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Just hours after the New York Yankees captured the organization’s 27th World Series championship last week, sports talk radio stations took up the debate of whether there should be a salary cap in Major League baseball to create a more-level economic playing field.
Some of that debate veered off into a red herring issue of whether the Yankees should be blamed for taking advantage of a system that allows teams to make as much money as they can — and essentially spend as much as they want — with only a limited revenue-sharing scheme in place.
No, the Yankee organization doesn’t deserve the blame for taking advantage of the rules, although the Steinbrenner family has unsuccessfully fought against revenue sharing in the past.
The Yankee owners have a single-minded purpose of winning and that’s to be commended.
Too many professional sports owners go into the business wanting to own a team but with no interest in spending the kind of money it takes to win.
There is, however, a problem with the lack of a salary cap in baseball. Major League baseball teams are competitors on the field, but partners off it. The Yankees can’t win championships without other teams to beat.
It takes no special player-evaluation talent for the Yankees to have signed high-priced free agents such as Mark Teixteira or C.C. Sabathia. Every organization knew they were great players and would have wanted them.
But few had the resources the Yankees had to sign them — resources that come from television deals and a big-market fan base that most other teams can’t match.
The Yankees’ money also enables them to keep the talent they’ve developed through their farm system.
Can you image Derek Jeter having started in the Kansas City Royals organization and staying in Kansas City all these years? It just never would have happened.
Defenders of the current system argue that money doesn’t guarantee success. They point to the fact that the Yankees had failed to win a championship since 2000, despite spending as much money or more than any other team.
Wow, there’s a drought for you. Try telling a Pittsburgh Pirates’ fan that the winning two World Series in a decade is a slump.
Big-market teams have dominated World Series championships through the past decade. Besides the Yankees winning two, the Red Sox have won two and Anaheim, Chicago and Philadelphia have all won one.
Baseball is in danger of losing fan support in places like Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Minnesota if it doesn’t move to level the economic playing field.
It has already been passed by football as the nation’s most-popular sports and generations of young people are flocking to other sports such as lacrosse.
In the end, it’s true that a salary cap won’t guarantee small-market teams success. They still need to draft well, convince free agents that they would enjoy living in the upper Midwest more than New York City or Boston, and hire good managers and front-office personnel.
They must, however, be given as much opportunity to win as other teams.
For now, Yankee fans should enjoy every minute of their 27th title; and Red Sox fans should be yelling for their club to start spending some of that big-market money during the off-season.
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