Sunday, June 19, 2005

Raissman Wrong On Revenue Sharing

I usually like Raissman's takes on the game, but in Friday's column, the guy was off. He was defending the Yankees' use of revenue sharing money for the new stadium. I'll give Raissman's arguments in italics, and follow them with my responses.

The only people who are not going to be happy about this are the other teams who may get just a little less revenue-sharing money," Levine said with a laugh.
He had it half right. For if you picked up the newspapers or listened to sports-talk radio yesterday, it was abundantly clear some pontificators find it problematic that the Yankees can now deduct ballpark construction costs from gross revenues, which means they may be completely out of the revenue-sharing business.
"... It's the Royals and the Devil Rays and the Pirates (who are going to be paying for the new Yankee Stadium)," ESPN Radio's Mike Greenberg said yesterday on his morning show. "This is a tough day for competitive balance in Major League Baseball."
Cue the sad violin.
Greenberg's lament was echoed in other media quarters.
It's not surprising. After all, these are the New York Yankees. Anything George Steinbrenner does for the betterment of his team, and its fans, is always bad for baseball, right?
Still, hearing this latest media whine begs a few questions.
Where was the outrage when the suits who own the Pirates and Brewers pocketed Yankee revenue-sharing booty while they were building their own stadiums?

Well, let's look at how much these teams got in revenue sharing: let's say about $20 million. So if their payroll would go from $40 to $60 million, would they still have the chips to compete with teams like the Junkees, who spend more than double that amount? No way. Spending that cash on players would give them a few more wins. But getting 79 wins instead of 73 isn't going to get you the pennant. Also, it won't attract new fans to the park, which may be what ultimately brings home more revenue. You have to admit that a 73-win team at brand-new PNC Park will bring home a lot more money than a 79-win team would in Three Rivers. So in a way, they spent wisely.

Now, the only issue is, what about after the stadium is built? Aside from stadium debt, what about spending more on the team then? We'll hit that soon.

And what about all the teams who stashed Steinbrenner's revenue-sharing cash and spent little or nothing on players (just ask Lou Piniella)? They have the nerve to actually charge admission to see absolute garbage.
See, it's easier to look the other way - and laugh - when it comes to sad-sack losers, even ones who are stealing money.
Not even Bud (Nutty Professor) Selig, who once owned a baseball team (oh my, wasn't it the Brewers?) ever seemed too concerned about how the revenue-sharing cash was being spent.

The fact is, the Devil Rays tried the high-spending approach, bringing in stars like Juan Guzman, Greg Vaughn, and Fred McGriff. The approach flopped. And unlike the Yankees, small-market teams cannot afford to just throw around money every time they made a bad deal! The Yanks are the only team that can afford to spend about $50 million on three ripoffs in Giambi, Bernie, and Brown, who's at home again on the DL. Small-market teams have no margin for error.

The only way that teams like Tampa Bay can afford to compete with the Yankees is if they spend enough to cover for the inevitable bad signings. But unless you're in a huge market with the YES Network and all, can you really afford to spend $100 million? Especially considering that even then, a winning team is no guarantee? Considering that a full ballpark is no guarantee?

Besides, stinky teams have a very hard team convincing star players to join them. The Tigers were criticized for giving exorbitant contracts to I-Rod and Magglio Ordonez. But would those guys have been willing to join a perennial loser like Detroit for less than what they got? Highly unlikely. Players don't like hanging out on a constant losing team, and will only risk that by getting more than they would from a winner. So for a cheap team to even start spending money involves making risky investments, and when a guy like Ordonez goes on the DL, doesn't contribute, and doesn't attract more fans, the team is screwed.

Revenue sharing is a nice idea in theory, but turning a $40 million team into a $60 million team has little effect when there's a $200 million juggernaut out there. And when other owners know this, you can't blame them for pocketing the money they get. So ultimately, the Despiser is right in calling for a salary cap. That's the only way things will ever get fair and even.

But because Cashman has screwed up so much, the playing field has got more even to the point where small-to-mid market teams have more of a chance to compete. After seeing the Yankees flounder this year, a small-market owner is wrong for pocketing the money. Perhaps some of the cheapskates will begin spending more, seeing that they may have a shot. But George is preventing that from happening. I understand that the guy is playing by the rules. (And I give him credit for wanting to build a new stadium instead of staying in the ugly dump the Yankees now play in. I don't care about the aura, the mystique, Ruth, DiMaggio, or whatever. Yankee Stadium right now has the charm of a parking lot.) But there's no way in hell that you can say what he's doing is good for the game.

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