MLB has a cap! It does! ARGH!

DMZ · April 7, 2005 at 1:12 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

From this AP article:

While the NFL and NBA have salary caps, baseball does not. The current labor contract expires after the 2006 season.

Baseball has a cap as much as either of those two sports do. In baseball, there’s a hard number with severe and escalating penalties if a team exceeds it. Teams are free to exceed that number if they’re willing to eat the penalties… which is exactly as it is in the NBA and the NFL, though in each league the ways teams work it, and the penalties that they pay, differ.

I don’t understand why baseball has this widespread perception. The Yankees are the only team that violates the cap, and they’re paying a huge price to do so that gets higher every year.


59 Responses to “MLB has a cap! It does! ARGH!”

  1. DMZ on April 7th, 2005 11:58 pm

    Derek, you didn’t respond to the point that what makes a cap a cap, as distinct from a tax-type system like MLB’s, isn’t financial penalties but structural penalties and restrictions, which the NFL and NBA have in place and MLB doesn’t.

    No, I didn’t.

    I disagree with this artificial distinction you’re drawing, that because NBA teams can exceed their salary limit only if they go through certain loopholes and use certain methods that means that the NBA has a cap while baseball, because it allows more free transactions and then imposes penalties on the results, is not.

  2. The Ancient Mariner on April 8th, 2005 12:12 am

    It’s not an artificial distinction at all, because you’re misdrawing it. Rather, in the NBA, if teams are over the cap, then they are locked down, unable to spend money to any great degree; thus, teams over the cap are unable to go out and sign whomever they want; that is the teeth in the cap (and that’s a soft cap; in the NFL, by a certain date, teams have to be under the cap, and if they have to cut someone to get their payroll below the cap, they cut someone–just look at Tennessee). The distinction between the Yankees and the Knicks, which Brian Harper pointed out, or between the Yankees and the Giants/Jets, is far from “artificial.” To the contrary, it’s very real and makes a very big difference. The distinction between the Yankees as we know them and the Yankees as they would be under a true cap–sans Big Unit, Pavano, Wright and A-Rod–is far from “artificial,” but highly significant. The distinction between financial penalties–which teams can pay and then carry on as they wish–and structural penalties/restrictions–which prevent teams from carrying on as they wish–is far from “artificial”; it is a profound difference in the way MLB does business vs. the way the NBA and the NFL do business.

    We can argue the merits and demerits of the cap approach, the luxury tax approach, and whatever else, but to say that MLB has a cap, or that the distinction between its system and those of the NBA and NFL is “artificial,” is to betray a superficial understanding of the workings of those other two leagues.

  3. The Ancient Mariner on April 8th, 2005 12:18 am

    The terms in the NBA, btw, to describe the situation of teams like the Knicks, who are well over the cap for several years to come and thus extremely restricted in improving their franchise, are “cap jail” and “cap hell.” If MLB were to impose a cap tomorrow, the Yanks would be so far into “cap hell,” they’d be starting Bernie Williams in CF until he had grandchildren.

  4. DMZ on April 8th, 2005 12:28 am

    Yes, clearly, I’m misdrawing things which betrays a superficial understanding of the topic at hand. Thank you for pointing this out, as it saves me the effort of trying to continue arguing my hopeless and indefensible position and allows me to get some much-needed sleep.

    etc etc.

  5. GWO on April 8th, 2005 4:28 am

    Baseball has a salary cap in the same way the United States has an income cap.

  6. The Ancient Mariner on April 8th, 2005 9:08 am

    Way to avoid the argument.

  7. Xteve X on April 8th, 2005 9:44 am

    There’s never been a case where an NBA team traded a top 5 pick purely to for salary considerations. As has been pointed out, the NBA rookie scale contracts in the last couple of CBAs have made rookie players cheap. It’s in an NBA teams interest to collect those guys because they provide the greatest amount of bang for the buck, in theory.

    Now before they put in the rookie cap, guys like Glenn Robinson and Kevin Garnett were indeed commanding enormous salaries…I believe Glenn Robinson’s deal was something like 10 years, $100 million, which was absurd for a rookie player and essentially forced the owners hand to put in that provision.

    But I’ll just repeat that salary caps as I understand salary caps, both in the NBA and NFL sense — man, baseball just doesn’t have anything like that, not remotely. Teams are on more of an equal footing in the NFL than in any other sport, a little less so in the NBA due to the luxury tax threshold (although let’s be honest, I don’t think it’s ever been triggered to my knowledge). But if you check the total payrolls of all NFL teams and all NBA teams you won’t find anywhere near the disparity that you find in MLB.

    I don’t think anyone’s mentioned the recently adopted MINIMUM salary threshold the NBA instituted a year or so ago, basically to force the hand of infamous cheapskate Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling to either start paying his players once they were up for their second contracts, or sell.

  8. Evan on April 8th, 2005 9:59 am

    I actually think the sorts of deals the NBA has with draft slotting and the like should be illegal. The union shouldn’t be allowed to negotiate away the rights of non-members.

  9. The Ancient Mariner on April 8th, 2005 12:30 pm

    Re #57: Actually, the minimum has always been a part of the deal; I remember it being referenced some time in the late ’80s/early ’90s, though I don’t remember exactly why.

    Re #58: Agreed.