I posted this to an old thread out in MLB land, so I figured I would repost it here. The original article argued for a division realignment and expansion (so you would have 8 4 team divisions) and for eliminating the wild card. What follows is my response, built on the quick thoughts I scribbled yesterday.
I don’t think baseball needs a salary ceiling as much as it needs a floor. Rather than instituting a cap, I would push for a more realistic luxury tax. If you look at the luxury tax rules [wikipedia], then you can see that the MLB luxury tax is set impractically high, such that only the Yankees are ever really in danger of crossing the threshold. By implementing a realistic cap, say at 100 million dollars (to throw out a figure that represents about the top 33% percentile in payrolls–9 teams have salaries over 100 million this season[cbssports.com]), you could produce a revenue sharing system that would help teams like the Marlins, the Pirates, and the Nationals meet a 65 million dollar floor.
Of course, the baseball owners will never agree to such a revenue sharing system. This is the system that propelled the NFL to the top of America’s sports landscape, and we can see those owners are ready to repeal the very system that stimulated their growth. Instead of expansion, the long-term prognosis for the current economic ecology probably dictates a bit of extinction. Teams at the bottom will likely never get the opportunity to compete. I get that the league has a fair amount of competitive balance at the top, but its ridiculously unfair for those teams at the bottom.
The only other thing I would disagree with is getting rid of the wild card. The wild card allows good teams in the same division as great teams a chance to compete for the title. Nothing is more annoying than watching a team in the AL West make the playoffs when a third place team in the AL East has a better record against tougher competition. I remember how much more annoying it was when you had to watch lesser teams make the playoffs over second place teams in better divisions. Let’s not go back to that.
A few quick thoughts:
- I’m glad to see Nomar retire making peace with Boston. Before his wrist injury, he was the greatest contact hitter of his generation. Ted Williams thought Nomar was the most likely to ever challenge his .406 average. He won’t make the Hall of Fame, but he could have. .
- I’m sad for Twins fans–Nathan is one of the under-rated players in all of baseball
- I’m conflicted over the idea of league realignment. I need to read and think more about it, certainly. But here’s my gut: baseball has to do something to address both the radical salary discrepancies across the league and the absolute unfairness the Orioles, Rays, and Jays face playing in the AL East. The ESPN-ification of sports fundamentally changes the competitive landscape. I’m not saying there has to be a regimented salary cap, but they have to do more to make sure that the Yankees corner infielders don’t make more money that 6 teams in the league. Really, there’s only one team in baseball that shatters the “relative” ceiling–the problem is more with the floor. Baseball needs a minimum salary, and a way of ensuring that all teams can meet the floor.