Brilliance of Communism Lost on Hank Steinbrenner

by npiller88

Hank lookin for some stress relief after the Royals got some of his millions

Hank Steinbrenner, the son of George, has gone political. No, he hasn’t joined a tea party ticket or chided the US Government for failing to come to the aid of Mubarak and other dictators. Instead, he’s taking a shot at the MLB’s revenue sharing and luxury tax policies that force major market teams with gargantuan payrolls to fork over some cash to smaller markets. Keep in mind, the Yankees spent about 130 million dollars on luxury tax and revenue sharing combined, for the 2010 season. So even for the cash flush New York Yankees, this isn’t a minor issue.

“We’ve got to do a little something about that, and I know Bud wants to correct it in some way,” Steinbrenner said. “Obviously, we’re very much allies with the Red Sox and the Mets, the Dodgers, the Cubs, whoever in that area.”

“At some point, if you don’t want to worry about teams in minor markets, don’t put teams in minor markets, or don’t leave teams in minor markets if they’re truly minor,” Steinbrenner said. “Socialism, communism, whatever you want to call it, is never the answer.”

Except, of course when it was the answer in the NFL. And in the NBA.

Steinbrenner seemed to suggest that a fraternity of major market teams in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York are allied on this issue. There’s one problem. If you eliminate all small market teams, who would the Yankees play? People go to games to see competition. Last time I checked, there weren’t 30 media markets in the united states the size of New York, LA or Chicago. Perhaps some of the most watched games are between the Yankees and Red Sox (especially in the playoffs), but how would the Yankees manage to schedule the 81 home games per year that generate the revenue they ultimately share, if the MLB was only a 5 team league (as Hank seems to desire). I somehow doubt that the owners of the Mets, Cubs and Dodgers are likely to endorse this call to abandon all “minor markets.”

The MLB has an interest in sustaining a high level of competition and trying to promote some parity. They want teams like the Kansas City Royals to be good, or at least competitive. Otherwise, most games during the season would be meaningless (many already are, because teams like the Royals always suck). This is not to say that their answer (luxury tax and revenue sharing) is somehow radical or “communist.” In fact, it’s the least radical mechanism meant to promote parity of any of major sports leagues. Look at the NFL: There’s a strict salary cap and lots of potential to rebuild bad teams through a draft structure that favors weaker teams. While there is a similar draft structure in baseball, the task of player development is such an inexact science that a parity-based draft often doesn’t do much to actually encourage parity. Couple that with the fact that the richest teams in the MLB tend to build their teams through free-agency rather than the farm system, and it becomes clear that the draft, and most other mechanisms of promoting parity are essentially meaningless. The small market teams that succeed do so by making shrewd trades and actually DEVELOPING players (something the Yankees are unfamiliar with) In the NBA, there’s also a strict salary cap, and trades can only be signed off on by the league if the salaries of the players being exchanged match up. Even though there is a trend of elite players in the NBA coming together through free agency, giving rise to a top-heavy talent structure, with a few major powerhouses in contention for a championship (like Boston, Miami, LA and now with the Carmelo signing, New York), teams can still get lucky and draft a superstar that could change the face of their team (see the Orlando Magic with Dwight Howard).

The reason guys like Hank are upset is that the policy is so ineffectual and lenient that it only affects literally the top two or three teams in terms of revenue (because there is such a high revenue ceiling before a team is considered rich enough to share). So in this sense, Hank is right. But his conclusion is wrong. What the MLB needs is more parity, not contraction and rule by the elite teams. The answer is to extend the influence of such revenue sharing measures to actually have some impact on parity, if you are going to do anything at all. Under such a scenario, maybe washed-up shortstops like Derek Jeter wouldn’t be making 17 million a year (or old closers like Mariano Rivera, for that matter–ok, he’s only making 15, my bad). Perhaps the players union wouldn’t be too happy about that. But the main reason why those guys got deals like that is they are icons that play for the Yankees, literally the ONLY team that would even come close to forking over that kind of money for either of those guys. So it seems that Hank sort of dug his own grave here.

If Bud Selig really wants to “correct” this in some way (as Hank would prefer), he either has to do away with the parity measures completely, or dramatically change the way business is done in baseball. Maybe he should take a page out of the NFL’s playbook, Das Kapital, and start enforcing a strict salary cap, even if it’s a pretty high one that would still allow for ridiculous player salaries like A-Rod’s or Pujols’ next deal. Whatever he does, he needs to move away from this logic that having small market teams is somehow bad for the league. In order for a small market to attract a fan base, it needs to start winning. When competing with teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, they better get those farm systems to crank out new superstars at an ungodly clip, or else they will be forever in the division cellar (like the Tampa Bay Rays were, before they followed the Oakland A’s lead and produced players through the farm system).

Maybe baseball is fine how it is, and we should just get rid of revenue sharing, since it’s often not even used by cash-strapped owners to actually improve the product on the field. But, Hank, even though we know Communism didn’t work in Russia, didn’t it work pretty well in the NFL?

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3 Comments to “Brilliance of Communism Lost on Hank Steinbrenner”

  1. The sad thing is that the draft, which is supposed to help the worst teams, some times does more harm than good. Since there is no rookie wage scale, the best players often fall in the draft until a larger market team, like the Yankees, can swoop in for them. Selig needs to institute a hard cap that each team can spend on the draft, or get a wag scale across. The Yankees with their infinite supply of money can blow as much as they like on the draft without any repercussions.

  2. Also, for the record, I love that picture of Hank. It looks like his best impressions of a Tarantino character

  3. Hahahahaha he would be great Tarantino fodder. And that is a great point about the draft.. We shouldn’t be a point where poor teams can’t even afford to pay high schoolers…

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