Don’t Blame The Yankees

For the most part, I enjoy Rick Reilly’s work. I read his weekly column religiously when he worked for Sports Illustrated, and continued to follow him with some regularity when he moved over to ESPN.

But it’s articles like today’s – “Too Short For A Column, that remind me he’s just another run-of-the-mill mainstream media buffoon who hates the Yankees.

They’re having a parade because the New York Yankees won the title? Why not throw one because a bear ate a salmon? Or a hurricane knocked over a trash can? Hey, the bully just gave the nerd a wedgie! Let’s throw a parade!

Talk about sour grapes. Baseball has a system. And when there’s a problem with a system, people often look for one gross offender to point a finger at. For the situation in the Middle East, it’s often George W. Bush, and in baseball it’s the Yankees. It’s easier for ignorant people to identify one individual or item to symbolize their outrage than to pay attention to everything that’s problematic with the situation. If winning the World Series correlated to payroll, why not just award the Yankees the commissioner’s trophy and forgo the whole season?

The Yankees are only doing what they’re allowed to do in regards to what their system stipulates. While Rick Reilly and just about every non-Yankee fan whines about it, the Yankees free-spending isn’t the problem with baseball. It’s simply a by-product of a flawed system. Take for example this – I go to the doctor and he tells me I’m obese.

“That’s a problem,” I reply and my doctor says “No, the problem is you eat too many bacon cheeseburgers and exercise very rarely.” I can take medication to reduce my obesity, but unless I get rid of the unhealthy diet, I’m not fixing the problem.

When talking about the Yankees, the first response is nearly always to recommend a salary cap. “Look at the NFL!” people say but comparing the business model of the NFL and the business model of Major League Baseball is like comparing Marty McFly’s girlfriend in Back To The Future and Back To The Future II – they’re completely different! One game a week versus six or seven – or three if you’re in the playoffs. Sixteen games versus a hundred and sixty-two. Apples and oranges, Claudia Wells and Elizabeth Shue.

Baseball has no salary cap and teams are free to spend as much as they like in trying to put the best product out on the field year in and year out. But after a team’s payroll reaches a certain amount, they have to pay forty cents on the dollar for everything they spend from that point on. The Yankees pay this tax and they feed money into baseball revenue sharing program, which is distributed to teams across the sport – teams that sometimes spend this money on improving their team and sometimes that money finds its way into the owner’s pockets.

The late Carl Pohland, who owned the Minnesota Twins from 1984 until his death this past year was worth $3.6 billion dollars according to Forbes, making him the wealthiest MLB owner. And yet the Twins payroll has never ranked in the upper half of baseball since 1999.

As a Yankee fan, I am not about to deny the fact that my team begins each season with an advantage over the other 29 teams. Fair or not, the Yankees pay their tax and their revenue sharing money and are therefore allowed to spend freely.

A strict salary cap in baseball does nothing except take money out of the players pockets and put it back into the owner’s wallets. Perhaps surprisngly, I’m pro-labor when it comes to professional sports. Owner have every right to earn a profit but the talent has the right to share in those profits.

Would you rather have a cap and simply enrich the wealthiest teams’ owners or have that money flow down to the players who bring in most of those profits? Pay the talent that deserves to be paid and pay them at market rates, whatever they are able to earn.

Any fan would love to have George Steinbrenner as an owner because he has a personal interest in seeing his team win. That’s not to be confused with a financial interest, because every owner has that. To George, the personal interest outweighs the financial one. Not every owner can say that, in fact, very few professional sports owners can.

Joe Posnanski, another journalist I enjoy reading when he’s not bemoaning the Yankees financial clout, had an interesting thought the other day.

You have one team (and only one team) playing the video game on cheat-mode.”

An interesting concept, and he’s probably accurate with that statement. But I’d offer another equally interesting and true statement to accompany Joe’s.

Most teams have the capability of playing the video game on cheat-mode, but few teams choose to do so.

The Yankees are within every one of their rights operating the way they do. Complaining about them is simply sour grapes. There’s not a more successful sports franchise in this country than the New York Yankees. Both on and off the field, George Steinbrenner has built a powerful empire.

If Major League Baseball wants to update their luxury taxation system, that’s okay with me. There are plenty of ways to get creative with something like this without mentioning the idea of a salary cap. A salary cap simply hamstrings the Yankees and won’t address or fix them problem.

So don’t blame the Yankees for doing exactly what they’re allowed to do. Blame the system that they operate in or question why your team isn’t taking advantage of what is allowed. Complaining about someone else’s success never leads to any beneficial change. The best way to fix a problem is to work the problem.

Work the problem, people.


Posted on November 8, 2009, in Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. What is Apollo 13!

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