Most fans of small market teams believe Major League Baseball had a golden opportunity with the most recent labor deal to improve competitive balance by implementing a salary cap. Does the new agreement benefit high-spending teams like the Yankees, or their small market counterparts that get by on a budget?
Most years, the Yankees usually do every other team a favor by paying a premium to players who typically under perform the huge contracts they sign. Take Alex Rodriguez, for example. After his monster 2007 season, he opted out of the record deal he originally signed with the Rangers. The Yankees then outdid themselves for the slugger by signing him to the richest contract in baseball history, even though A-Rod wasn't going anywhere. His heart was with the Yankees all along, not to mention all the endorsement money and notoriety the Big Apple had to offer.
In the ten years leading up to 2008, he averaged 45 home runs and 155 games played per season. In the four seasons since, he is averaging only 124 games played and 28 home runs per season. At one time,he looked like a sure thing to break the home run record. Now, with a bad hip and a degenerative knee, he isn't the lock to break the home run record that he was in 2007. Now, there's more bad news: the Yankees still owe him $143 million over the next 6 years.
This isn't the first time they have overpaid the market. A.J. Burnett, Jose Contreras, Jason Giambi and Carl Pavano are just a few of the duds that the Bronx Bombers have wasted millions on.
To fans of any of the small market teams, a salary cap may seem like the only hope to compete in equal footing with the big boys. However, it will not compel any of these clubs to spend any more money on payroll. The only way it would help is if a minimum team salary came along with it. While many fans would like to see this, it's not a guarantee of success. A minimum team salary expenditure will only eliminate chronically under spending ownership groups. It won't help teams evaluate talent better or develop players properly.
Assuming a $150 million dollar cap for the 2011 season and a $75 million dollar floor, only 3 teams would have been over the cap (Yankees, Phillies, and Red Sox), while 11 teams would have been under it. After subtracting the sum of money these three teams spent over the cap (around $86 million), from the extra money spent on payroll to get the 11 teams to the $75 million threshold (around $230 million), the result would be an extra $144 million dollars in total payroll.
A cap would probably be more of an equalizer for the teams consistently spending in the $90 to $140 million payroll range. However, the two groups it would benefit most would the Major League Baseball Player's Association in the form of more salary money, and the three teams over the cap, including the Yankees.