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Monday December 29, 2008 6:15 pm

The Marlins, not the Yankees, are Killing Baseball

Sanchez is back, but will he have a third baseman?

There’s a lot of talk going around that the New York Yankees are killing baseball. They are outspending everyone, other general managers whine. They just bought the best hitter and the two best pitchers on the market! What are we supposed to do?

Get over it. The free market is the best way to go. Football has parity, but it’s almost ridiculous how quickly teams change. There’s no team identity from year to year, and very few trades (which are exciting for the fans). Basketball has an interesting mix of continuity and parity, but figuring out a deal in basketball is more a question of math than a negotiation of teams with needs. The maximum salary slots also create a sub-class of overvalued stars that just get shipped from team to team as the league waits for their bloated contract to expire (think Al Harrington).

No, the system baseball has is, for the most part, the best way to go. Teams have a chance of winning every year - just look at the small market teams that have found postseason success over the past five years (the Tampa Bay Rays, Florida Marlins and even the Detroit Tigers have used revenue-sharing dollars to good use). Blockbuster trades happen almost every year, and the baseball trade deadline is the most exciting deadline in sports. The state of the game is strong, despite the Yankee’s spending a good $70 million a year more than the second-most extravagant team.

A salary cap would just give these billionaire baseball owners more money - and they are the richest owners in major league sports. Using a revenue-sharing system to penalize the Yankees for their huge payroll is not a terrible system - provided, of course, that the smaller market teams actually use the money for good use. And that’s where the problem lies. The Florida Marlins are the team that should be shouldering your complaints. Some of the numbers are staggering.

Read More | The Hardball Times

Jeffery Loria bought the Marlins for $143 million after selling the Expos to baseball for $120 million. After receiving between $20 and $30 million a year in revenue sharing and having the lowest payroll in baseball, the Marlins are now valued at $244 million. That’s a tidy profit for a man that is claiming that he can’t make money in South Florida without a new stadium. In fact, those revenue-sharing amounts were often larger than the Marlins’ payrolls.

For example, this year the Marlins’ payroll was around $23 million. They are slated to receive $25 million in revenue sharing. This is the key wrong in baseball, not the Yankees’ spending.

The Marlins were a good team last year, going 84-77 in a division where 92 wins meant first place. Imagine if the Marlins decided to actually use the revenue-sharing money to sign Manny Ramirez for two years at $25 million. Throw in a little money for a starting pitcher, and this team could compete with the New York Mets immediately. Signing Ramirez away from the Dodgers would have a domino effect, as the Dodgers would need to spend a little more money on their offense to replace that run production. Even if they didn’t go as far as Manny, shouldn’t the Marlins be in on players like Pat Burrell and Ty Wiggington? They need a left fielder and a corner infielder, obviously.

Instead, the Marlins use a pump-and-dump system to give youngsters playing time, pump up their value, and trade them away for more youngsters in the hope that at some point all their cheap youngsters peak together and win them another championship. While this has worked for the Marlins, the fact that they are hoarding their revenue-sharing money, costs veteran players real money, narrows the field for prospective free agents, and adds to the perception of baseball as being a league of haves and have-nots. No, it’s not the Yankees hurting baseball, it’s the Marlins and Jeffrey Loria.

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Comments:

I’m not saying that the Marlins need to spend like drunken sailors, nor am I saying that Manny is the answer for all of their questions. However, for a team that takes in more money than it spends on salary to beg poverty when it comes to buying more players to make their team better rings hollow to me. Are you arguing that there is no free agent that would make this team better?

When they take in more in revenue sharing then they spend on payroll, why do they need to cut costs so badly that they need to jettison Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham, both under control at reasonable pricing? Because of their lease? They can’t even spend money to put a decent team on the field in order to perhaps make the promise of a new stadium in the area more enticing for the fans?

No, I still believe that holding fans up for public financing, while reaping the rewards of revenue sharing without putting that money towards the on-field product - those are problems that loom just as large, if not larger than any overspending by the Yankees.

I don’t think you can say that the stadium is not being built with public financing if it’s built with funds that come from a tax, no matter what the tax is called or whom it’s collected from. It’s a tax, and a whole bunch of people who care nothing about the Marlins are suddenly required to foot the bill for a stadium because of a whiny owner in charge of a team that is currently making money, but just not enough I guess. And that’s a fundamental flaw in your argument about the stadium money.

About the business viability of the Marlins, he bought the Marlins for $140 mill and now they are worth $245, how is he pleading poverty? Why does Miami-Dade have to put so much money in? Yes, I understand about 401Ks and paper value, but so do the people making the valuations. The Marlins are worth a lot more than when Loria bought them, and no matter what the final numbers read like, Loria will make a hefty profit when he sells the Marlins, that’s for sure. But for some reason he’s hemorrhaging money now, forgive me for not crying a tear for Loria.

San Francisco built their stadium privately, it can be done. It’s better for everyone when the team does it themselves. I don’t consider the description you put together as a description of a privately financed stadium.

And my point about the Marlins and money is this, really: It’s better for baseball if the Marlins spend more on their major league payroll. And the Marlins would be better if they bought a veteran for the bully and the outfield or that third base sinkhole they’ve been trying to fill for years. You can call it spending money to spend money, but they have holes on that team and spending money could help the team get better. By not spending money, they are hurting their own team and baseball.

I don’t really understand why my father (a subcontractor with no 401k) had to become a part of this discussion, so I’d appreciate leaving him out of it from here on out.

Josh, the day-to-day operation people, the baseball people on the Marlins, they know what they are doing. I say in my article that what they are doing works for them. They obviously know how to scout better than almost anyone in the game, and they teach the kids well while they are coming up in the organization, it seems. They ‘pump and dump’ like the Oakland A’s and that has proven success in the league. But even the Oakland A’s buy veterans to plug holes on the team.

By taking in more in revenue-sharing than they put out in payroll, they are making a mockery of the revenue-sharing system. Even spending money on the level of the Oakland A’s, in order to perhaps avoid having a sub like Wes Helms starting at third, that would be better for the league overall.

What I mean by better for the league overall is that spending more money on payroll will help assure that the best players are always playing, and not just the cheapest players.


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