August 24, 2009

Rain On Me

The following is an email from my boy Lee(tch) in response to Friday's post, The Almighty Dollar:

"The problem with baseball (and I mean problem because clearly everyone notices it yet no one who actually has a say wants to do anything about it) is that year in and year out it is run mainly by two baseball clubs who battle it out to see who can outdo each other in payroll spending. MLB's refusal to even entertain an idea of a salary cap goes way beyond logic in terms of keeping the sport competitive to all teams, and will only mean our Toronto Blue Jays will probably be battling for the Wild Card position for years to come.

"The fix to all of this? Simple, (one would think!) expand the freaking playoffs system to be on par with all the other major professional sports in North America and take out Interleague play. Yes, it's that simple. I know baseball purists will argue against this and say it goes against tradition but while you sit your fat lazy ass on the couch and drink your beer all in the name of tradition, consider this: baseball is a declining sport in terms of reaching out to new viewers and I can't blame them if you pretty much know your team is out of any playoff contention by mid-June.

"Make the sport more appealing to the casual fan so they can't complain about our team only spent X gazillions of dollars this year but it still wasn't enough to match the Yankees who spent 10X gazillions trillions of dollars. Time for a change eyebleaf. Yes we can."

My man makes some good points. MLB "attendance is down about five percent this year." Back in May, The Wall Street Journal reported that baseball is "Mired in a Mysterious Ratings Slump." (To be fair, MLB reported in June that "Baseball's TV ratings holding steady.") The bottom line: fewer gate receipts, and zero growth on television (regardless of who you believe).

Yet I don't see a change to the playoff format on the horizon. I don't believe a mainstream discussion on the topic is even taking place. Lee(tch) is right: the playoffs (!!1) are a sport's showcase. In a season so long, more teams invited to the dance would undoubtedly increase attention.

Playoff revenue is where it's at. It's the old adage: "It takes money to make money." Right now, in a market with little regulation, the path to said playoff revenue is clear: spend. A team in the top 10 in payroll greatly increases its chances to qualify for the postseason. And because baseball doesn't allow for the trading of draft picks, the rich clubs are assured, too, of developing their own homegrown talent. The team on the field isn't the only product of greater resources; the scouting department is as well.

While it may not be on the horizon at the moment, economic reform - a ceiling and floor on team payroll - will come to baseball. It's a matter of when, not if.


A couple of folks had issues with the comments section last week, and that ain't right. I appreciate any and all discussion so, with that in mind, we've switched back to the tried, tested, and true pop-up window format. Let the commentary flow freely.

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Steve G. said...

A floor and cap don't really help competitive balance, though. The Yankees and Red Sox would still spend the most, and I imagine you'd have more teams hovering near the floor, creating a mess of mediocrity each year similar to what the NFL has.

There are enough examples out there - the Twins, Athletics, Florida Marlins, Rays - to suggest that strong management matters far more than payroll. The Red Sox and Yankees do have the two highest payrolls, but they also have a lot of homegrown all-star talent that they resign - that Jeter guy, Youkilis, Pedroia, Lester, Cano, etc. Their scouting and management deserve as much credit as their payroll "advantage", much of which they've created themselves with their success, since Boston isn't exactly New York or Chicago in terms of size. Without good management, the Sox and Yankees are the Mets or Seattle or pre-DePodesta Dodgers.

Tao of Stieb said...

Frankly, I'll take the MLB system over any of the other sports bizarro salary cap systems.

For the life of me, I can't wrap my head around anything in the NBA's signing season, and the majority of moves seem to be oriented around shedding salary versus making the team better.

Seeing Alex Rios walk away for nothing was difficult, but having three or four such transactions per year would be brutal.

Ghostrunner said...

Here's my philosophy in life: do the opposite of whatever the NFL does.

Just say no to poor owners crying poor. Salary cap means nothing, especially in sports without a strong national TV deal. In all honesty, why should the Yankees be punished for the Nats inability to sign a lucrative regional TV deal, attract fans or manage their club?

As I've said before, we're asking publicly traded companies to sacrifice MILLIONS of dollars so our favorite TV show can have a better ending.


Hungry Leafs Fan said...

As much as I would like to see a salary cap to even the playing field, more teams in the playoffs would be even better. I would love to one day see 8 teams from each league even if that means cutting down the regular season by 20 games or so.

Drew - LtB said...

Gross. No more "playoff" teams. September IS the playoffs. Finishing out of the top 3 or 4 in the NHL/NBA is meaningless, 99 times out of 100.

It's a sop to the fans hiding an excuse to charge double for games just as "meaningful" as a Jays - Rays game in the last week of September.

eyebleaf said...

If a salary cap (with a hard floor and ceiling) is out of the question, I'm voting for more playoff teams.

At the end of the day, I want my favourite show to have a better ending. I don't want to see the same show, year after year after year after year.

I agree with the Tao about the NBA salary cap and NFL salary cap system; fuck all that extra noise. I like the hard rules of the NHL's cap system.

Drew, you're good with the status quo?

eyebleaf said...

@ Steve: "...creating a mess of mediocrity each year similar to what the NFL has."

The NFL is most often cited as the league with the most parity.

Lee(tch) said...

I'm famous! Wooooaoo!

Great points and good read as always.

Mattt said...

I'm ok with the way things are in all of the leagues. It's what makes each sport unique. The different rules, caps etc...

William said...

Look, I grew up in New Jersey in the sixties and the Yankees were a dead team that couldn't even draw a million fans. Ticket prices were so low that after my dad died, my mom used to "babysit" us by giving my brother and me $5 each which would cover the bus, the subway and bleacher seats and a coke.

The point is, the Yankees grew into the monster they are now through shrewd deals and winning teams, originally from home grown talent and augmented by free agent signings when free agency came into the picture.

They already (unfairly I might add) contribute to all the other teams because of the salary tax. Why should they be forced to abandon what they have built because other teams haven't been as shrewd?

The Red Sox are the same story. They were pretty abysmal for quite a while and then the current owners grew NESN and got smart people to evaluate talent and grew into the money machine they are now (with an old ballpark too).

It seems to me that all the salary caps in the world haven't made the Cincinnati Bengels or the Clippers any better. A bad organization is a bad organization. Tao is right, do you really want the madness that is the NBA off season?

Okay, so let's talk about more playoff teams. What are you going to do? Play until December? Or cut the schedule back to 154 games? Each choice is problematic. The former because of the weather, the latter because of records and incentive clauses, etc.

And the last point in all this is that the MLB players have the strongest union in sports. There will never be a day when they agree on a salary cap. Not going to happen.

Steve G. said...

The NFL is most often cited as the league with the most parity.

Yes, and if it weren't for the Patriots and Colts, there wouldn't be anyone to hate, because teams seem to flip-flop between good and bad seasons. There are a couple really good teams year in and year out, and a couple doormats, and the rest are just flip-flopping in the middle.

Some might call that "parity", but I consider it more akin to the lottery, unless you're a Colts, Pats or (possibly) Eagles fan.

showcase29 said...


Anonymous said...

Rather than copy and paste my epic rant in Drew's comments. I'll link to it. (Link) To sum up though, the only reason I can think of why a Blue Jays fan would want to maintain the status quo is some kind of deep-seeded self-loathing.

I will respond to Steve G.'s comment about the Yankees' "homegrown talent", however. What about Teixeira, Sabathia, Burnett, Damon, A-Rod, Swisher? Not so "home-grown". It blows my mind that people really think this system is what's best for the sport.


eyebleaf said...

@ Mattt: I definitely agree with you on the uniqueness of baseball. It's what makes it great. People bitch and moan about the "long season," but in a league where so few teams make the playoffs, each and every game is important.

@ William: Thank you for the perspective from the other side. Much appreciated. I saw your post; I need to read it still, and then comment on it. I'm not saying the Yankees and Red Sox need to be punished; I'm saying the playing field needs to be more even. You bring up the Bengals and the Clippers, and rightfully so. They are moribund franchises. My point is that the Jays are not. The Jays are a competitive team, for the most part, but are unable to win b/c of their geography (hello, AL East) and because of MLB's economics. As for your comment about salary cap's, I'm sure the same was said about the NBA, NFL and NHL.

@ Steve: It's tough to compare the NFL and MLB, especially in terms of playoffs, because of the nature of football. "Any given Sunday." It's one game. Baseball's a different beast. There's more of a Cinderella aspect to football.

@ Showcase: Huge tune. I'm still kicking my ass over the fact we didn't go to the concert. Fuck.

@ Scott: I read Drew's post, and your comment. Everyone should do the same. Drew's the King. And, yes, that is some impressive Yankees homegrown talent. In all seriousness, I can think of a few off the top of my head: Jeter (the King of NY), Cano, Joba, Hughes. Posada, too, I think. Like I said, every team has homegrown talent. The Yankees are able to go out and surround that talent with more talent. Great talent. Lots and lots of talent.

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