Many fans and writers alike following Major League Baseball's business and competitive nature sure like to complain....
There is no parity! Team "A" buys everything, Team "B" has no chance! They scream, yell and kick.
But within all the rhetoric and finger pointing, I have yet to see genuinely good ideas form. Realignment due to economics is just plain stupid, splitting up the Yankees and Red Sox will never, ever happen...at all. A salary cap sounds good on paper, but even a realist sees the competitive imbalance still digging its claws into the NBA.
Yes, I know competitive balance at the top (arguably the most important) is all well and good, but to survive and thrive in a game that's increasingly pricing out middle income families, and boring just about everyone in the Midwest not in Chicago, St. Paul, and St. Louis, work has to be done.
On that note, here are some humble ideas, not all mine, and maybe not all good, to push MLB to be a paradigm of parity in modern sports...
- MAXIMUM WAGES
Yes, shudder, socialism. No ballplayer should be making more than a doctor, teacher, cop, or firefighter. Hell, none of them should be making more than a veterinarian.
From 1990 - 1991, the average player salary jumped close to 54% (1) and has shown little to no sign of slowing down, what with only 2 seasons of negative growth.
At this rate someone will pay Ben Sheets 10 million dollars! Oh, wait...
But, alas, baseball is big business, and the players are what brings fans and ratings in.
How about a cap of 15 million a year? Some would argue that some players are worth more than that with WAR value and such, but whats one less Hawaiian island to a man?
- A DIFFERENT TYPE OF ALIGNMENT
Is it fair that the Twins get to play weaklings like Kansas City and Cleveland 38 times a year? Or for that matter, Juggernauts like Boston, Tampa, and New York playing the Orioles and Jays that many times?
I have an idea it weakens a team to play relatively weaker competition so much. Come playoff time, a team may find it hard to "hit another gear" so to speak.
If you leave the divisions the same, but force teams with similar records (maybe by projected records (2) to face off more-so than against lesser teams, and the lesser teams face each other maybe then you'd see bad teams play meaningful baseball in August.
I'm not saying a team wouldn't play certain teams within their league and division, but could you imagine the Pirates having a close record to St. Louis when they play them in August?
- ANOTHER WILD CARD?
Not a big fan of this idea myself, but I've seen it kicked around the last few years. The five best records getting in, the two wild cards playing each other in a one game series, the winner facing the highest seed for the division series.
This takes out the wild card as having no definite disadvantage, as they would obviously start one of their top starters to get through that one important game.
If using 2009 MLB standings (3) Texas and Boston would have had a one game series (along with the Twins and Tigers) to move on. Thus, the Rangers break a streak of of 10 years without a playoff series.
On the NL side of the show, a one game playoff between the Marlins and Colorado would have been a huge boon for small market, intelligently run teams.
- HOMEGROWN DISCOUNTS
If you draft and develop a player, you should be allowed to keep that athlete, no matter the cost.
What good is a luxury tax with no oversight, and a system that lets profiteering on loss go unchecked, and lets larger market teams use their advantages with no balance?
Lets take the Rays for instance. Carl Crawford is a perennial all-star, the face of the Rays, drafted in 99 and only knows one team. Tampa Bay has no TV network, a small (but growing) fan base, and many other good players to pay. He's making 8 million and up for free agency in 2010.
Now he hypothetically wants 15 million a year, but the Rays also want, and need, Carlos Pena.
The luxury tax pool can easily throw in 4 to 5 million towards Crawford's contract each year to keep him on the Rays, saving them enough money towards Pena and etc.
What if one of their contracts turns sour, through injury or some other such nonsense?
- MAXIMUM LENGTH CONTRACTS
The key to finding parity (or at least its closest form) is to identify which advantages certain teams have, and neutralizing them. Not punishing them to weaken the gene pool.
Besides retaining great homegrown players, eating bad contracts is a luxury for the biggest spenders.
Setting the maximum contract length at 5 years is a good way to keep teams like the Indians (Kerry Wood/Travis Hafner 10 million/year) and the Jays (BJ Ryan 10 million) from ruining their teams with bad front office decisions. While yes, it is the front offices fault for such blunders, why should the fans suffer for it?
- 50/50 CONTRACTS
Why pay any player for simply showing up on the field? Its about time this country as a whole rewards performance as much as just plain being there. Try to follow
- Player Jon Smith signs 10 million a year contract
- Smith is guaranteed 5 million dollars for said year
- He either gets injured in June and only gets 5 million
- Or he plays a full season, reaches performance bonuses and makes his full 10 million
- The team takes that saved 5 million and drafts that player they previously couldn't afford
Again these ideas need to be fleshed out to be materialized, but we've seen what screaming, bitching and moaning has given us. Any ideas out there? Please feel free to comment with your own ideas, or additional details.