Does Baseball Need a Salary Cap?

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Major League Baseball stand alone in the fact that the league does not institute a salary cap. A salary cap is a monetary limit that teams cannot exceed that is agreed upon by the league. The NHL, NBA, and NFL all have salary caps. So why doesn’t the MLB? Well they kind of do. Instead of a salary cap the MLB has what is called a luxury tax, which is a tax imposed on teams who exceed a certain limit set by the league. So it’s not really a salary cap, but it does, or at least, is supposed to discourage large market teams from having a payroll that makes the payroll of a small market team look like pocket change. But does the luxury tax actually work? Let’s take a look at all 30 teams’ 2012 payroll and see what we can see.

2012 Team Payrolls
NO. TEAM PAYROLL AVERAGE
1. New York Yankees $197,962,289 $ 6,186,321
2. Philadelphia Phillies $174,538,938 $5,817,964
3. Boston Red Sox $173,186,617 $5,093,724
4. Los Angeles Angels $154,485,166 $5,327,074
5. Detroit Tigers $132,300,000 $4,562,068
6. Texas Rangers $120,510,974 $4,635,037
7. Miami Marlins $118,078,000 $4,373,259
8. San Francisco Giants $117,620,683 $3,920,689
9. St. Louis Cardinals $110,300,862 $3,939,316
10. Milwaukee Brewers $97,653,944 $3,755,920
11. Chicago White Sox $96,919,500 $3,876,780
12. Los Angeles Dodgers $95,143,575 $3,171,452
13. Minnesota Twins $94,085,000 $3,484,629
14. New York Mets $93,353,983 $3,457,554
15. Chicago Cubs $88,197,033 $3,392,193
16. Atlanta Braves $83,309,942 $2,776,998
17. Cincinnati Reds $83,309,942 $2,776,998
18. Seattle Mariners $81,978,100 $2,927,789
19. Baltimore Orioles $81,428,999 $2,807,896
20. Washington Nationals $81,336,143 $2,623,746
21. Cleveland Indians $78,430,300 $2,704,493
22. Colorado Rockies $78,069,571 $2,692,054
23. Toronto Blue Jays $75,489,200 $2,696,042
24. Arizona Diamondbacks $74,284,833 $2,653,029
25. Tampa Bay Rays $64,173,500 $2,291,910
26. Pittsburgh Pirates $63,431,999 $2,187,310
27. Kansas City Royals $60,916,225 $2,030,540
28. Houston Astros $60,651,000 $2,332,730
29. Oakland Athletics $55,372,500 $1,845,750
30. San Diego Padres $55,244,700 $1,973,025

Now I didn’t go to math school, but it’s pretty evident that the top payrolls are eons above the bottom payrolls. The New York Yankees’ payroll is 3 1/2 times larger than the San Diego Padres’. Well now, let’s look at another table. How about one showing market size and average revenue for all 30 teams from 1995-2005. Now being the baseball genius that I’m sure you are, you will realize that this table incorporates the Montreal Expos because with this data, the Washington Nationals do not exist.

Team

Market Size (100 represents league average)

Average Revenue in millions from 1995-2005

Yankees

262

$187.54

Braves

102

$134.38

Red Sox

155

$131.83

Indians

84

$129.09

Mets

244

$127.96

Orioles

124

$125.72

Dodgers

175

$122.63

Diamondbacks

64

$121.13

Mariners

112

$119.03

Rockies

59

$115.44

Rangers

103

$113.33

Cubs

105

$113.19

Giants

84

$106.50

Cardinals

56

$104.73

Astros

86

$100.18

Rays

87

$92.36

Angels

147

$91.27

White Sox

90

$91.08

Tigers

95

$84.56

Phillies

130

$83.87

Padres

45

$82.64

Blue Jays

96

$81.42

Athletics

61

$75.13

Marlins

95

$74.89

Reds

69

$74.55

Brewers

39

$72.39

Pirates

54

$72.08

Royals

38

$69.07

Twins

69

$63.36

Expos

78

$55.13

So what does all this mean? And quite honestly who cares? Well here’s what you should take away from this table. For the most part, the teams with the higher revenues are teams in higher markets. Makes sense. Now, you have some teams, in relatively small markets with pretty high revenues, that’s what MLB wants, or at least what they say they want. When small market teams make the playoffs and play a large market team. Baseball’s ratings are through the roof. When you have two teams, like the 2001 world series, the Yankees vs the Diamondbacks, one, the Yankees, being a large market team, the other, the Diamondbacks, being a middle market team, you have great ratings. Only the 2004 World Series has beaten the 2001 World Series since and that has to be accredited to Red Sox breaking their curse. So baseball wants a few, small market teams to mix it up with large market teams. because that what fans want.

So should MLB impose a salary cap? No, absolutely not. The saying “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” doesn’t really work when the poor are multimillionaires. A high payroll and large market doesn’t necessarily equal success. Look at the recent success small market, small payroll teams like the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Cincinnati Reds, and Washington Nationals. Then look at the recent struggles of the LA Angels, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets, and Chicago Cubs. Money is not the only factor controlling the success of a baseball team. Small market teams are figuring out ways to win and beat these large market teams. Small market success is almost becoming a new fad for the MLB. Fans love to see players they’ve never heard of take on the likes of Derek Jeter and the Yankees. It’s what makes baseball great. The Yankees may have 27 rings and that’s all well and good, but the times are changing. The Yankees, and other large market teams for that matter, go through years of failure just like every other team. Paying millions upon millions of dollars for a lineup isn’t going to win championships. Of the ten playoff teams in 2012, 5 were in the top 15 of payroll, 5 were in the bottom 15.

Salary cap, is, and will probably always be the most controversial issue in baseball, well maybe second behind the DH. But when it comes down to making a decision on whether or not the league wants to impose a cap they look at success of small market teams. If these small market teams keep finding ways to win, the league is not going to impose a salary cap.

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Statistics Sample Size

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With movies like Moneyball and organizations like Baseball Prospectus pushing sabermetrics and statistics, armchair statisticians have popped up everywhere. For the most part these self proclaimed stats experts read ESPN and write what they think those “statistics” mean. Well ESPN is notorious for being biased and less than adequate in their statistics department, so these armchair statisticians really don’t know what they are talking about.

At the beginning of every season we hear the same thing over and over again; “He hit 5 HRs in 5 games, he’s going to hit 162 HRs” or “He is 0-for his first 30 ABs, looks like he is going to have a bad year”. “The first few games of the season are indicators for the entire season.” People who say things like that could not be more wrong.

So let’s take a look at what point statistics become reliable.

Offense Statistics:

  • 50 PA (Plate Appearances): Swing %
  • 100 PA: Contact Rate
  • 150 PA: Strikeout Rate, Line Drive Rate, Pitchers/PA
  • 200 PA: Walk Rate, Ground Ball Rate, Fly Ball Rate, Ground Ball/Fly Ball
  • 300 PA: Home Run Rate, HR/Fly Balls
  • 500 PA: OBP, SLG, OPS

Pitching Statistics:

  • 150 BF (Batters Faced): K/PA, Line Drive Rate
  • 200 BF: Ground Ball Rate, Fly Ball Rate, Ground Ball/Fly Ball Rate
  • 500 BF: K/BB, Pop-up Rate
  • 550 BF: BB/PA

If you don’t believe us, go ahead and look for the past ten years at end of the season numbers vs each of these points in any player’s season. You’ll see what we, FanGraphs, Pizza Cutter, and Baseball Prospectus have all seen. If you still don’t believe us, close ESPN or Yahoo or CBSports or whatever “source” you are looking at and look at raw statistics. Once you do that look at a team that you are indifferent towards, say the Kansas City Royals, assign each player a random number, and look at the statistics of each number, this way any chance for bias is eliminated.

The first couple of series do not, in any way, determine how the season is going to go for the team or an individual player. The numbers above and minimum numbers. The absolute minimum. If you’re favorite player has 0 HRs through 10 games don’t freak out, the sample size is way to small. The same holds true for a prospect. If a prospect gets called up at some point during the season and they hit 2 HRs in the first 2 games, that doesn’t mean that they are the next Hammerin Hank, the sample size, again, is way to small. So please, before you freak out and because of a slow start, remember that the season is young, and the sample size is still very small.

Baseball Backs Boston

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The tragedy that took place during the Boston Marathon this past Monday was nothing short of horrifying. We’ll leave the details and the unfortunate happenings for the press. In response to the bombings that took place, the sports world jumped at the opportunity to show it’s support. All across the nation teams were taking moments of silence, showing messages of support on the jumbotrons, and writing “Boston Strong” on uniforms. Ben Revere went as far as writing “PRAY for Boston” on a piece of tape attached to his glove. To make it better, Revere made an absoltely outstanding catch during the game that is being considered as the play of the year. Major league baseball teams played “Sweet Caroline”, which, if you don’t know, is one of Fenway Park’s greatest traditions. The most notable team to play “Sweet Caroline” would be the New York Yankees, the Red Sox’s biggest rival. Here’s a nice clip of the support shown by the Yankee faithful. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKglH9BFBrw

Another absolutely touching moment came during the National Anthem at the Boston Bruins first game since the tragedy. I know it’s not baseball, but it is sports bringing people together. The Bruins were hosting the Buffalo Sabres and during the National Anthem the entire crowd joined in for what can only be described as one of the most touching moments in Boston Bruins history. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbHMRpdk3_4&list=UUxYhoPHdKS-Bev3q7hdAG7A

Even though sports can, and usually does, spur hatred and bring out the absolute worst in people, everyone across the sports world has come to the support of Boston. Even though fans often hate each other, every team and their fans banded together to not just pray and show their support for Boston, but to show that baseball, and all sports, can be used for more good than bad. Baseball has banded in times of trouble from 9/11, the Newtown Tragedy, to this Boston Marathon bombing. When people need a place to get away from tragedies and travesties, they look to things like sporting events. Baseball is famous for being able to get people to band together as a community and overcome times of hardship. The Boston Marathon bombings are no different. Major League Baseball is doing everything they can possibly do for the fans and they are coming out smelling like a rose bringing the baseball community to the support of Boston.

Boston is nothing short of a great city. The people of Boston and all of the people affected by this tragedy will bounce back stronger than ever.  In the words of Stephen Colbert “these maniacs may have tried to make life bad for the people of Boston, but all they can ever do is show just how good those people are.”

 

Is Chris Davis the Next Babe Ruth?

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Chris Davis has been the hottest player in MLB so far this season. He started off the season against Tampa Bay only going 1 for 4 in the opening game, but he had a home run with 3 RBI’s. The second game he went 4 for 4 with another home run and 4 more RBI’s. He finished off the series going 2 for 3 with another home run and 4 more RBI’s. One more consecutive home run and he would have tied the record. Could he do it? Well it doesn’t matter what you think, because he did it, the next game against Minnesota he went 2 for 4 with a home run and 5 RBI’s.

               Within the first four games of the season Davis had more RBI’s (16) than 17 Major League teams and twice as many RBI’s as the Padres, Giants, Cubs, Dodgers, Marlins, and the Pirates. He also had more RBI’s than any 2 players in baseball combined. He had more RBI’s than any player in baseball history throughout the first four games of a season, Three players held the previous record, which was 12 (Mark McGwire back in 1998). He is the first Orioles hitter to hit a home run in each of his first 4 games, and he is tied with 3 other players, including Willie Mays, Mark McGuire, and Nelson Cruz. The last player to drive in 11 runs in a 3 game series was Cal Ripken Jr. back in 1996 against the Mariners; Davis drove in 11 runs against Tampa Bay to start off the season. Davis also has the Orioles club record for most home runs over a 10 game span with 10 and over an 11 game span with 11.

               So, with all of these records is Chris Davis going to be the next Babe Ruth this year? Probably not. The 3 other players that hit 4 home runs in 4 consecutive games all had amazing years. Mark McGwire started off his season with 4 home runs and that season he hit the most home runs in a season (70). Nelson Cruz had one of the best years of his career in 2011 with 29 home runs batting average of .263.

Chris Davis may not be the next Babe Ruth, but this could be signs of the power hitter that Baltimore has been searching for for years now. Expect him to go in a home run drought for a week or so, that’s what the past shows with Mark McGwire and Nelson Cruz. Hopefully he will not be looking for a bomb every time he is at bat because he will end up with the record in MLB for strikeouts which no fan of MLB wants to see. 

Player Salaries and their Relationship With Ticket Price

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In 2005 the Associated Press conducted a study to figure out what Americans thought the biggest flaw was in baseball. Is it the length of the season? The relatively slow pace of the game? Nope. The number one answer, garnering 33% of the vote was player salaries. In 2012 the average salary for a player on the Opening Day roster was $3,440,000. In 1990 the average salary was $578,930. Let’s go back a little further just because we can. In 1976, the first year of free agency, the average MLB player salary skyrocketed to $51,501. I say skyrocketed because prior to the implementation of free agency the average player salary was less than $30,000 a year mainly due to baseball’s reserve clause which forced players to sign for whatever the team would offer.

Player salaries aren’t alone in their quantum leap in price. Ticket salaries, as most fans are acutely aware, have soared since 1976. For the 1976 season the average baseball ticket would run $3.45. In 2012 the average ticket would set you back $26.96. Any armchair economist can tell you the price increase has to do with inflation. Ok well, calculate inflation, $3.45 in 1976 has the purchasing power of $13.73. That leaves 50.92% of the ticket price left unexplained.

Well economists have the answer for that. MLB owners, like any other business owners, set their prices based on what will make them the most money. As player costs go up, the owners costs go up. Owners aren’t likely to eat that salary and have it taken out of their own pocket so it would make sense that they pass the price onto the public through ticket prices. However, until about 1990, ticket prices and salary price showed almost no correlation. Since 1990, ticket prices and player salary show a direct connection. So what happened? June 5th, 1989, the Toronto Blue Jays open the SkyDome, baseball’s first “mallpark”. The begining of the $7 hot dog and luxury suites. The SkyDome was built for one reason: to make money, and boy did it. The Blue Jays needed just two years to crack baseball’s 4-million mark in single season attendance, the first team to do so. Seeing the success of the Blue Jays, every team wanted to jump on the mallpark train. Mariners owner Jeff Smulyan marveled at the SkyDome saying “you take the suites, the signage, throw the media on top, and you have an economic juggernaut. As bigger and better ballparks began popping up all across the country owners quickly realized that fans would pay unprecedented prices for a fancy stadium and over priced concessions.

So new ballparks and fancier stadium amenities contribute to a huge increase in ticket price because fans thought they were getting more out of their ticket. Well not every team moved to a new ballpark or renovated their current ballpark, but their ticket prices still went up. Why? It’s a fairly simple answer really, baseball’s popularity has risen. The popularity of sports in general has risen. With fantasy sports, sports channels on TV, and huge, attractive stadiums, the popularity of sports has never been higher. A simple supply and demand case here, more people want to go to sporting events, which allows owners to raise the price of tickets because people are willing to pay for it.

So next time you find yourself complaining at the bar because you can’t afford to get to the ballpark, don’t blame player salaries. There is way more to ticket price than player salaries. Remember, when it boils down to it, baseball is a business. Owners, like any other good business owner, are just trying to maximize profits, and that is exactly was has happened. Major League Baseball revenue has gone from $1.35 billion in 1990 (the SkyDome’s first full season) to a whopping $7.5 billion in 2012. So if you want to pin the blame on rising tickets prices, it’s better to blame baseball fans’ love affair with eating hot dogs in luxury suites at lavish ballparks than it is to blame the player’s salaries.

Opening Day Notes

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Now that every team has played at least one game it’s a pretty good time to talk about some things that stood out:

  • Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez both have two bombs in two games. If their pop comes back the NL West just turned into a 4 team race leaving just the Padres out of it.
  • The Yankees are going to really struggle this year. Their “survive until Jeter gets back” mentality is not going to work for the injured Yankee lineup. They are going to have to figure something else out.
  • On the note of the Yankees Joba Chamberlain’s mustache is already in mid-season form, his pitching however, is not.
  • Speaking of facial hair, Danny Espinosa of the Nationals has a playoff beard going that would make Scotty Hartnell blush. Apparently Espinosa has high hopes for the Nats this year.
  • One more facial hair comment, how about goatee-less Kevin Youkilis. When Johnny Damon jumped ship from the BoSox to the Bronx Bombers he cut his famous flowing locks, apparently Youk had to shave his glorious goatee.
  • The umpires are still a little rusty. A couple of really bad calls during the Astros-Rangers game was just the tip of the iceberg, let’s hope that improves.
  • Apparently Clayton Kershaw can do everything. Pitched a shutout and went deep, have yourself a day Mr. Kershaw.
  • Probably the most disappointing fact about Opening Day is that overly biased fans still exist. Mets, Astros, Cubs, and Red Sox fans are all saying World Series or bust because they won their respective Opening Days. Be excited, your team won! That’s great! But don’t go talking trash to other fans and say things like “the Mets are now the favorite to win the division because they won Opening Day against the Padres. Get real. It’s a shame that fans like this can give all baseball fans, including realistic and knowledgeable baseball fans, a bad name.
  • Another disappointment would be ESPN still drools over Bryce Harper. You have to hand it to the kid for hitting 2 bombs in his first two ABs, but saying he’s the front runner for MVP? Come on, that’s way to early to call.
  • Speaking of players ESPN loves, their new darling this year appears to be Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Red Sox. Bradley Jr. walked 3 times during C.C.’s struggles and now ESPN is ready to hand him the AL Rookie of the Year. Again, what the hell, it’s been one game.
  • King Felix reigns supreme, shutting the Athletics down. Maybe the Mariners emerge as a sleeper team…but probably not.
  • Yu’s got what he needs. Darvish channeled his inner Mike Mussina by going 8 2/3 perfect innings before Marwin Gonzalez went five hole on Darvish for the Astros first hit.
  • Apparently the Astros can’t do ANYTHING right, a guy has thrown 26 outs of perfect baseball and you go and ruin it. Even the Houston fans (minus the guy giving the camera the double bird) were upset that history was broken up.
  • A final thought, most stadiums were sold out on their respective Opening Days, but most of those “fans” are the fans who go to Opening Day and never return to the ballpark that season. These kind of people go to Opening Day for the to be seen and so they can brag about how they went to Opening Day. Really screws the dedicated fans who try come out to the ballpark on a regular basis.

Opening Night – Where the MLB Completely Screwed Up

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Baseball’s Opening Day is arguably the greatest single day in sports. Opening Day marks the start of a new campaign, a new journey for teams. New faces on the diamond scattered in between legends and the games most elite players. Fresh cut grass, sun shining above, the smell of baseball in the air…not anymore. No, now Major League Baseball has decided to begin the season with Opening Night. This 2013 season will begin on March 31st when the Texas Rangers visit the Houston Astros at 8 P.M. ET. The 2012 season began in Tokyo, Japan with the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics. This new “Opening Night Tradition” the MLB is trying to push is not going to work and I’m going to tell you why.

Last season when the Mariners and the Athletics visited Tokyo to start the 2012 season, almost no one knew about it. The MLB was too busy running promos for the new Miami Marlins and New York Yankees as they always seem to do. After the Mariners and Athletics flew back to the U.S. they each played exhibition games. So after officially opening the season overseas they came back played exhibition games, then continued to play regular season games, where is the sense in that. The game was played at Tokyo, so the time the game was played in Tokyo translates to some ungodly early morning hour here in the States for which almost no viewers woke up. One last big, actually huge mistake the MLB made was starting AMERICA’S PASTIME IN JAPAN!!!!!  Baseball is the Great American Sport. Opening Day is treated like a religious holiday in the US, so what does the MLB do? Send it to Japan?! Are you kidding me?

This year, rather fortunately, Major League baseball has wised up and at least started the season in the United States. However, it’s called Opening Day for a reason, IT’S DURING THE DAY! Opening Night for the longest time was the next game after Opening Day. No one ever complained about it because everyone loves the festivities of Opening Day, from parades to parties to leaving work early, Opening Day is as close to a National Sports Holiday as it can get. The MLB claims that Opening Night will allow more people to watch the start of the regular season…so they picked the Houston Astros, last years worst team, and the Texas Rangers, who should absolutely crush the Astros. I’m sure everyone is going to want to watch that thriller of a game.

The MLB completely dropped the ball on this. Opening Day is the greatest season opener in any sport, and now they are trying to change it. What’s that old saying? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well Opening Day ain’t broke and the MLB does not need to try to fix it. Opening Day should be exactly that, opening the Major League season during the day. Opening Night should be the game after Opening Day, as it has always been.