What does parity in Major League Baseball (MLB) really mean?
It would appear that the current system of revenue sharing and luxury tax is badly broken. The supposed "Evil Empire" run by the Steinbrenners continues to be berated by the media and fans alike for doing whatever it takes to put a competitive team on the field. At the same time fans complain and the media bestows pity on those "small market" teams such as Kansas City, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, etc...
Revenue sharing and luxury tax while nice in theory, just do not work. There are no checks and balances to ensure that those teams who reap the benefits of revenue sharing actually use the monies received to improve their teams. If those teams receive money as part of the scheme, they should be obligated to show where those proceeds go to.
George Steinbrenner has been good for baseball; he has shown all the qualities that an owner should to build a successful organization. The Yankees put together competitive teams year in and year out. Why is it that owners of those "small market" teams can't do the same thing?
The answer: They can! They simply choose not too; instead they focus on the bottom line and how much profit they squeeze. I would not suggest that a Major League team should not be profitable, it should an would be if run correctly.
A case in point is the Atlanta Braves. For the better part of 25 years from the '60s to the late 80's the Braves were perennially one of the worst franchises in baseball. Atlanta was not exactly a large market team; Ted Turner turned it into one. Turner increased team recognition through the use of the media by broadcasting games across the country.
While not necessarily profitable to begin with, it paid off over time. In the early '90s and for 15 plus seasons the Braves were one of the best teams in baseball. They spent the money to keep their players there and continued to have success because of it.
Their continued success drew more fans to the stadium as well increasing their national following. Revenue generated from merchandise and other avenues kept the team solvent and helped finance the team to continue success.
This is a model that could be used by teams such as the Pirates or Royals. If you spend the money to put a competitive team on the field, it may mean a lower profit margin to begin with. The dividends will come, it just might take a little time.
Those teams should be using their revenue sharing windfalls to increase quality rather than padding their own pockets. Many of these owners of "small market" teams have much larger bankrolls than the Steinbrenners, mostly because they are less concerned with keeping their fans happy than with showing a higher profit margin.
It's time for the fans and media to cease the endless Yankee bashing for continued success; and start looking to the owners of the less fortunate franchises to justify why they aren't successful. Hold the owners responsible to provide evidence that they are using revenue sharing for something other than padding the coffers.
And finally, applaud those owners who care enough about the game to actually compete. If those teams can not show that that they can compete, maybe it is time to look at trimming some of the fat from Major League Baseball and reducing the number of teams.
Thank you to George Steinbrenner, John Henry, Mike Ilitch, Art Moreno, Fred Wilpon, and the few other owners who at least show that they are trying to give their fans something to be proud of...