Major League Baseball needs an overhaul. That’s right ladies and gentleman. The beloved game as we know it, well, it’s broken. When an NFL regular season game has higher ratings than the World Series, we have a problem. What will it take for the MLB to get back to the top? That is a question that could spawn pages upon pages of writing. Let’s take it one issue at a time. What’s the first step? The game needs a hard salary cap. And with it, a hard salary floor.
In 2015, David Price shocked the baseball world, and practically screwed all MLB General Managers, when he signed the seventh-largest contract in MLB history, which was also the most for a pitcher. Price negotiated his way into a deal for $217M over seven years. That’s an average annual value (AAV) of $31M. Wow. To put that into a little perspective:
David Price’s dollars over that next seven years: 217,000,000
Total amount of seconds in that next seven years: 220,903,200
In 2015, Johnny Cueto turned down a deal for $120M prior to Price’s signing. That was probably the luckiest move of that offseason. The money changing hands was outrageous. In 2015, the average Major Leaguer made $4.25M, almost doubling over the past ten years.
And what about Bryce Harper? He’ll probably set records when he signs his next contract.
How are teams like the Oakland A’s, notorious for practicing “moneyball” to save a nickel, or the Tampa Bay Rays, who are consistently at the bottom of spending due to an owner or GM’s greed, expected to be able to pay these kinds of contracts? The MLB needs to implement a hard salary cap. I know the baseball purists are about to start throwing tantrums, but at least hear me out.
With a cap in place, the talent will be spread around. Teams like the Yankees or the Dodgers won’t be able to steal every single A+ player on the market, just because they can throw ten times the money at them. A cap would also balance out player salaries. David Price could no longer net a $31M AAV, because teams aren’t going to be willing to tie up close to a quarter of their cap room on a single player. When teams don’t have the room for that kind of payroll, the average player salary will drop.
Now, with a cap comes a floor. Not only is it beneficial to limit a team’s spending, it’s almost JUST as important to mandate that they spend a certain amount. This will prevent team owners from trying to be too greedy, lowering their salary expenditures, and keeping more profit. That just isn’t fair for fans. Teams should be spending money, acquiring talent, winning games, and putting butts in seats. Requiring a team to spend a certain amount will ensure they stay somewhat competitive.
Being able to make as much money as you want is part of the American dream. That has always been one of the benefits to baseball. A player could do what they love, and there was no limit to the money they could make. It has pulled baseball players from all over the world to the U.S. It is a time-honored tradition, part of the game, and part of the history. It has made baseball great.
It’s broken. It has gotten out of hand. Someone once said (nerd points for anyone who can name the reference), “…the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
How does that apply to our current discussion? Well, the many (fans) and the few (owners) aren’t on the same page.
The fans want their team to succeed. They want ace pitching and power hitting. They want hits, runs, and wins. They want World Series titles and championship t-shirts. Fans want to be able to talk about their team’s success, and not hear the bashing on TV or radio.
Owners want their teams to be profitable. Sometimes this means not paying for players. Period. They have a set budget in their minds, and that’s it. It won’t matter who is on the market, who is coming up, or who can be easily bought. It won’t matter if their team could be good with a few more players. They want to ultimately make money.
The salary floor will keep teams competitive, the cap will prevent teams from attempting a monopoly on the talent. These changes are probably not happening soon, and maybe not in my lifetime. And now that there is a new collective bargaining agreement about to be made official, and one that will last five years, I feel that baseball missed a big opportunity to look in the mirror.
One thing is for sure, and that is changes need to be made in this game. Changes that need to happen before the sport we all know and love, the game that we grew up watching, the thing that we’ve known our whole lives, falls into the ground.