Yes, we know some baseball owners have been whining and moaning about the need for a salary cap in the wake of the Yankees’ winter spending spree. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio was the first to stand on the soap box and declare: “At the rate the Yankees are going, I’m not sure anyone can compete with them.” Astros owner Drayton McLane offered similar sentiments. A’s owner Lew Wolff tried to pass off his support of a cap to the betterment of the sport: “Parity is what we’re looking for.”

I’d estimate the chances of baseball adopting a salary cap at zero. The owners wanted it back in 1994, and we all saw how that turned out. There’s no chance they risk another labor stoppage over the cap issue. It’s dead and buried, despite a handful of owners crying about the big, bad Yankees. Yet it’s an issue that’s sure to come up plenty this season, especially if the Yankees get off to a hot start.

A few baseball writers have joined the small chorus in favor of a salary cap, but the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins makes a compelling case against a cap. He brings up a number of old arguments, but he lays them out in an easily digestible manner. It means a lot coming from a guy who writes about the Oakland A’s, a team with a relatively low budget. He notes the parity we’ve seen in baseball over this decade:

This decade has given us the very essence of baseball parity. Recalling the seven World Series matchups prior to Rays-Phillies, we find Boston over Colorado, St. Louis over Detroit, White Sox over Houston, Boston over St. Louis, Florida over the Yankees, Anaheim over the Giants and Arizona over the Yankees.

In other words, seven different winners in eight years, and only three teams even appearing twice over that span. Do we see the Yankees winning any of those World Series?

Jenkins also isn’t afraid to call out owners on their own foolishness. I couldn’t agree any more with this paragraph:

But let’s not hear owners – people who, ostensibly, built a fortune through smarts and good sense – crying, “Oh, somebody save me from my mistakes.” Teams fail because of their own stupidity and ill-advised transactions, not because they’re short on cash. What the Rays pulled off was no miracle, nor was it an aberration. That was just a flat-out superior team, built on dimes, nickels and guile.

He then goes onto compare baseball to the NBA, where they have a (largely ineffective) salary cap. Teams often trade contracts, not players. Their trades are also more complicated than necessary due to the cap and the rules regarding salary swaps. He correctly notes that only a handful of teams really compete in the NBA each year, and that in the past 30 years baseball has seen 20 teams win it all, while the NBA has seen nine. Yes, nine, as in, can count them on two hands.

I think Craig at Shysterball has a nice take on the issue:

Sure, no matter what the economic situation is, the Royals would never have been able to sign CC Sabathia. But without a salary cap in place at least there is an enemy to complain about in the Yankees or their skinflint owner or their brain dead GM or what have you. What do Kansas City bargoers complain about if there is a salary cap? Section 1.5(A)(1)(i)?

Such a discussion wouldn’t even be worth the beer.

Me? I think that the lack of a cap allows teams a greater flexibility in building their teams. Using Craig’s example, if the Royals think they’re one piece away from a serious title run, they can break the bank and bring in a big-name superstar, either via free agency or a trade. With a cap you can be one piece away and stuck right there, because the cap prevents you from make a team-benefitting move.

There’s also something to be said for playing to your strengths. We heralded the A’s after the release of Moneyball because they used their strength in statistical analysis to find inefficiencies in the methods of evaluating talent. That strength is considered by some to be more virtuous than that of money, since many of these teams can never have a level of capital equal to the Yankees. Yet it’s still a strength the Yankees posses. They pay the price for it, too. As many have noted, signing CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira guarantees nothing for the Yanks. They have to pay dearly, in terms of money, in terms of long-term commitment, and in terms of draft picks. Since their greatest strength is the dollar, they’ve chosen to use it in the best possible manner. If they chose to focus on the draft, but didn’t have a particular strength in drafting amateur players, that would be a mistake.

I know we’ve harped on this topic a lot this winter, perhaps too much. Yet I think it’s a topic worthy of robust discussion. There are some in favor of a salary cap in the name of parity, but an overwhelming amount of evidence suggests that no further parity would be created by instituting a cap.

Categories : Front Office
Comments (30)
  • Yanks avoid arbitration with Xavier Nady
    By

    According to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times, the Yanks and Xavier Nady have agreed to a $6.55 million salary for 2009. This is $0.55 million more than I had estimated. The Yanks still have Brian Bruney and Melky Cabrera on the agenda, though you have to figure those will get done relatively soon. The Yanks’ other arbitration case, Chien-Ming Wang, agreed to a $5 million contract last month.

    I took down the salary cap post in favor of this. That one will re-appear shortly.
    · (58) ·

  • Commissioner for a day
    By

    Over at It is about the money, stupid, Jason has posed an interesting question to his readers: What would you do if you were commissioner of baseball for a day? He published the first part of the responses today, and they focus around the questions of territoriality and the out-dated idea of territory rights in baseball. Check it out, and feel free leave your answer in the comments here. It’s certainly an interesting question. · (82) ·

It’s like clockwork: Whenever the Yankees sign a big-name free agent, baseball writers across the country dust off the old “baseball needs a salary cap” article, change some names and numbers, send it in to their editor, and enjoy the rest of their day off. When the Yanks went bananas this year by signing Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, it did reveal a major flaw in MLB’s never-ending attempt to even the playing the field, except it had nothing to do with a salary cap.

Six months before the Yanks opened their wallets, the Brewers went all in, trading four prospects (including ’07 first rounder Matt LaPorta) to the Indians for reigning AL Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia in an attempt to secure the franchise’s first playoff berth in a quarter century. The Brew Crew made the playoffs and then made a good-faith effort to retain Sabathia’s services after the season. But they got stuck with just a second-round pick and a sandwich rounder as compensation when he bolted for the greener pastures of New York.

Doug Melvin and Co. didn’t do anything wrong. The Yanks didn’t do anything underhanded. The Brewers simply got screwed by the system out of a first round compensation pick for the best pitcher to hit the open market in nearly a decade. The Brewers aren’t the only ones to get the shaft either; the Blue Jays received just a third round pick for watching Burnett head out of town. Baseball doesn’t need a salary cap, but it does need to fix its free agent compensation system. That’s what I’m here to do.

Read More→

Categories : Hot Stove League
Comments (44)
  • In search of a second catcher
    By

    The Yankees currently have two catchers on their projected Opening Day roster, but the differences between Jorge Posada and Jose Molina are extensive. Meanwhile, with Posada’s working his way back from a very serious injury, his catching 140+ games this season is no sure thing. To that end, Steven Goldman wonders if the Yanks would be best off signing a second starting catcher. He makes a compelling case for the argument, but the Yanks’ options are Jason Varitek and Pudge. While both could be had for the right price, they don’t add much offensively to the team. The Yanks will sink or swim with Posada. Hopefully, his shoulder can carry the load. · (66) ·

Looking back at this thread, which is hilarious in hindsight, some out there wanted the Yankees to offer arbitration to Ivan Rodriguez. Over a month and a half has passed since that deadline passed and, as with Bobby Abreu, we’ve heard few rumors of teams interested in Pudge. There’s just not a market for a 37-year-old catcher seeking a large contract.

The only real team I’ve seen him connected with is the Marlins. But landing there would mean a substantial pay cut from his 2008 salary:

Indications, however, are the only way Rodriguez would be a Marlin is if he is willing to play for the league minimum. For an established star like Pudge, that may not be the price he is willing to accept.

The O’s are out for Pudge, as they signed Gregg Zaun to handle duties until Matt Wieters is deemed fit for full-time duty. The Red Sox could use a catcher, but could Pudge catch a knuckleballer? We know Josh Bard can’t.

While Pudge’s destination isn’t known at this time, we do know one thing. If his agent had been able to properly forecast the MLB off-season landscape, he would have accepted an arbitration offer from the Yankees. And that would have been a bad thing — it might have cost them Mark Teixeira.

Categories : Hot Stove League
Comments (34)
  • No team for corner outfielders
    By

    While RAB readers are busy predicting Bobby Abreu’s eventual home. the former Yankee is watching his options dwindle. As MLBTR reported earlier this evening, Abreu’s price seems to be too steep for Cincinnati. At this point in the off season, the Reds seemed to be emerging as Abreu’s most likely destination, but with this news, my guess is that we’ll just have to wait for the Manny Ramirez dust to settle before Abreu finds a home for less money than he had hoped. · (62) ·

Provisional rosters for the sixteen countries taking part in the ’09 version of the World Baseball Classic were released earlier this evening on MLB Network, and I stupidly anticipated a thorough breakdown of each roster, or at least a graphic showing the players on each country’s squad. Instead I got a bunch of chit chat between analysts and famous players who called in, with the occasional note mixed in regarding big name players on a specific team.

Anywho, here’s a list of all the Yankees’ players I managed to find on various clubs:

USA: SS Derek Jeter (this was obvious since he was on stage for the WBC press conference during the winter meetings)
Dominican Republic: 3B Alex Rodriguez, 2B Robinson Cano

Woo hoo.

CC Sabathia declined the opportunity to play. Ex-Yanks Bobby Abreu and Pudge Rodriguez will suit up for Venezuela and Puerto Rico, respectively. They said the rosters would be available on the WBC site, but I can only find the 2006 rosters.

These are just the provisional 45-man rosters; 25-man rosters don’t have to be finalized until February 24th. The tournament starts 45 days from now in Tokyo, Mexico City, Toronto and San Juan. Tickets went on sale today; there will be games played in Petco, Dodger Stadium, and Dolphins Stadium.

Update (7.42pm): The provisional rosters are up. In addition to A-Rod, Jeter and Cano who I mentioned above, Al Aceves & Jorge Vazquez will be playing for Mexico, Melky Cabrera, Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras & Damaso Marte for the DR, Frankie Cervelli for Italy (Italy!), Jahdiel Santamaria for Panama, and Kai Lui and Zhenwang Zhang For China (you remember those two).

Here’s your open thread. The Knicks already beat the Bulls and the Islanders already lost to the Capitals (you get one guess:  who do you think scored both Caps’ goals?). The only local team in action tonight is the Devils, who are out in Nashville. I’ll be kicking it with the new episodes of House and 24. You know the routine, talk about whatever, just be nice.

Categories : Open Thread
Comments (150)
  • Bandwagon Nation: confirmed
    By

    The Red Sox picked up an under-the-radar free agent this winter: some kid named Tim, who they paid off to become a Sawx fan. Drunk Jays Fans has the news, complete with a full arsenal of not so nice language. This whole thing is just too funny. · (31) ·