What if we had that DeLorean Doc Brown and Marty McFly used in the Back to Future movies, and this was one of the press releases that they got their hands on?
March 1, 2350 (NEW YORK) – Today, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association embarked on the most fundamental change to the game allowing markets from San Juan to Sacramento and all in-between to compete on even footing with New York, Tokyo, Las Angeles, and Boston.
The changes, with strong help from the medical community, include cloning 40 of the best players in the league with one each going to every club. The 2350 season will start with each club having the exact same players. This, on top of the hard fought salary cap and floor that saw a 5-year work stoppage battle between the union and the league, gives each club the exact starting point with which to compete, making the season up for grabs.
Commissioner Derek Jeter III said in a statement, “Even upon his death bed at the age of 134, then Commissioner Bud Selig saw that, while somewhat competitive, changes were still needed to have the game truly level for all markets. These changes mean that now, and forever, the 44 clubs in MLB will be on equal footing.”
Upon hearing the news, Pittsburgh and Kansas City politicians celebrated by encouraging businesses to give fans the rest of the day off. The Pirates and Royals are each mired in a streak of 50 consecutive losing seasons.
If that famed DeLorean came back and gave those watching the sport this news, would they believe that there would truly be ultimate competitive balance? If you asked me, the answer is a resounding, no. Here’s the reasons why that fantasy press release would still have the big markets having a leg up on its small market brethren.
Cap Doesn’t Stop Spending (Front Office) – You can put in a hard cap on player salaries but that doesn’t stop you from spending in other areas. Instead of bidding wars for players, the focus would move to the best general managers, and other front office personnel in order to gain advantage. Want to hire 100 sabermetric geeks at $100K a year, what would stop you?
Cap Doesn’t Stop Spending (International Scouting) – Same deal as above, only different department. While every club would start with exactly the same line-up and same budget, the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox could start outspending others on international scouting thus allowing high revenue makers to scourer the globe in locations other markets might not be able to get to.
All Things Being Equal (Endorsement Deals) – Your Major League salary could be the same going from market to market in this fantasy scenario, but that doesn’t mean that athletes will want to play in Pittsburgh rather than New York. If players are allowed to reap as much as they can in endorsement money, New York and LA would still have an advantage.
All Things Being Equal (Quality of Life, Taxes, the Media, and Other Picture Postcards) – Athletes, often times, have families. Good schools, cost of living, state taxes, and how the media treats players would play a big part in how an athlete would determine where they would wind up wanting to sign in free agency.
Ballpark Factors – You’re a left-handed power hitter, so you might want to take advantage of Yankee Stadium’s short porch to right. If you’re a right-hander, maybe you’d like to play in Fenway. If you’re a pitcher, maybe you’d prefer Safeco Field. If where you play at factors into where you sign now (just look at the Beltre deal with the Red Sox), then it would still be in play in fantasy world.
Yeah, but… - OK, all this isn’t to say that things might be more evenly matched. Level off everything at the beginning and it might take a while for a grease fire front office to blow it all up. Still, it’s sports (and life), and if there’s one thing we’ve seen, nothing is perfect. Someone will always be smarter than the rest of the pack. Only 1 team is going to win the World Series each year. As a high-placed NL executive said to me at one point, “Each year, someone is smarter, or luckier, or whatever… And the following year, everyone else in the league looks to that team and says, ‘Whatever they did, we need to do it better.’ All it is is the latest flavor of the year.”
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Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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