything short of that is failure. Their is no such tax that can change that mindset and the reason is because the Yankees have such a huge portion of the market and fan base that they do not care about what they have to pay out to the league. The Yankees are the prime example of what is wrong with baseball today. The only thing that could put some containment on these issues is a cap.

A salary cap equals better competition through out the league because it forces big name players to be placed on teams that can afford them. It prevents teams from creating "monsters" that conquer their respective divisions. The problem that results from having too many "monsters" in a league, are the fans of the smaller market teams that are tired of seeing the same "monsters" in championship races every year. It's like watching a David vs. Goliath match every year in the playoffs and fans are tired of it. As a result, we have not witnessed an "exciting" World Series since 1995 and 1996. The only reason why the 2001 series was so great is because the world witnessed the downing of the Yankee empire against the expansion team/underdog Diamondbacks. Fans love football because this doesn't happen. There are different teams in the playoffs almost every year, and the teams that are repeats deserve recognition for being successful teams because it is not easy in a salary-cap world. The New England Patriots are given much credit for being a franchise that has been so successful over the last seven years by winning three championships in an system that makes it nearly impossible to do so. When the Yankees won repeated championships, people accused them of simply "buying" them.

The bottom-line here is that at Major League Baseball is spinning into an uncertain future. With the economy inflating at the rate is has been recently, the league faces the risk of losing fans due to team inequality. Small market teams have less of a chance to succeed every year and their fan bases have shrunk. A salary cap would place these issues in check and give the market a chance to even out.

For a game that has such a prestigious history, it has slowly lost its title of being "America's Game". Now, its just the "Pastime".

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