Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Who wants a salary cap in baseball?

The owner of the Boston Red Sox, John Henry, responded to reporters' questions today about the Alex Rodriguez-to-Yankees trade by saying that baseball's economic system is 'out of whack'. He thinks that baseball now needs a salary cap instead of the revenue sharing and luxury tax system currently in place.

I don't have much sympathy for Mr. Henry. His team tried for several weeks to negotiate a trade for A-Rod and couldn't get the deal done. Had the Red Sox acquired Rodriguez, I guarantee you that Henry wouldn't have e-mailed reporters with the opinion that baseball needs a salary cap to keep his own team's spending under control. But because the Red Sox have to compete directly with the Yankees (they're in the same division) and the Yankees have no drag whatsoever on their payroll, now Henry thinks baseball needs a hard cap. Unfortunately, he's working under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement that doesn't have a salary cap, and baseball isn't likely to institute one in the next agreement either. The baseball owners brought this state of affairs on themselves two years ago by not forcing a cap on the union or shutting down the game. NHL owners are prepared to shut down their league for as long as it takes to get a hard cap in place to prevent contracts like Rodriguez's from destroying hockey. If John Henry wants to own a team in a league with more favorable economic conditions, he should try the NFL. As much as people complain about parity and the salary cap in football, at least the season is always exciting and interesting, and nearly every team has a reasonable chance to make the playoffs. In baseball, my Pittsburgh Pirates can't hope to compete with the likes of the Yankees on the field or off, and so they're looking at a 12th consecutive losing season.

I agree with John Henry on this one: baseball needs a salary cap. However, he should have pushed harder for one when he had the chance. It's too late to complain now.

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