A Salary Cap In Baseball?

Kenny Ducey@kennyduceyContributor IJanuary 23, 2009

“For years, the New York Yankees have demonstrated their greatness, and the same can be said for Philman’s Bologna.” Although that last quote is just a hilarious impersonation of a New York Yankees radio advertisement by Matt Borkowski, it demonstrates a good point.

With the economy at a low, it is harder than ever for MLB franchises to sign big-name players that could provide the spark they need to reach the playoffs. Teams like the Yankees don’t make it very easy for financially troubled teams to improve their station at all. The humorous part of this Borkowski joke is that teams like the Kansas City Royals look like Philman’s Bologna when compared the Yankees.

The Yankees—the wealthiest team in baseball—were able to throw out hundreds of millions of dollars to multiple top-notch free agents this year, and still have the money to negotiate further. To teams like the San Francisco Giants, a player like Mark Teixeira—who was signed to a $180 million dollar deal with the Yankees this off-season—is prohibitively expensive. Many teams can’t even afford these players.

So how does this situation get fixed? Some people are suggesting a salary cap: a limit on how much any one team can spend. I believe there already is a sufficient solution to this problem.

The luxury tax in baseball has been providing teams like the Tampa Bay Rays (before their 2008 postseason run) money to improve their franchise. The Rays are a great example of how teams can succeed without the aid of a salary cap. The Rays had been the laughing stock of the league for years, but over those years, they received money from high-salary teams like the Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox via the luxury tax.

For years, the Rays finished last in the AL East and drafted cream-of-the-crop prospects with their high draft choices, prospects such as Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, Josh Hamilton, and David Price, among others.

Some found it strange that the Rays weren’t using their luxury tax money to acquire big-name free agents. But instead, the Rays were quietly spending time developing these young prospects. Tampa Bay threw some of its luxury tax money to low-cost veterans like Eric Hinske, and in 2008, the Rays had themselves some talented young players on the roster under the wing of some veterans. All of these kids started performing in the field and at the dish, and eventually the Tampa Bay Rays ended up in the World Series.

Because of the World Series run, the Rays increased their attendance, and ultimately increased their revenue. The revenue increase led to the signing of a big bat this year in Pat Burrell, and who knows what will come next? Maybe the Rays will develop into a team with a lot of money.

The Rays demonstrated a franchise-managing model that is not dependent on signing big name players. However, this model does have some cons. Your team has to pretty much stink for at least five years to allow the development a good young team, because you will never have the money to sign a big name.

Lacking big names could cause a drop in attendance, since the team will not be dominating on a daily basis, and there would be an ever-growing chance of franchise relocation. Applying a salary cap to baseball would prevent all of the best free agents going to a select few teams, and would give some lower-end teams the chance to acquire a big name like C.C. Sabathia. But, as a Yankee fan, I sadly know that money alone can’t buy victories.

Even if a salary cap would benefit the MLB, the MLB likely still wouldn’t implement it. America’s National Pastime hasn’t made many significant alterations in how the game is played in nearly a century (save for the Designated Hitter). Major League Baseball is all about tradition. In fact, the installation of instant replay came as a huge surprise. My personal opinion is that franchises should put in the diligence and hard work to sculpt a team from dirt.

What’s your opinion? Do you support a salary cap in baseball?  Debate this topic at forums.sportsguysblog.com! Let the debate begin!