Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Talking Baseball

Today on Mike and Mike in the Morning, the guys had Fay Vincent (former commissioner of baseball) on, and he discussed the concept of making baseball more competitive against the Yankees and Red Sox vis a vis realignment.

One of the things that came up was the luxury tax, and the fact that smaller market teams such as Kansas City have some $90 million in tax revenue that they don't use to sign high priced players. The guys seemed to commiserate on this point, wondering where this extra revenue goes.

The concept seems simple enough, small market teams get X amount of money each year, and they have several million that they can use to woo the Pujols, Howards, Sheets, and other high impact players of the world, so they should be on relatively equal footing with teams like the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox.

There are a couple problems to this concept. First off, just because you have a lot of money to spend on players doesn't mean that the players are worth the amount of money they'd be paid (and some of us would argue that none of the players are worth what they're paid). It also presumes that a player who would get 35 million would like to be the one or two all-star salaried player(s) on a team that's put their bets on him rather than one of eight or ten players on a team with annual aspirations for the World Series like in New York.

What we have here is a situation where the wealthy are bitching about having to create a competitive environment. These guys don't want to share their money with the other teams in the league. I can't blame them for being selfish, and I suppose it makes sense to want to create an environment where only you will have the best toys and therefore the best chances to win.

However, baseball is an venue of entertainment; it's not war. There is an inherent logic in maintaining superiority in warfare whereas it is less sensible for the greater good in sports to have the entire market dominated by 15% of the teams. As evidence, consider the relative marketing success that is football. Football is clearly the most popular sport in America, due in no small part to the parity of the sport. Each year, every team except the Lions has a chance to improve or build upon its success and create a winning team. This parity instills connections to home teams which in turn creates a larger fan base. Each city can believe that their team is on the path to regular season and/or playoff success, and therefore the fans are more connected.

Baseball's current structure is geared towards creating the perception of a more even playing field. Unfortunately, this is just a perception, and the league seems to believe that as long as the big market teams are succeeding, they're filling seats, which is the best way to go. They point to the fact that when the Yankees are in town, teams sell more tickets. This strikes me as false logic, as if another team were to exhibit more success, or each team had more capacity for winning, then the fans would be more willing to show up for home games, which would thereby increase ticket sales across the board.

Rich people whining about the exact number of millions they have drives me crazy.

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