The good and bad Joel Sherman made another appearance this week, where he penned a thoughtful and well reasoned column (unlike this one) on competitive balance and the state of the game and then followed it up with some of the wildest, weirdest remedies imaginable. Then closes with something really insightful and worthwhile. Par for the course with Joel, he writes sports columns the way Mickelson plays golf. One minute you think he’s brilliant and the next thing you know he launches one that ends up on the LIE.
First I must address his original column on the topic, since his remedies ranged from good to unrealistic to bizarre. He started off by suggesting one of the Yanks or Red Sox change divisions, to separate the warring parties and lessen the need for both teams to overspend to keep up with the Jones’. Breaking up the Yank-Sox rivalry by sending one to the AL Central is ratings/attendance suicide, so neither team would welcome the move. The Red Sox have built their identity as a franchise as battling the ‘Evil Empire’, I doubt they can generate similar interest demonizing the Twins.
He goes on to suggest re-balancing the schedule, to help the O’s and Blue Jays compete. But that cuts both ways, the Yanks and Sox typically play each other to a standstill, so sending them to play weaker opposition will only serve to pad their respective records. Baseball is also very much a regional sport and always has been, and it goes beyond the Yanks-Sox. The Dodgers and Giants have a longstanding rivalry, as do the Mets and Phillies and the Cubs and St Louis. Players and media also like being home more and traveling less distance, so Joel doesn’t exactly have a big base off support for re-balancing the schedule.
I like his idea to add a Wild Card, but I would make it a play-in game. The post season is already too long and we don’t need another 3 game series. I don’t care about making things fair to the Wild Card, I want to put a premium on winning your division. Far too many Wild Card teams have coasted the last few weeks of the season, and it was supposed to add teams in pennant races that would fight each other for that playoff spot down the stretch. Making your entire season come down to 1 game seems like a good disincentive against coasting down the stretch to me. The division would be worth fighting for, and more games in September would mean something.
On to his column. I’m going to break it up an weigh in frequently, since there’s a lot to comment on. Here goes:
But, to me, that is not a huge problem because the Yanks are simply keeping their own players and the sport – all sports actually – has greater appeal when players are associated with teams for a long time and/or their whole careers.
The bigger problem that the Yankees pose to competitors is when they decide, like they did in the offseason after the 2008 campaign, to simply spend whatever is necessary to solve problems. They spent nearly a half a billion dollars to land CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira that offseason. The current luxury tax and draft pick compensation was not enough to deter them.
I’d remind Joel that the Yanks lowered payroll in 08, since they had so much money coming off the books. But his overall point stands, the Yanks were able to spend to fix their problems, that is indisputable.
And I am wondering if there is much that can deter them. Besides any change to the system will take collective bargaining with the Players Association, which will fight hard to resist any on salaries by further punishing the Yankees to the point where they consider not signing too many free agents.
Perhaps the answer then lies not in punishing the Yankees as much as helping the teams that lose premium free agents in a greater way than currently exists. What needs to be fixed first is the outdated system for ranking players. We need to get to a more limited Type-A classification that represents just the best of the best. In other words, CC Sabathia is a Type-A, but Juan Cruz (who was ranked as a Type-A two years ago) is not.
Right now, a team that loses a Type-A free agent must offer arbitration and – if the player does not accept – the team receives a first-round draft pick and a sandwich pick. The signing team, if it has among the 15 best records, loses its first-round pick. I would consider rewarding a team that loses a Type-A free agent with a first-round draft pick for every year that the player has been with the team. So Cleveland would be able to weigh if trading Sabathia to the Brewers is more valuable than as many as six high draft picks if the Indians did the more fan-friendly thing and kept him until his free agency. Also, there would probably have to be safeguards put in not to reward, say, playoff teams with top-10 payrolls so that the Red Sox (Jason Bay) or Angels (John Lackey) would not get the same benefits of multiple high draft picks.
You essentially want to give smaller-market teams reasons to hold onto their players for as long as possible and replenish quickly when they lose them for financial reasons.
Wow, that’s batshit crazy. 6 first round picks to sign Carl Crawford? That would be such a deterrent that many teams simply wouldn’t bid, and salaries would plummet as a result. The MLBPA would go on strike for 5 years before they would ever agree to something like that. A hard salary cap would be less damaging to the free agent market.
2. Also be careful not to make the mistake of making all judgments about current payrolls. After all, salaries reflect where a player is in his career rather than true value.
For example, the Rays will have about a $70 million payroll in 2010. But imagine if all of their players were free agents, the actual value of those players would produce a payroll much closer to the Yankees’ $200 million than $70 million. Who would get the longer, richer contract if they were both free today: Evan Longoria or Alex Rodriguez? Sabathia still might be the most expensive pitcher off of either team, but the next four might be Matt Garza, James Shields, David Price and Wade Davis because of their talent and youth combination. Carl Crawford likely would be the most expensive outfielder on either team.
Here Joel redeems himself. Excellent, insightful point and 100% on the mark. Reading Joel Sherman is like digging for gold, you have to wade through a load of mud and muck to find the occasional gem.
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