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Cliff Lee Signs with the Phillies: Why Baseball Needs a Salary Cap
With the signing of Cliff Lee, the Philadelphia Phillies now pay their rotation alone more money than their biggest NL East rival (the Atlanta Braves) pay their entire team. This is ridiculous. Baseball contracts have gotten far out of hand. Players have become accustomed to getting ANY amount of money they want, even when they really aren’t that talented. Average fans get sick of players taking on huge contracts and making ridiculous money. The blue collar man does not want to watch someone get paid hundreds of millions of dollars to play a game. Especially when he considers that the hundreds of millions of dollars come from his own pocket in the form of increased ticket and concession prices.
The popularity of the sport is suffering due to the lack of salary control. Every year the teams that spend the most money make the playoffs. People have become accustomed to seeing the Yankee’s and Phillies vie for their respective leagues championships every single year. These two teams are among the highest spenders and their respective leagues and their success can be traced back to their deep pockets. Unfortunately for fans of baseball, we are forced to watch the same teams in the playoff’s year after year, because those teams spend the most money. This is not true of the NFL or the NBA, both of which instituted a salary cap years ago. This limit to the amount of money a team can spend on its salary allows these leagues to have a more even level of competition, resulting in a more exciting regular season and different teams making the playoffs and winning championships every year.
Baseball however, refuses to institute such a policy. Instead baseball has what is known as revenue sharing. Revenue sharing is where teams that make more money pay teams that make less money. Today, this basically results in teams that win (like the Yankee’s) paying teams to lose (like the Pirates). In theory, owners of teams that take in less money are supposed to use the shared revenue to improve their rosters. However in practice this is rarely what happens. Greedy owners refuse to pay for better players and instead rely on rookies and less talented players.
This results in situations like the one in Pittsburg. As fans of the Pirates already know, every time their favorite team obtains a talented player, they trade him away in order to avoid paying him a real contract. This is a problem. While professional baseball is a business designed to make owners money, the current system is not maximizing baseball’s potential earning power.
Stiff competition improves the popularity of a sport. Just look at the NFL. Year after year different teams compete for the Super Bowl, different teams represent their divisions and the playoffs, and different fans get their stint in the sun. Because of this, because every team has a real chance every year, ticket sales, television ratings and merchandise sales sky rocket. Major League Baseball would do well to emulate the NFL's example.