Salary Cap in Major League Baseball

Brooks BryantContributor INovember 3, 2009

                                            Salary Cap in Major League Baseball

            In order to keep a competitive league all year long, all teams must be in contention for making the playoffs. In order to ensure that every team has an equal chance of building a successful team, each team should be able to spend the same amount of money. Right now in the MLB, there is no salary cap. This provides an unfair advantage for big market teams such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and other rich teams. In order to maintain a competitive league throughout the entire 162 game season, a salary cap must be instituted in the MLB. Although there are many views and counterarguments to this, the reasons for having a salary cap overwhelm the reasons to not have one.

1.  Myth: The most common argument to not have a salary cap is that in the MLB, there is a luxury tax on teams that spend the most money. The amount taxed is evenly distributed among all of the other teams, making up for the excess money that teams spend.  

Fact: This may be true; however, the tax is so light that it does not stop rich teams from spending excess money on overpriced superstars. Also, it is evident that this system is clearly not working as in 2008 the New York Yankees spent over $209,000,000 on players, where as the Florida Marlins spend just $21,000,000[1]. To put such a figure in prospective, the Yankees pay their star third basemen, Alex Rodriguez, more money than the Marlins pay their entire 25-man team. 

            2. Myth: Teams that market well and play well get more fans, rewarding them with income. Because they are better in the business aspect than other teams, these teams should be rewarded with being able to spend excess money on expensive players to improve their team.

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Fact: The foundation of this idea is seriously flawed. Although this might prove successful for rich teams, it leaves the other teams dreadfully behind. Once a team starts to lose, fans get un-interested in the team and stop showing up. As this continues, the team cannot afford to spend money on high valued players, always leaving them as one of the worst teams in the league. During a September day game last year, when the Marlins were completely out of the playoffs, just 600 fans showed up to cheer on their Marlins[2] Also, getting fans to a game does not only happen because of a winning team. It happens because of the city that your team is in. Obviously, New York City has a larger population than Coral Gables, Florida where the marlins are located. In order to create a competitive league, all teams must be involved and equal.

3. Myth: If there is a salary cap, player’s value will decrease significantly. For example, the Yankees will not be able to spend more on one player (Alex Rodriguez) than the entire marlins team combined. This could potentially cause the players to go on strike.

Fact: A strike in the MLB is no longer possible due to the deep minor league system. Now, each MLB team has five minor league teams, each consisting of 25 well qualified players. There are more talented players in the game today than there ever has been. The game of baseball has grown globally, each year reaching out to more countries, developing more professional talent. The pool of players to pick from is gigantic. If MLB players go on strike, there are certainly others to replace them. Sure, some big name all-stars could go on strike, but as they leave the league, new, young upcoming superstars emerge, and one could argue that watching rookies, who hustle everywhere and give 110% everyday, is more entertaining than watching superstars walk around the baseball field. If Alex Rodriguez is so selfish as to not play baseball if he only makes around $12,000,000 per year with a salary cap as opposed to $28,000,000, I do not believe that many people would miss him. Also, with the players’ value decreasing, the ticket prices will also decrease. Now, it costs around $50 dollars for two fans to sit in the bleachers of an average MLB team. The fans are the people who drive the MLB market, and, if ticket prices continue to skyrocket due to no salary cap, the fans will stop showing up to games. However, if a salary cap is put in place; lower ticket prices make it easier for everyone to see a game of their favorite team. Even though the ticket prices are lower, chances are that teams will make the same amount of money because more people will attend the games, spending more on concessions, souvenirs, and more.

In order to keep a competitive league, all teams most be involved. The way that the MLB is right now, the teams that spend the most money always perform well because they can afford to buy the best players. On the other hand, the teams that do not have much money end their playoff contention about a month into the year. This is not competition. In hockey, there is a salary cap of $50,000,000 per team, and right now, in the western conference, the worst team (15/15) has 21 wins this year; where as the 5th best team (5/15) has 24 wins[3]. Obviously, fans will still come to these games because their team has a chance to make the playoffs, even though they are in last place. Games are more exciting when they actually mean something. In order to achieve exciting games for all teams, Major League Baseball must institute a salary cap.