Should Baseball Have a Salary Cap?
by Trevor Whenham - 03/26/2008
It's a debate that won't go away. Should baseball have a salary cap? In a word, no. You want more than that? Fine, here are four reasons:
Payroll doesn't guarantee success - The argument that money buys success is not a particularly good one. Sure, some teams with big payrolls do well - the Yankees put together a good run, and Boston is winning with relative ease these days. A big payroll can be as much of an anchor as a boost, though. Just look at the teams with big payrolls and little to show for it - the Yankees haven't exactly been tearing it up for a while, and the trophy cases of the Mets, Dodgers and many others are decidedly empty. On the other hand, teams like Colorado last year and Florida a couple of times have shown that teams without massive payrolls or a roster loaded with superstars can still succeed.
Expensive players are not necessarily good players - Too often, players are rewarded with huge contracts at or past their peaks, not while they are at their peak productivity. In other words, sometimes a team pays for what a player has done, not what he will do. I could fill this page and nine others with the names of guys who are making way, way more money that they are worth. Carl Pavano is a classic example. It's rarely the small market teams that are overpaying for this talent. Often times, it is the small market teams that get the production out of the players while they are still young, and the bigger market teams that overpay for the player when he becomes a free agent. Prince Fielder, Jonathan Papelbon - the list goes on and on of very good, valuable young players who are all-stars while earning less than a million dollars a year.
Inspires creativity - Oakland, Florida, Arizona and Minnesota are all good examples of teams that have had to make up for their lack of a massive payroll by being more creative and by paying better attention to their young talent. The Yankees, Mets or Red Sox trade away their youngsters whenever there is a veteran that they want to acquire. The smaller teams benefit from those acquisitions and they succeed by bringing up talent - Oakland and Minnesota have both created all-stars in several positions including pitchers, most notably, and Florida has provided young talent at the core of several contenders now. These teams succeed by being creative, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it makes it more interesting in a lot of ways.
A salary cap doesn't necessarily work - The NBA has a fairly rigid salary cap and it isn't exactly the model of competition. Atlanta, the Clippers, Memphis and others are lousy now, have been lousy for a while, and will continue to be lousy for a while longer. On the other hand, the Lakers, the Suns, the Spurs, The Pistons and others have been competitive for a long time, and their ability to compete hasn't been hampered at all by the salary cap. The salary cap doesn't ensure equal footing because teams are affected by the quality of their management. If you want baseball to be more competitive you should push for IQ tests for general managers, not for a salary cap.