I'll not cop to economics as a personal area of expertise, but as an avowed libertarian I can confess to an intense loathing of corporate welfare, which is exactly what MLB's revenue-sharing system is. It will be a cold day in hell before you can make me feel bad for the owner(s) of a baseball team, who entered into their situation fully cognizant of the situation before them. In the case of the
But here's my question: Why should the Rays spend that money on payroll (which would mean spending it on free agents)? As I've detailed before, most high-priced free agent contracts are a bloodbath for the teams involved, and in today's market high-priced deals are being shuttled toward some patently mediocre players, particularly if they ply their trade with a single limb. The message inherent in revenue sharing is that small-market teams, instead of being prudent, should start dumping money into the same kind of dumb contracts the Yankees have made famous in recent years.
(Aside: I will concede this about payroll restrictions, or a lack thereof: The Yankees have been able to retain their best homegrown players once the arb-eligible/free agent years hit, which is a HUGE advantage. If Carlos Beltran came up with the Yankees instead of the Royals, he would still be employed by his original team today. This is the one area in which big-market teams have a decided advantage over their small-market counterparts. However, this doesn't mean that the Yankees are automatically winners in the game of life, either. First, you have to develop the talent, and then you have to properly assess the value of that talent once it reaches arb-eligible/free agent status. Yes, it's an advantage to have Jeter come through the system and then keep him once the big bucks are his for the taking, but if Jeter came up for the Pirates, a savvy GM could have gotten a king's ransom for him in a trade as well. In fact, it's entirely possible that a team would be better off trading a Jeter when he's approaching free agency than spending the money to keep him, provided the return in a trade is good enough. This is the situation faced by the Padres (Peavy) and Twins (Santana), for instance. While the fans of those respective teams would assuredly like it if management would/could lock each up in long-term deals, it's probably a bad idea for both teams. And not just because they don't have the money. But, I'll leave it there, in an effort to not have a longer aside that the post in which its contained.)
If I'm the owner of the
As for Pete's second contention, I will recite it here before dealing with it:
The D Rays, Jays ( woe is me ) & O's are at the biggest competitive disadvantage in MLB, playing nearly 1/4 of their games against the Evil Empires. I am an embittered Jays' fan who thinks it's bullshit.
Pete's is not an uncommon refrain for fans of the lesser-endowed AL East teams, and the last decade has done little to convince anyone that it's anything but unfair. I'm not sure I had pubic hair the last time the Yankees weren't in the playoffs, and the Red Sox aren't far behind. If weren't going to define the term "competitive disadvantage" to mean "constantly has to play two of the best teams in MLB," then the plight of the O's, Jays and Rays surely fits the bill.
However, as far as the Jays and O's go, I've got absolutely zero sympathy (the Rays, as an expansion team, are not really the same as the other two, so we'll leave them out [also, the Rays are going to make the playoffs by 2009, mark my words]).
In the case of the O's, their fate has been sealed by some of the worst management seen in baseball the last decade, in spite of advantages in terms of ballpark, market and payroll that more than half the teams in the majors would offer a metaphorical left nut for. Baltimore spent more than $93 million in 2007 to field a team that would have struggled to place third in any division in baseball, mainly because most of that $93 million went to shitty baseball players. I would compare the O's to the Dodgers if it weren't for the latter's farm system, which ranks as one of the best in baseball (even if the current GM would rather get sodomized than actually clear the way for any of his top prospects). The O's have everything that a team needs to compete for the playoffs annually except a functioning brain in the front office and a non-self-immolating owner.
The Jays are a little bit of a different story, because the
I don't mean to paint the situation as one in which perfect management for either the O's or Jays would mean that the Yankees or Red Sox's effect would be negated. As our legal system proves on a regular basis, wealth means you can get away with more mistakes than the common folk, and that's the situation for the current pole sitters. But it would be a better argument for both of the "poorer" teams if they didn't spend so much time shooting themselves in the foot.
And that's all I gots to say about that shit, at least for tonight; I got a Vegas trip to pack for. Thanks to Pete (shout out to Ottawa!) for giving me some good stuff to chew on; everyone should really read his blog, which is much more thoughtful than ours.