In the article I previously wrote concerning Major League Baseball, I credited the use of steroids as the biggest issue within professional baseball.
The second most important issue in pro baseball is the fact that the league has no salary cap. One has to start asking, “Where does the spending stop?”
Players in the NHL, NBA and NFL have to deal with restricted salaries. I would be lying if I didn’t mention that I think players in the MLB are the least deserving of a non-salary capped league compared to the athletes of other sports.
There are issues regarding a non-salary capped league on both ends of the team standings spectrum.
Clubs like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox of the A.L. and the Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs of the N.L. are spending hundreds of millions each year in hopes that they can win a championship.
Last year, though, we saw again that buying players can’t always buy you a ring. The Yankees spent a whopping $206.3M in salary last year, only to find themselves losing to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.
Guess what? The Rangers went to the World Series by spending only $55.25M in salary, while proving that teamwork and good chemistry, accompanied by good coaching, can get you to the Fall Classic without overspending.
The Phillies found themselves in a similar hole, losing in the NLCS to the San Francisco Giants. While the gap between the two teams' salaries isn’t quite as massive as the gap between New York and Texas, there was about a $44M difference; Philly spent about $142M and San Fran around $98M.
However, this unsolicited spending has worked for these teams more times than not, barring the Chicago Cubs. As a fan of the sport, I'm irked over the fact that the same teams make it to the playoffs year in and year out.
Before you jump on me about the regular postseason contenders from other sports like the Lakers and Celtics, Steelers and Packers and Red Wings and Flyers, remind yourself that these leagues have fairly strict regulations on salary spending.
For the salary issues regarding the other end of the spectrum, take the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Diego Padres as examples. The Pirates may be the worst team in the NL; the Padres aren’t, necessarily. Regardless of their quality, both teams spent less than $40M in 2010—$37.8M and $35M, respectively.
Keep in mind that Alex Rodriguez earned $33M last year. If I'm a Pirates fan and I see that statistic, I immediately consider changing teams or just sticking to the Steelers and Penguins. If I'm a Padres fan, I am not that worried because they were one game out of the N.L. Wild Card spot.
Does the MLB need a salary cap?
I would be angry for a different reason.
Again, if I’m a fan of either team, I’m questioning the ownership's and general managers' ridiculous lack of spending, especially when it comes to San Diego because their area fan market is relatively large (approximately three million in population).
Also, they only need to compete with the Chargers. The Pirates, however, have to compete with the Steelers and Penguins in a slightly smaller area, which makes for a terrible baseball market in itself.
Based on these facts, it seems that Padres management has a plan, but Pirates management has perhaps given up. Even if the owners of these teams have plans, I still question them if I’m a loyal, season ticket-holding fan and wonder if they value their fans at all.
I say this because if San Diego spent $84M like Atlanta (which beat them to the Wild Card by one game) did in 2010, they would be doing far greater things with their season.
There would certainly be a need for teams to cut players in order to comply with a salary cap. However, certain rules exist within salary caps, like in the NBA, where a team is allowed a certain leeway in order to keep star players who are important to their fan base. I would imagine there would be some inclusion of these rules.
The introduction of a salary cap would create equilibrium between fans who are tired of seeing teams buy their way to titles, and those who are tired of seeing their teams underspend and under perform.