Levine, Attanasio spar over baseball economics

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Randy Levine, with t-shirt and World Series trophy in tow. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

When USA Today released their annual salary survey yesterday, Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio had some choice words for the Yankees. The Brewers, what one might consider to be a mid- or small-market team, make do with what they have, but what they have pales in comparison with the Yanks’ coffers, and Attanasio, a Yankee fan by birth, knows this.

?We?re struggling to sign [first baseman Prince Fielder], and the Yankees infield is making more than our team,? he said to Bob Nightengale and Scott Boeck yesterday.

Today, Randy Levine, the Yanks’ team president, fired back. While speaking with Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York, Levine had this to say:

“I’m sorry that my friend Mark continues to whine about his running the Brewers. We play by all the rules and there doesn’t seem to be any complaints when teams such as the Brewers receive hundreds of millions of dollars that they get from us in revenue sharing the last few years. Take some of that money that you get from us and use that to sign your players.

“The question that should be asked is: Where has the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue sharing gone?”

In one sense, Levine has missed the boat here. Since purchasing the team for $223 million in 2005, Attanasio has increased Milwaukee’s payroll from the meager $27 million the Seligs spent annually to $80 million. The team draws approximately 3 million fans a year, and in a weak NL Central, the Brewers can, more or less, contend deep into the season every year. Attanasio has put his money and the revenue sharing dollars to good work, and in that sense, Levine’s charge rings false.

But in another, the Yanks’ president is right on the money. The Yankees have access to a media market far bigger than that of Milwaukee’s, and the team virtually sells out its entire 81-game home stand. They have paid, according to Maury Brown’s Biz of Baseball, $175 million in revenue sharing and are playing by the rules, as Levine says. Until Major League Baseball changes the rules, the Yankees should continue to play by those rules. Spend if you can. Spend if you have the money.

This isn’t the first time Attanasio has targeted the Yankees. He was not a happy camper when CC Sabathia turned down the Brewers’ $100 million offer to sign an even richer deal with the Yanks, and he knows that teams in Milwaukee’s position can’t compete, on a dollar for dollar basis, with the teams in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia. This clash might just be a media-driven war of words, but the big-market and small-market teams are gearing up to face off. I don’t know how they’ll fix what many perceive to be a competitive balance problem, but you can be this won’t be the last we hear from the Brewers or Yankees.

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  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    Where Attanasio is really wrong is that he bought the team knowing the rules. He made a choice to buy the Brewers. Screw him.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Oh, he knew the rules. He’s just mounting a PR campaign to try and alter the rules to the benefit of his club.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

        And he’ll kick himself when his handouts get smaller.

        If there was a blind vote to change the structure so that the Yankees spent less, and the rest of the teams get less money in revenue sharing and luxury tax, what do you think the vote would be? I bet it would be almost unanimous to keep it the way it is.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

          Well, that’s not the rule he wants to change. He wants to keep revenue sharing, but institute a salary cap.

          He wants the Yankees to keep sending their revenue to him, but he wants to end their ability to keep signing limitless big-ticket players.

          Best of both worlds.

          • Thomas

            Dante Hicks: Hey, whatcha rent?
            [reads the cover to Randal’s videotape]
            Dante Hicks: “Best of Both Worlds”?
            Randal Graves: Hermaphroditic porn. Starlets with both organs. You should see the box. Beautiful chicks with dicks that put mine to shame.
            Dante Hicks: And you rented this?
            Randal Graves: Hey, I like to expand my horizons.

            • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

              Tommie, hoist by his own petard!

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        forget him. tax him till he’s broke–i bet if we liquidated all of his assets we could pay for universal healthcare next thursday.

        no more whining from people with more money than i have–aka ‘the rich’

  • http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0902/mlb.alex.rodriguez.through.the.years/images/1993.alex-rodriguez.jpg Drew

    I’m happy with Levine firing back.

    If the Brewers cannot afford to sign their own homegrown superstar, that’s their problem. It has nothing to do with us.

    While I didn’t think Attanasio was taking a shot at us, I just think it was in poor taste to even make mention of our infield payroll.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Attanasio’s act plays in Peoria, though.

      (Or perhaps “It plays in Peshtigo”. Yeah, let’s go with that.)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peshtigo

      • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

        Waukesha anyone?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

          Alliteration: always awesome, Andy.

          • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

            Tommie: Always Irksome. ;-)

            Besides, their pumps are awesome:

            http://www.gowcb.com/products/pumps.asp (safe)

      • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

        Attanasio’s act plays in Peoria, though.
        Yeah, well, that’s ’cause they’re just a bunch of Peorians.

        • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

          http://www.instantcrickets.com

          You know…

          Peorians…peons.

          No one?

          Nevermind.

          There’s nothing to see here. Move it along.

  • http://www.allposters.com/IMAGES/19/MAD_MAX.jpg gxpanos

    Attanasio is an idiot, but ruddy-faced Randy needs to shut his trap–like, all the time.

    Every time Levine says something, I wish he hadn’t. The Yanks are playing by the rules, and they shouldnt feel the need to defend themselves for doing so.

    • http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0902/mlb.alex.rodriguez.through.the.years/images/1993.alex-rodriguez.jpg Drew

      This is probably the only time that I was happy Levine opened his mouth. If nothing else, I bet Brewer’s fans are now wondering where all that money did go. We’re not the low-mid market’s punching bag.

      • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

        If nothing else, I bet Brewer’s fans are now wondering where all that money did go.

        Unless Brewers’ fans are idiots, they know where the money went. As I said in the post, the team payroll was $27 million in 2004, and now it’s $80 million. The product on the field is better too.

    • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      I actually think I disagree. The pro-salary cap forces out there have been mounting a PR campaign the last couple of years; I think I want the Yanks to, occasionally, push back a little bit through the media.

  • Mike HC

    This is really a tough one. Is it better to have a relatively hard salary cap, or a soft cap with penalties, which is the current system?

    As a Yankee fan I hope things stay the same way. But at the same time, I hope things stay the same because we have a ridiculous advantage over every other team in the league. How is that even? At least part of the satisfaction is taken away knowing everyone did not have the same chance of winning.

    It is definitely a debate to be had.

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      some of that advantage is false–how many players get paid more BECAUSE its the Yankees/NY?

      It would be interesting to see how much our team would cost if we could somehow take the next offer down in this auction type world–what did Tex turn down to sign with us? CC (i mean, before he turned down us to play for us how much was he offered?)?

      i know even those numbers are heisenberg principled (sic) because the NYY exist, but for one of you smart guys who knows where that info is and how to access it and how to use it and gets paid by the govt (lookin’ at you eric), maybe you could help a brother out?

      • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

        Uncertainty Principle FTW!

        • king of fruitless hypotheticals

          idk wtf an oofys is, but you got the reference, so you’re ok with me!

          • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

            It’s a reference to the Open Thread on April Fool’s night. Some weirdo came around, claiming his name was Dr. Oofy Still, and posting under the names of other posters. He pretended TSJC and SGBL were his creations in a social experiment.

            I knew Oofy Still was a real person, whom Roald Dahl served with in the military and wrote about, so I started a fake character “The REAL Oofy” to harrass him, since he was clearly over the line in pretending to be other people. Then I decided that wasn’t enough, so I created a second one. The RABbis finally banned his ass. I never changed my e-mail, so the RABbis could confirm if they so chose.

            So…I was…the other Oofys. Or Oofies, if you prefer.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    If George Steinbrenner owned the Brewers, they’d have a $150 million payroll and be contenders.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

      Would they, though? I’m not sure about that.

      Can you build a cable network in Milwaukee that’s valued at over one billion dollars? Can you get local investors to loan you 1.2B for a new lavish stadium and get the local pols to float a probably illegal tax-free bond/land devaluation scheme to make it all possible? Do you have the 20M urban population base to enable you to charge $1000 for a front row seat?

      We have a gigantic payroll because we have an unequaled ability to make money. I think we have some innate structural advantages that make that possible. I don’t know if those structural advantages exist in any city in the midwest, possibly not even Chicago.

      • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

        We also have the advantage of our awesome history and unrivaled brand.

        How much of that may be due to the financial advantage is open to debate.
        I wasn’t around then, but apparently people have been bitching about our money since at least the ’50s, when the Kansas City A’s were “the Yanks’ farm team”…perhaps since we bought Babe Ruth.

      • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

        The big market is only part of it though. You gotta spend money to make money. Maybe not $150 million, but I guarantee he’d be spending what it takes to win. Carl Pohlad for years was the richest owner in baseball. He was a businessman. Steinbrenner is both businessman and ridiculous fan. If the 30 owners were fans, they’d spend more. Look at these owners that bounce around to different teams. They move for money, nothing else. If Big Stein owned the Brewers or one of 25 other teams, he’d both spend and make more money (not net though) than the current owners.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

          I’ll agree that Stein would be a better and more aggressive small market owner than most small market owners. But it’s hard to say how aggressive and/or how successful he’d actually be.

          If he owned the Brewers, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran them exactly how the younger Pohlad now runs the Twins. Build a new stadium, raise profits, raise payroll, lock up young stars but sell some off as well, try and stay close and concentrate on the farm, but maybe never really break fully through.

          Just my hunch.

          • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

            Agreed.

            Younger Pohlad>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Daddy Pohlad

        • Mike HC

          It would still be in his best interest to curtail the spending of big market teams, regardless of what he spent. Assuming he would spend more than the current Brewers GM, it would still make sense for him to rally against the big market teams. I doubt the highly competitive Boss would sit by and watch the NBA, NFL and NHL all have hard salary caps keeping the competition even, while MLB did not. He would have been a pain in everyones ass until the rules changed.

          That is actually a crazy what if. What if Steinbrener was only able to buy a small market team. How would that have changed the landscape of baseball today?

      • king of fruitless hypotheticals

        its even tougher in chicago–they have TWO baseball teams there.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

          Yeah, but they also have three or four times as many people in their metro area than Milwaukee does.

    • http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0902/mlb.alex.rodriguez.through.the.years/images/1993.alex-rodriguez.jpg Drew

      Seriously.. Plus, if the Pack can pack the Frozen Tundra in the dead of winter, and having a waiting list for season tickets that spans decades, you can pack a ball park. Spend to get Mr. Attanasio.

      • http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0902/mlb.alex.rodriguez.through.the.years/images/1993.alex-rodriguez.jpg Drew

        *and have, not having.

  • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

    RAN-DEE! RAN-DEE! RAN-DEE!

    But seriously…I’m not an accountant, but this part of the post:

    …Attanasio has increased Milwaukee’s payroll from the meager $27 million the Seligs spent annually to $80 million.”

    makes me wonder.
    The Seligs owned the team quite a while ago, right? How much is inflation over those years, and what would it do to raise that $27 Mil closer to $80 Mil? Obviously it’s not going to bring it all the way up, but what’s the difference, adjusted for inflation, between the two numbers?

    • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

      No one wants to bother running the numbers, eh?

      I would, but it’s not my forté, and I’d probably eff it up.

      • V

        It’s only been 5 years.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a The Large Sample Size

          What cost $27M in 2004 would cost $30.41 in 2009.

          http://www.westegg.com/inflation/infl.cgi

          So, not much. Only around 3M of the 50M increase from Selig’s last year is due to simple inflation.

          Furthermore, it’s misleading. The 2004 Brewers payroll during the final year of Selig’s ownership was the lowest payroll they’d had in years. In 2002, the Brewers payroll was 50M.

          * Opening Day payrolls for 25-man roster
          (salaries plus pro-rated signing bonuses):
          o 2009: $ 80,182,502
          o 2008: $ 80,937,499
          o 2007: $ 70,986,500
          o 2006: $ 57,568,333
          o 2005: $ 39,934,833
          Club sold from Selig to Attanasio
          o 2004: $ 27,528,500
          o 2003: $ 40,627,000
          o 2002: $ 50,287,833
          o 2001: $ 43,886,883
          o 2000: $ 35,800,000

          http://mlbcontracts.blogspot.c.....ewers.html

          • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

            OK, thanks for that.

            I knew it wouldn’t be a big difference, but thought it might be significant.

            What is somewhat more significant is the point you made in the latter half of your post. So the difference is really not as large as we thought.

            Well done, Tommie.

            (…3…2…1…)

          • http://www.secondavenuesagas.com Benjamin Kabak

            So let’s do a five-year average then. 2000-2004, the Brewers spent on average $40 million on payroll. It’s doubled since then. My point still stands.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Your Favorite Pundit’s Favorite Pundit

              I wasn’t trying to disagree with your point. I agree with your point.

            • http://captnsblog.wordpress.com/ Will

              The problem is you are comparing the increase off of an artificially low base. If you look at how much money the Brewers were getting in revenue sharing along side their net profit before the sale of the team, it sure looks like costs were being kept low to maximize franchise value for a sale. Attanasio deserves a little bit of credit for not simply buying the team as a cash cow, but it also must be noted that the Brewers still make a nice profit (and have since Attansio bought the team), so it’s not like their backs are against the wall. In fact, their profit has been $98mn since 2005 (while the franchise value has increased by over 50%. In other words, Attansio has benefitted greatly from the current economic climate in baseball, so he should stop complaining about it.

  • http://captnsblog.wordpress.com/ Will

    Can the Brewers beat out the Cardinals before they worry about the Yankees?

    Also, even at an $83mn payroll, the Brewers net profit was $12mn (and thats without considering any accounting tricks). Considering all the money they pocketed under the Selig era, its pretty obvious that they were underspending their means for a long time before Attanasio took over the reigns.

  • http://mystiqueandaura.com Steve H

    Jeff Suppan rhp
    4 years/$42M (2007-10), plus 2011 club option

    David Riske rhp
    3 years/$13M (2008-10), plus 2011 club option

    LaTroy Hawkins rhp
    2 years/$7.5M (2010-11)

    Craig Counsell inf
    1 year/$2.1M (2010)

    There’s your missing Prince Fielder money Mark.

    • Shaun

      $42Mill for Suppan is overpaying, IMO I know pitching doesn’t come cheap, but jeez.

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Templeton_Peck Templeton “brendog” Peck

        wasnt he just coming off a dominating WS and playfoffs with st louis? not full justification but some

    • ultimate913

      But think about it this way. The Yanks have a much higher payroll so they can make mistakes like that and STILL have some left over to sign others. The Brewers can very well contend every year but they just need a very good FO and scouters. Where the Yankees dont need that and can contend every year. What Mark wants is for everyone to have a similar salary cap so that everyone has practically the same chance at success and failure. So that it all comes down to the scouts and FO. Not just throwing money around.

      But I am a Yankee fan so go **** yourself, Mark.

    • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

      If the Brewers didn’t learn for our experience with LaTroy Hawkins, and still signed him to that contract…

      It only strengthens the point that the Brewers are making more than their fair share of mistakes.

  • LosingOurHeads

    I don’t know how to level the playing field when the playing field is not level. The bigger markets get bigger revenue and draw bigger name players. Will the Brewers ask us to import New Yorkers to Wisconsin? Or will they insist that non-New Yorkers not be Yankee fans because there are not Brewer fans spread throughout the country? Will they insist that Yankee fans not stream to non-home games the way they do now? If you go to any Yankee game on the road, there will be more Yankee fans than any other club gets on the road. Is that unfair too? Exactly how do we even this all out?

    • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

      And, of course, there’s the bigger question: should the playing field be leveled? This ain’t Kindergarten, where even the worst loser gets a medal for “participation”.

      And if so, how do you “hurt” the best teams evenly? Do you go after the middle-market teams too, as they also have an advantage over the small-market teams?

      Personally, I think nothing major will change…because this is not really about “fairness”. It’s about money. And every owner seems to be making money at this point.

      If the Twins, Marlins, Royals, et al., really cared about winning, they’d put some of their own money in, like Stein has. Instead they sit back and slash budgets, and rake in revenue sharing.

      • Shaun

        The thing a lot of people don’t seem to want to accept about baseball is it IS a business.

        There’s no point in even giving those teams (though, I’d cut the Twins out of that, their salary is about $100m now, and I suspect it would increase with the new stadium automatically increasing interest in a team that was doing well to begin with) revenue sharing if they don’t have a desire to reinvest it into building better teams. The revenue sharing isn’t supposed to be pocket money for a lot of owners, but it seems like that’s what’s happening. The Marlins, for example, received more money from revenue sharing last year than they even spent on their entire payroll. They should HAVE to spend AT LEAST as much as they’re receiving, that shouldn’t even be questioned.

        • Shaun

          Also wanted to add, you shouldn’t expect a big profit if you’re not putting a good product on the field.

        • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

          I think we agree here.

          Also, another point re. the Twins: they’re now out from under their HORRIFIC stadium deal.
          IIRC, they made nothing, and actually had to pay for the privilege of playing in the Baggie.

          There have been rumblings for awhile no that there would be payroll increases once that was no longer a factor.

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

    • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

      Damn you, Joe, and your magical Adminstrator powers that put us all to shame with our puny text ramblings! ;-)

    • al

      THANK YOU! I was hoping that would have been on the home page.

      … next step for Levine… prank calling Attanasio with the Arnold Soundboard.

      Who is your daddy and what does he do?

  • melky
  • http://mystiqueandaura.com/ pete

    I would be willing to bet that the competition the Yankees face over the next ten years in the AL East more than makes up for whatever financial advantage they might have over the Brewers. The entire national league has two teams that are consistently dominant. There are two in the Yankees division, and their pounding of the lesser teams in that division enables those teams to stockpile high draft picks until they take over as Great Team #3.

    When it comes to rebuilding, the Yankees, who are essentially not allowed to miss the playoffs, let alone lose close the 90+ games needed for a top-10 pick, are at a huge disadvantage versus a team like the Brewers, that can suck for two years, and be competing within the next couple years after that. What’s more, the dominance of the Yankees and Red Sox allows the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Rays to go into re-building mode very easily, since they’ll sell so many tickets every time the Yankees or Sox come to town, which is 36 times a year, that they can financially sustain themselves through a dropoff in performance (i.e. trade all their big stars right before they hit FA, and with the prospects they gain from those trades, plus the prospects they get in the next two drafts after sucking from trading off their players, build a team that can compete with the Sox and Yanks).

    I’m sorry but it’s awfully tough to argue that a baseball has a competitive imbalance when the team that is supposedly most advantaged has to play against AND beat out the (probable) 2nd and 4th best teams in baseball just to make the playoffs.

  • http://cid-e3a022289d65b5c0.skydrive.live.com/self.aspx/Assorted/foul.jpg Andy in NYC aka the Other Oofys

    Badly run teams will perform badly. Giving them more money will only make the mistakes larger; it won’t make them competitive.

    The answer here is to contract or move any team that can’t be competitive in their market.

    There have been a ton of poor choices for locations of expansion teams. Move or contract the teams whose markets don’t support them; or shut up. As noted in the article, Attanasio knew damn well what market he was buying into, as did Mr. Marlins.

    You know what this reminds me of?

    My Father lives out on the North Fork of L.I., in farming country. Over and over, city people buy houses out there because they like the country…only to start immediately agitating for laws to stop the farmers from running their tractors at 6 AM.

    You knew what you were getting into. Stop with the disingenuous crap.

  • Andrew S

    Don’t blame the Yankees for offering the money because they have it, blame the players for taking it.