Baseball BeatDecember 21, 2008
'Twas the Week Before Christmas...
By Rich Lederer

...when all through the baseball world
Not a deal was stirring, not even a minor one;
Mark Teixeira and Manny Ramirez hung out by the bank with care,
In hopes that the Red Sox, Angels and Dodgers soon would be there;
Scott Boras was nestled all snug in his bed,
While visions of money danced in his head.

Without much to report, I point you to an interview I granted Joseph Decaro, owner/site manager of Mets Merized Online. The second-most famous Joe D. in New York asked me a half dozen questions.

Here is my long-winded answer as to whether the current system is fixed:

Q: The Yankees just spent almost $250 million in two days by signing C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. There are several reports that they will secure either Mark Teixeira or Manny Ramirez as well. Is it time to fix the system?

A: The Yankees fixed the system a long time ago. Just kidding. Look, as a capitalist, I'm totally fine with a team like the Yankees paying a gazillion dollars for guys like Sabathia and Burnett. However, baseball isn't a true free market. It's a closed economy. A private country club, if you will. For example, if you and I wanted to put a new team in New York, Major League Baseball wouldn't allow it. Therefore, it's not a free market at all. The truth is, there should be more than just two teams in the New York City area. At least three. Maybe four or even five. Think about it for a minute. If there were several teams in New York dividing up the fan base, corporate market, and broadcasting revenues, the Yankees' and Mets' competitive advantage would dissipate in a hurry.

On the one hand, the baseball fan in me doesn't want more teams in New York and fewer franchises in smaller markets around the country. On the other hand, I don't like the fact that the large-market clubs have more resources than everyone else. The solution to this dilemma is that the playing field needs to be leveled one way or the other. Major League Baseball can accomplish this via a free market approach or by capping payrolls at a much lower level and/or re-distributing revenues to a much greater degree. Unfortunately, the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago teams are never going to allow the first or third ideas, and the MLBPA won't even hear of the second. Therefore, like it or not, we're just going to have to learn to live with the way things are now (or at least something close to it).

You can read the entire Q&A here.

Happy weekend to all, and to all a good night.


I think a level playing field, in the long run is best for baseball. Look at the NFL. Their league is set up so that a last place team can become a first place team in one season. But as you pointed out, the big market teams will have a hard time giving into that and I can't see the MLBPA going for it either.

Two comments: 1. I tend to find the statement that the Yankees spent $250MM for Sabathia and Burnett tendentious.

The reason why is simple: it assumes that these players will play out the totality of their contracts in NY, which is not necessarily the case.

2. In re: the Yanks and the system, I would think that the fact that the Yanks haven't won the WS in 8 years, have not advanced past the 1st round of the playoffs since 2004 and didn't even make it to the playoffs in 2008 shows that the system does work.

Moreso, there is a strong chance that the Yanks will have a lower payroll in 2009 than they did in 2008, and that may well be the case again after 2009 (with the Matsui and Damon contracts ending, and with Austin Jackson probably ready to come to the Bronx).

The World Series - and the playoffs in particular, are extremely short series. 7 Games is tiny in the baseball world. Once you are into the playoffs anything can happen.

In the past 8 years, the Yankees have been to the playoffs 7 times.

Yeah, the system works great.

Exactly, once a team gets to the playoffs anything can happen. And since 1999, 24 teams have manged to get there.

Just 6 have failed to: Blue Jays, Orioles, Royals, Pirates, Reds, Nats/Expos. Money was not the issue with the Orioles, and the Expos were a special case. The regular appearances of the As, Twins and numerous other teams as well as TB's success in 2008 suggest the budget issue is vastly overrated.

And if we were to go back less than another decade, still in the era when there were huge differentials of budgets, we could add the Orioles, Blue Jays and Reds to the list of post-season teams.

I agree that their willingness to invest in their teams gives Boston and NY some competitive advantage, and keeps them in contention regularly, but that is good for the game in many ways and does not prevent every other team from using their own advantages to compete.

So yes, the system does indeed work just fine.


Pray tell, did you think the system did not work when Atlanta went to the playoffs for over 10 years straight?

Or was that a non-issue because Atlanta only won the WS once? (and of course, they weren't the Yankees...).

For what it's worth, the most popular league worldwide is the English Premier League, which only four of twenty teams have a shot at winning every year. So I don't think a little bit of dominance is keeping MLB's popularity down.

JRJV: With respect to the Yankees not winning the World Series in eight years or advancing past the ALDS since 2004, I believe that points to how much of a crapshoot the playoffs are more than anything else. But I don't think it suggests that the system works if by "works" we mean the playing field is level unless, of course, one is a Yankees fan.

Bob: I believe zeppelinkm was being facetious. The fact that 80% of the teams have managed to make the playoffs at least once in the past ten years doesn't impress me in the least. Heck, eight of the 30 teams (or 26.7%) make it every year. The Blue Jays and Orioles, btw, just happen to compete in the AL East alongside two of the biggest-spending clubs in baseball. The other team made it to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Out of curiosity, what is Milwaukee's competitive advantage? How about Kansas City? Or Pittsburgh?

Kevin: I never suggested that the current system is detracting from MLB's popularity. The game is as popular as ever. I was only commenting on the fact that the playing field is far from level. That's all.