The recent outrageous spending spree by the New York Yankees, has livened up the decades old debate of whether or not there should be a salary cap in baseball. I haven’t really weighed in on the hotly debated subject myself, but now would be as good a time as any.
For as long as I can remember, the Yankees have always been hated by millions of baseball fans and even a few dozen rival GM’s as well, for their outrageous and uncontrolled spending, and causing average player salaries to spiral out of control. One of those GM’s even referred to the Yankees as the “Evil Empire”, a moniker that has stuck and has fit them well.
The Yankees have been trading dollars for championships even going back to the days of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. They were always ready to help cash-strapped teams by swapping fists full of dollars in exchange for their un-affordable or highest valued stars.
During the “bonus-baby” era, it was the Yankees who always got the best players because they were willing to outbid anyone for the best amateur talent.
Back in the seventies, when Players Union president Marvin Miller, ushered in free agency, it was the Yankees who jumped on that bandwagon, took the steering wheel, and drove it to baseball hell.
When baseball changed the rules for the amateur draft and began offering compensation to the teams who were losing their best players, the Yankees found a way to exploit that system as well.
Even in foreign countries like Cuba and Japan, they know that if they want to play in America and get rich, just say you want to play for the Yankees. Orlando Hernandez braved shark infested waters to play for the Yankees. No other team even had a chance for his services. You call that a free market?
Mariano Rivera who is probably most responsible for the most recent Yankees championships, never made it to the free market. He was scooped up by the Yankees thanks to the largest fully funded baseball scouting department in the game, with thousands of registered and unregistered scouts world wide. Everyone in Panama knows that if you spot any player with an ounce of talent, call the Yankees and collect a handsome finders fee for your services.
Even when teams did their the best to try and compete, like the Texas Rangers when they gave A-Rod that landmark $252 million dollar contract, found themselves buried alive. Eventually they had to trade A-Rod to the Yankees and were forced to consume a huge chunk of his salary in the process. During those years, the Rangers were paying A-Rod $10 million dollars a year to play for the Yankees. He was their highest paid player at the time.
When will this madness end?
The baseball players union and the Yankees say we live in a free market and that those same principles should prevail in Major League Baseball. I beg to differ.
Baseball is a monopoly in every sense of the word. The anti-trust exemption has allowed baseball to thrive under a legal umbrella of protection that guarantees them the right to operate under their own set of rules without fear of reprisal, litigation, or competition from another would-be league.
The players and some owners want it both ways. They yield their double-edged sword to beat down any argument that questions the status-quo.
If any other professional sports league, or private and public business entity, operated under the auspices of such a legal environment, they would be shut down or forced to conform at a significant cost, most likely resulting in bankruptcy, merger, or buyout.
So please, save the “free market” argument for those who are oblivious to the reality of the situation, and not for one who has more than a fleeting knowledge of the situation.
Baseball needs a salary cap because it is not a fee market. It operates under the same rules of a private country club or chartered organization. It decides who can be a member of the club and who can’t. Membership is exclusive and a potential owner must pay tens of millions of dollars just to sit at the table and make a case for team ownership.
They say baseball is a business, but it’s not because they operate unlike any other business in the United States of America.
They say baseball is a game, but it’s not because the spirit of competition and fair play takes a back seat to greed and backroom deals in baseball.
Would you sit down to play a game of Monopoly if everyone started with $1,500 dollars each except for one other player who begins with $15,000?
Would you play a game of five card draw poker, if the player opposite you was able to draw six cards instead of three?
Now how about we add this little caveat… would you pay $5,000 each, to all the other players just so you could sit down and play either of those games, under those rules?
Of course you wouldn’t, you’re not an idiot are you?
When you prove the case that baseball is not a game, and nor is it a legal business (if they lost their anti-trust exemption), the answer to whether baseball needs a salary cap, not only becomes an emphatic yes, it makes you wonder why it has taken so long to even have a vote on the matter.
The answer to that question is still shockingly familiar… the richest voices are the loudest voices, and just as they can drown out the small market teams in competition, they can drown out the voices of reason in a logical debate as well.