Daily Jolt: Not More Salary Cap Talk
Red Sox ownership is at it again. They called for a salary cap in 2004 after the Yankees plucked Alex Rodriguez from under their noses, and after another spending binge in the Bronx this winter -- one which cost them Mark Teixeira, another player they coveted -- they're leading the charge again.
"I think we all agree that competitive balance is an issue," principal owner John Henry told reporters Wednesday in Fort Myers, Fla. "If there was a way to put together an enlightened form of a salary cap, I think everybody among the owners would support that."
I'm not entirely sure what an "enlightened" salary cap would entail, though if it included something called a mid-level exception, that'd drive me up the wall. But I do know a bunch of baloney with a side of sour grapes when I hear it.
On the surface, it might be difficult to understand why the Red Sox of all teams would want a salary cap. They have been in the top five in team payroll for most of the decade and they have won two World Series titles under the current system. Because of the rabid interest in the team in New England, Boston can tap seemingly unlimited revenue streams and make risky eight-figure investments in players like Julio Lugo without batting an eye.
Of course, it's not quite that simple, not with a $200 million juggernaut in your division making life awfully difficult. Because of their rivalry, their enormous payrolls and their -- ahem -- colorful fanbases, it's easy to see the Red Sox and Yankees as one and the same. But payroll-wise, Boston lags some $70 million behind New York. Roughly the same gap exists between the Sox and the Kansas City Royals. Having a huge advantage over most other teams in the payroll department just doesn't mean as much when you play in the same division as the Yankees.
Much of the salary cap talk has to come from there. The Red Sox have been wildly successful anyway these past few seasons, but new Yankee Stadium is going to change the game again, re-opening a gap between the two clubs that Boston had been able to close by renovating Fenway Park and racking up record ratings on team-owned regional network NESN. The Sox are already the smartest guys in the room, so to speak. Leveling the financial playing field would only make life easier for one of the best management teams in the game.
But there is another motivation behind Henry's call for a salary cap. It will make him richer.
It has always been mystifying to me why fans are so quick to welcome a form of communism in sports, when they would never accept it at their own jobs and when it doesn't really help their favorite team all that much. Face it, the relationship between salary controls and competitive balance is a complete myth.
The NFL has been dominated in this decade by three teams -- the Steelers, Colts and Patriots -- who have combined for six Super Bowl wins and only missed the playoffs five times since 2000. The Lakers and Spurs have won a combined seven titles and appeared in nine of 10 NBA finals since 1999. Some parity.
Boston is the only team in baseball with two championships since 2000. The Diamondbacks, Angels, Marlins, White Sox and Phillies have won the ultimate prize and the Astros, Tigers, Rockies and Rays have been one step away. All of that has happened in a league with a fascinating and relatively accessible infrastructure, a league with guaranteed contracts and no easy way out, a league that has given birth to Moneyball, 9=8, the Pirahnas and a host of other small-market success stories.
And there isn't enough "competitive balance" for Henry? Please.
A salary cap would allow the Red Sox to spend less on payroll and probably spell the end of revenue sharing as it is currently spelled out in the collective bargaining agreement. That means Henry would be able to pocket more money and his team would have less to overcome on the field with the Yankees' spending reigned in.
It's easy to understand why he would want all of that. It just doesn't have anything to do with the greater good of baseball.