I don't know about you, but to me and my friends, what seperates the NFL from the rest of the sports are the various cutdown days where teams must get under the cap by cutting a variety of veterans, established role players, and early round busts that may fulfill their potential somewhere else. Nothing is more fun then speculating where a certain player may land or where he may fit best in his search for a new team.
The first day of the 2009 National Football League free agency period kicked off at 12:01AM as players who were recently released scrambled along with the other unrestricted free agents and their agents to line up interviews and visits with their potential future employers.
While we saw some teams like the Washington Redskins foolishly spend $154 million on two players in the opening minutes, similar to how the New York Yankees operate, we also saw some teams similar to the Cleveland Indians, the New York Jets, in terms of payroll make some early splashes landing former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Bart Scott with a 5 year $40 million dollar contract, and traded for former Pro-Bowler Lito Sheppard. The Jets are 12th in the league in total payroll out of thirty-two teams, and the Indians are 16th out of thirty teams based on 2008 payrolls.
Now Bart Scott isn't exactly Manny Ramirez but for the Ravens, 31st in the league in total payroll, losing his talent, would be similar to the Oakland Athletics, 29th in the league in payroll, losing Eric Chavez to a team like the Houston Astros who sit 14th in the league in payroll.
Why does this matter? Well for one, in baseball, Eric Chavez is one of the few veterans the Athletics have, he's also one of their leaders, longest tenured players, and one of their more productive players. Because they don't have the ability to structure stars around him, losing him would hurt the A's a whole lot more than losing Bart Scott will hurt the Ravens.
Based on 2008 figures, the average team payroll was $89,913,087 and of this exactly thirteen teams exceeded this figure. Say we were to make this average our salary cap ceiling these thirteen teams would have to start shedding payroll similar to how the NFL operates to get under the cap.
Suddenly the Yankees, Tigers, Red Sox, Mets, Angels, Cubs, and Dodgers to name a few, don't look that daunting any more do they? They'd be the one who'd have to shed the most, with the Yankees having to shed over half their payroll which sat at $209,081,579 last year. If Yankees fans are currently thinking "No freakin' way am I'se a gonna cut my teams payroll in half, buddy" that would be a 42% decrease.
Now Teixeira never comes to The Bronx, A Rod and Jeter either restructure their contracts like the stars do in the NFL or they leave, Andy Pettitte probably never comes back, and of course, there would be no way in hell A.J. Burnett or C.C. Sabathia could have got within twenty five miles of the borough.
Can you imagine the Mets forced to restructure or cut Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, David Wright or Jose Reyes? One of them would almost certainly be a cap casualty and likely the former two would never have signed their in the first place.
Teixeira probably ends up with the Orioles or Nationals who were the next highest bidders for his services. All of a sudden, they don't look as bad as they do now and MLB is better as a whole with new markets believing they have a chance. Burnett takes that next highest offer- the Braves gave him, and you've now got a four team race in the N.L. East.
Finally, how fun would it be if C.C. Sabathia was be courted by every team, as free agency in theory should be, instead of a selective invitation-only private country club atmosphere for the rich and famous? How fun would it be if the Padres, Reds, or Rangers were legitimately able to offer him and his peers fair market contracts each season?
Or I don't know, he could have stayed with this last employer the Brewers, whom he single-handily re-ignited that franchise?
Some people might add "the luxury tax the Yankees and Red Sox are paying is basically the same thing, so chill out."
That would be inaccurate. Last year's luxury tax was $155 million meaning the Yankees had to write a check for $54 million ($209-155) to be distributed among the other poorer clubs that don't have this privilege. what's more, the luxury tax is too high as only the Yankees had to pay it.
Why not make the luxury tax lower where more teams, the bigger clubs, would actually feel its weight and power? Something around $100 million or the $89 million average I suggested? This way you have twelve more teams affected and thus directly contributing to the smaller clubs therefore better ensuing competitive balance that the baseball suits supposedly covet?
$54 million dispursed among twenty-nine other teams only amounts to an extra $1.8 million dollars per team to spend. What sense does it make to give this money equally to the Dodgers, Mets, Red Sox, and Angels than it does to the Pirates, Royals, Athletics, and Rays?
If $89 million is your cap, there would have to be a floor to prevent miserly owners from penny pinching like the Pirates brass is accused of for example. Let's place the floor at $55 million for starters, since it is the average between our new $89 million salary cap and the lowest payroll spent in 2008, that being the $21 million of the thrifty Florida Marlins.
Now we're looking at a cap of $89 million and a floor of $55 million for only a $34 million dollar difference in payrolls. If you don't think this is possible and this is some anti-Yankees vendetta, look no further than the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings.
Long time viewed as the Yankees of the NHL, they had gobs of money that the smaller Canadian clubs couldn't compete with, thus they made for easy targets of distaste. Playing now within the rules, they learned to manage their cap just like everyone else and after dumping half their veterans, managed to come back right where they left off as still the NHL's most popular, recognizable, and successful team, and I'm not even a Red Wings fan.
The Red Wings prove that you can play within the rules, even if its not what you're used to, nor do they necesarily agree with, yet still come out winners. While the Yankees and the rest of Major League Baseball would surely bellyache from the onset about fairness, in the end, they would be even a better product then they are now, and their fans, owners, and teams would be better of in the end because of it. Additionally, each year the cap and floor are re-adjusted in the NHL so it could be applicable here in MLB.
Why is it that the NFL is so widely popular in American culture? Because it is the one sport were dynasties are hardest to come by yet if you are smart about it like the Patriots are, you can still find ways to win within the rules. Better yet, teams will be less likely to vilify you for "buying players and championships" and rather admire you for your insight and mastery of the system in which you play.
Seventy-four year old Bud Selig has a chance to do three final things that will cement his legacy and appease those who despise him for his past avocation of contraction and steroids negligence all these years. While he is rightly credited with the introduction of the Wild Card and Inter league play, he is also shamed for his love of money, attitude towards steroids, and overall appearance of being a creepy, corrupt businessman.
He can start by giving back Roger Maris and Hank Aaron their rightful records, he can expand interleague play so that each team plays every other team in the league at least one series a year like in all the other major sports, but he can also go down as truly visionary and remarkable by giving his sport his personal stamp by strong-arming in a salary cap that most fans and casual observers all know is long overdue and preventing them from once again becoming the National Pastime in its ability to compete with the NFL.
The MLB players union is weak right now having been exposed in the A-Rod and his 103 buddies steroids scandal. Now is the time to win the public trust back and get us our salary cap to which we can truly give credit where credit is due.