Salary caps in professional sports are put into place to ensure there aren’t any dynasties. The only exception to that rule has been the New England Patriots and their victories in three of the last seven Super Bowls.
One would think there would be a dynasty in baseball given that there is no salary cap. However, eight different teams have appeared in the World Series during the last four years (Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, and the Houston Astros).
For those opposed to a salary cap in baseball, that is evidence that the team with the highest payroll isn’t guaranteed a berth in baseball’s Fall Classic. In the last 15 years, the New York Yankees has had the highest payroll 13 of those years. During that span, the franchise has won four of the 14 titles (there was no World Series in 1994 due to the players’ strike). The Bronx Bombers won three straight World Championships in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and haven’t been back to baseball’s Holy Grail since 2003.
This year, it will change.
This past month, I have lost some faith in Major League Baseball and their lack of a salary cap.
In 2008, the Yankees spent just over $209 million on their team. The previous year, just under $190 million. The two-year total the Steinbrenner family has spent on its players: about $399 million.
During the past month, the same month that caused me to be upset with MLB for the moment, the Yankees have promised $423.5 million on three players alone: CC Sabathia ($160 million), A.J. Burnett ($82.5 million), and Mark Teixeira ($180 million). That is more money on three players than they spent on their entire team in the last two years.
Alan “Bud” Selig, institute a salary cap please.
By signing three players this off-season, the Yankees have suddenly become the team to beat. With a lineup like theirs (see below), they are the best team in the Majors on paper. However, being the best team on paper only means they should theoretically become World Champs.
New York Yankess’ Probable Lineup, April 6, 2009 in Baltimore
- Johnny Damon, LF
- Derek Jeter, SS
- Mark Teixeira, 1B
- Alex Rodriguez, 3B
- Hideki Matsui, DH
- Xavier Nady, RF
- Jorge Posada, C
- Robinson Cano, 2B
- Melky Cabrera, CF
- (Bench?) Nick Swisher
Based solely on season averages, with this lineup the 2009 Yankees will have a .292 team batting average, hit 207 HRs, have 833 RBIs, a .362 on base percentage and a .474 slugging percentage. With numbers like that, sure does look like they’re going to be an incredible offensive team.
However, in 2008, two years after their first World Series appearance in 22 years, the Detroit Tigers were the best team on paper and failed to make the post-season.
During spring training the Tigers were picked by many experts to score over 1000 runs and win the World Series. Looked what happened; lackluster performance and injuries kept the Tigers out of the post-season.
With the Tampa Bay Rays winning the American League East and the Boston Red Sox earning the AL Wild Card berth, the two teams with the highest payroll (Yankees and Tigers) did not make the playoffs.
Maybe I’m bitter because the Yankees beat my favorite team, the Atlanta Braves, in the 1996 and 1999 World Series, or the fact it seems all they do is just buy up all the talent in the world.
As evident by their collapse in ’08, you can have the greatest individual players on the planet play on the same team, but if they don’t play well as a team, nothing will come from it.
Take a look at the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, they had the second-lowest payroll among MLB teams and they made it to the World Series because they played well together, as a team, when it mattered most.
I just pray the 2009 Yankees suffer the same fate as the 2008 Tigers.