As Opening Day dawns, MLB and its Players Union have each unwittingly taken a step closer toward the looming Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. The current CBA is set to expire in December of 2011, and as baseball economics for the 2010 season have come into focus, a few running themes have emerged.
First, it’s good for the wallet to be a Yankee. Just last week, the UK-based Sporting Intelligence published its first Annual Review of Global Sports Salaries. Although the report itself costs a pretty penny, the company issued a release summarizing their findings, and the Yankees came out on top. According to the report, the Yanks’ first-teamers — generally, their starters — earn an average of over $7 million a year topping the $6.4 million figure that Real Madrid’s front learn earns annually. Nice work if you can get it.
Meanwhile, within baseball, the Yankees obviously come out on top. USA Today released its own annual salary survey today, and the results place the Yanks first and the Red Sox second. Interestingly, 14 of the 30 teams have cut their Opening Day salaries from 2009 to 2010, and the average Opening Day salary increased just one percent from $3.26 million to $3.27. According to USA Today, that one-percent jump is the game’s smallest since salaries decreased in 2004.
The Yankees and the Red Sox, though, continued their war atop the AL East. Scott Boeck and Bob Nightengale write:
The New York Yankees retain their lead with a payroll of $206.3 million, a 2% increase, while their chief American League East rival, the Boston Red Sox, are second at $162.4 million, a 33% increase. The Yankees, whose payroll is nearly six times that of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ $34.9 million, are led by third baseman Alex Rodriguez’s $33 million salary. New York’s starting infield will earn $85.2M, more than 16 teams.
“We’re struggling to sign [first baseman Prince Fielder],” Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said, “and the Yankees infield is making more than our team.”
Therein lies the rub. The Yankees entire roster averages $5.5 million per player this year, and the Red Sox are at $3.75 million. The rest of baseball will be gunning for these two teams next year, but the real question is whether or not the Yanks’ and Boston’s relative wealth is a problem.
On the one hand, the money gives these two teams a clear competitive advantage. The Yanks and Red Sox have appeared in six of the last ten World Series, and these two teams made 15 combined postseason appearances during the decade of the double-zeroes. The Phillies, the NL’s representative in the previous two World Series, have the second highest payroll in the Senior Circuit. Money, it seems, has become a proxy for winning over the long haul.
On the other hand, the game is enjoying unprecedented economic success. New stadiums, most of them government-funded, dot the country, and revenues topped $6 billion in 2009. Fans flock to see the Red Sox and the Yankees travel the country, and the game is better off for it. Teams won’t agree to a salary cap or a salary floor, but the players and owners will still try to limit the perceived economic — if not competitive — imbalance in the AL East.
Today, we celebrate Opening Day on the field with the pomp and circumstance it deserves. The Yanks may have walked away from an ugly game with a bad loss last night, but that hardly dulls my excitement for the return of a full slate of regular season baseball. On the horizon, though, looms economic machinations, and as good as the Yankees have it on the field and in their savings accounts today, all of baseball will be gunning for the top dogs both on and off the field over the next two season.