Bud Selig Will Stop Crying As Long As Everybody's Making Money

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MLB Commish Bud Selig sat down with Ken Rosenthal today to discuss MLB economics, and spoke of the disparity between high spending clubs and low spending clubs. Six of the top nine payrolls in MLB are currently in line to make the postseason. Why is this bad? I'm not quite sure, and neither is Bud.

After all, Selig's former team, the Brewers, did a helluva job in the down economy selling tickets and concessions. Sure, the team faded out of the division race in early August, but Milwaukee ownership saw another big year in attendance. Yes, they are a small market team. Yes, they mysteriously employ Ken Macha to make decisions. But they are financially smart as a company in the business of selling baseball.

Look past the softball questions that Rosenthal lobs and Selig fouls into the bleachers, there's a real gem of a quote in here about revenue sharing and competitive balance:

I know how badly (owners) want to win. I remember how badly I wanted to win (as owner of the Brewers). I went through all those temper tantrums and everything else. But I really think for the most part that in the last decade we've proven that if the sport's best interests transcends your own, we'll all do better. We just have to continue that.

Past the hilarious image of ol' Bud throwing a temper tantrum in his lofty Milwaukee car dealership office, note that he seems to be hinting to the fact that the 30 individual owners and corporations are better off when everyone cooperates to make cash. Not the players. Not the umpires. Not the fans or heck, not even the TV networks. Make no mistake about it: as "Commissioner for Life", Bud's only interest is making himself and his cronies wealthier beyond Marge Schott's wildest Nazi-fueled dreams.

Not that there's anything wrong with a little capitalism. I gladly throw dollars of money and hours of my time at my beloved Yankees and I don't expect anything in return except a World Series title every single year. But I want everyone to share in baseball's wealth. Owners, players, fans, peanut vendors, Joe Maddon's hairstylist, everyone. I don't want owners colluding to stick it to the players and bring in some dumb salary cap that will ruin competitiveness in baseball.

When you hear some of the dopey owners talk about a salary cap, they're not trying to correct the disparity in the standings. They're trying to keep players salaries down. And if you bring in a salary cap to baseball, you'll end up with a salary floor where rebuilding teams are forced to spend money in a stupid manner, and that is bad business for baseball.

So, Bud, when the collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2011 season, I hope by that point you will have reached the point in life when old folks get soft and start giving away their most prized possessions. If we're lucky, you'll make sure that every person employed by MLB makes out like a bandit as much as you have.


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39 Comments

I know it's not a popular viewpoint around here, but something really needs to be done to level the economic playing field for small market clubs.

I don't necessarily disagree with that idea but I think there's a definite gray area between helping poorer teams compete and helping rich owners in small markets pocket revenue sharing money.

"I don't want owners colluding to stick it to the players and bring in some dumb salary cap that will ruin competitiveness in baseball."

That salary cap really ruined the competitivness in the NFL. Good point.

But the NFL is far different since most contracts are not guaranteed, and owners have much more control over what they pay their players. In baseball, when you decide to give $80 million to Barry Zito, you give $80 million to Barry Zito. In a salary-capped MLB, that sort of thing might cripple franchises and turn a quarter of the league into the Washington Nationals.

Any salary cap would need a minimum payroll as well. I'm the farthest thing from a socialist, my goal would just be competitiveness. I went back and forth on this until the last few years when it became apparent that the Tribe has absolutely zero chance of ever re-signing their top players. That kinda sucks.

That would just force teams to not make stupid moves likesigning Barry Zito for 120 million.

Also, 31 of the 43 Super Bowls have been won by just eight out of 32 teams so shut your mouth.

How does a salary floor hurt? If a team is required to spend X amount of dollars, then wouldn't it be in their best interest to spend it by putting the best possible team on the field?

Sometimes, a team is rebuilding and can best invest its money in its farm system or international camps, rather than pay Matt Morris $15 million to suck up the pitchers mound just so you can prove to your fans that you are fielding a competitive team.

That would just force teams to not make stupid moves likesigning Barry Zito for 120 million.

As long as Brian Sabean is allowed to breathe, teams will NEVER stop making stupid moves.

So would an organizational salary floor be better or even possible? I mean, there needs to be some sort of check on the Pirates for putting 17 straight seasons of suck on the field. That brings down the property value of the whole neighborhood, so to speak.

The Pirates have cleaned up their mess. The days of Cam Bonifay and Dave Littlefield are gone. Neal Huntington Sir hired Rinku and Dinesh to fix the pitching woes, and Andrew McCutchen will pick up the rest of the slack.

Rob I think you are treating the players like they are the proletariat. It's the fan who has to spend an increasingly more and more of their hard earned money to enjoy the game that they love. While it wouldn't solve all the problems I think a cap would at least help control ticket and vendor prices. If small market teams need to have 150 mil payrolls to compete in this league they will have to get their money somewhere. As they keep raising ticket and vendor pricing to keep up, it will keep the fans away from the stadiums and teams will no longer be able to compete.

I agree that ticket prices and vendor prices are ridiculous, but to tilt against the players who make, on average, $3 million a year and to ignore the dudes at the top who make exponentially more is completely missing the point.

Owners do not have to raise ticket prices and raise vendor prices to 'keep up'. They need to make money the old-fashioned way, getting desperate cities to pay for expensive stadiums. But that's a different post entirely.

An owner is going to make his money no matter what so there is nothing we can do about it. He is the owner, that's what they do, but if you lower his expenses then he doesn't need to charge as much to the fans in order to make his money.

He doesn't have to, but he probably will. Because what else are you going to do, watch lingerie football?

The salary cap doesn't work in basketball or hockey, why would it work in baseball? The NFL model is so reckless and completely irrelevant to the baseball discussion we shouldn't waste our time bringing it up. The players (and their union) are completely secondary to football, just as the game itself increasingly becomes. Football is an experiential/cultural force, the owners and league can literally do whatever they want and "fans" will throw money at them all night and day.

The concept of a salary cap is a bill of goods sold to us by greedy owners dying for cost-certainty and, as Rob said, salary suppression. Spending money smarter will always trump spending money stupidly, no matter how much you toss around.

He doesn't have to, but he probably will.

Exactly. The capped savings won't be passed on to you the consumer at any time. Those income streams are icing on the cake, not what is used to keep the lights on and grass green.

How has the salary cap not worked in basketball or hockey?

Don't even get me started on the NBA. Only seven different teams have won the NBA Finals in the last 26 years. That's horrid.

I am not saying that the owners would start lowering their ticktet prices but if they didn't have to keep raising their payroll every year in order to keep up with a couple of free spenders at the top then they won't have to raise their prices as much. If you have cost-certainty you won't need to keep wildly raising prices.

There are thousands of fans in Milwaukee who gladly pay $9 for a beer. I wouldn't want to argue with any of them. If they stop buying beer, the prices come down. They don't stop buying beer.

"Don't even get me started on the NBA. Only seven different teams have won the NBA Finals in the last 26 years. That's horrid."

Why does this matter at all? You said something similar about the NFL. Just because there haven't been a lot of different winners doesn't mean that it wasn't competitive. Listen, if some teams wins a lot of championships because they draft, sign, coach and play well then more power too them because they are playing on a level playing field. If you advatages come from the game part of it rather than the business part of it then I think that's a good thing.

What kind of competitive balance is there in hockey? The gulf between have and have not teams has never been wider, the only thing keeping the standings tight is the ridiculous 3 point games. Smart teams like the Red Wings completely circumvent the salary cap by signing extremely long term backloaded contracts that abide the salary cap in optics alone. The Lightning won the Stanley Cup with an exciting core of players only to near bankruptcy trying to keep them together.

Basketball? 3 of the 4 conference finals teams were among the top 5 in salary in 2009. Teams like Spurs would be successful with or without a salary cap because they're smart. Any team with Isiah Thomas at the helm would implode under any circumstances.

The salary cap is a lie. It is a panacea that entitled sports fans swallow because they resent the money players make in the minuscule window they have to earn it. The owners don't care about you, or your team, or your devotion. They want to sell ads and luxury boxes. The end.

Yes, spending money smarter is the key to success in the end. But the economic imbalance in baseball is such that even if a team spends wisely and gets it right the best they can hope for is a shot for a year or two before having to rebuild. Small market teams need at least a fighting chance at keeping their players when they are in their prime.

Competitive in that more teams make the playoffs? That isn't competition, that's creating a commodity out of thin air.

They buy the beer because they don't have anyother choice and there from Wisconsin so they are required to drink a lot. If they could bring in there own beer then they would. If you could BYOB, the beer venders would have more reasonable pricing in order to sway people from going through the trouble of bringing your own.

Drew may sound like a sports nihilist there, but I can't help but agree with him.

The thing to remember with hockey is this: The owners killed a full season for a salary cap and - these are their words - "cost certainty."

Reason #1 that a salary cap is bad: the Mets. Their excessive spending and dismal failures have provided us with more hilarity than we can count.

"The salary cap is a lie. It is a panacea that entitled sports fans swallow because they resent the money players make in the minuscule window they have to earn it."

Again with the "poor" athletes. Why is it the fans job to look out for the athlete? These men get paid millions to play a kids game. A game I happen to really enjoy watching but I am not going to shed a tear or start a protest because someone is proposing a salary cap.

Once again, Iracane pwns us all, this time with the best reason against a salary cap.

Why is it the owners job to look out for the fan? They're trying to appease their shareholders as best they can, if you're willing to pay $6 for peanuts than that's what they'll charge you.

Millions of dollars to play a kids game? Come on. You can't be serious.

It's not necessarily the owners job to look out for the fan, but it very much is their job to maintain a healthy sport. Teams are having a hard time selling tickets in a lot of cities and a better competitive balance can help correct that.

There's one reason why it kinda is the owners' job to look out for the fan. In the entertainment industry (and that's really what this is), the last thing you want to do is alienate your audience. The owners are running this risk because they are on the verge of pricing the middle class out of their events. If we can't afford it, we won't go, and owners will - or at least should - notice when the ticket sales slow down.

Incidentally, I don't know about you people, but I'm looking forward to seeing the potential shitstorm that could occur with an uncapped NFL next season.

Yes I am serious. They are playing baseball for millions a year, I am not saying they don't deserve to get paid a lot because they are very good at what they do and they bring in a lot of money. What I am saying is that they will still do just fine if there is a salary cap. You are making the players out to be the victims.

That's because you're saying that the players and their salaries are the problem. The owners make SO much more than the players its unreal. They will continue to charge whatever people are willing to pay for tickets, concessions, merchandise, or whatever. Instituting a salary cap will not cause some sort of epiphany where all of a sudden owners will lower prices on stuff just because they have to pay players less. And that's the key, "pay players less". The only reason owners want a salary cap is so they can pay players less and take the money THEMSELVES. What do you think is gonna happen? Oh wow John Henry just saved 12 million on signing V-Mart as a free agent thanks to the salary cap, now he's gonna divvy that up and send out stimulus checks to every resident of Red Sox Nation!

Please..give me a break, salary caps/floors are completely economically unfeasible. The reason the Pirates suck is because they're front office is STUPID. They are run by STUPID people. No amount of money will fix stupidity(see Yankees, 2003-2008). If you're worried about your favorite small market team not being able to retain star players, lock them up early like the Rockies did with Tulo and the Rays did with Longoria. Obviously you can't do that with every player (nor should you), and it may be more expensive upfront cause you're buying out their arbitration years, but if you think you have a sure thing lock them up for 6 years. Most players are concerned with their health enough that they'll want the security anyway, plus they can always be FAs when their 31!

je your argument smells terrific!

You and Drew are correct: the owners are businessmen who run their franchises to make money. Salary cap does not change this fact, it only changes the variables in the equations their number crunchers use.
Although paying $8.75 for a Fat Tire gives me the red ass.

Thats why you bring water bottles of vodka and put it in your girlfriends purse. When they check you at the front, they don't know the difference. Plus, if you're at a Cardinals game, the smell will captivate and distract Tony Larussa long enough to keep him from making some inane pitching change.

Win-win!

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