SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Fearing that Major League Baseball team owners are preparing for a push toward a salary cap, the head of the players’ union has made his team’s position on a salary cap unequivocal. the day after spring training games begin.
“We will never accept a ceiling” Tony Clarkthe executive director of the MLB players’ union, said Saturday during a meeting with reporters at the union’s new satellite office in the Greater Phoenix area.
He later added: “A salary cap is the ultimate restriction on player value and salary. We believe in a market system. The market system has served our players, our teams and our game very well.”
The last employment agreement, which ended a controversial 99-day lockout between MLB and its players, will be one year old in a few weeks. It won’t expire for another four years, so a new round of haggling and wrangling over the structure and economics of the sport is still likely to be a long way off.
But in recent weeks, Commissioner Rob Manfred and the owners or senior executives Some teams have expressed concerns about the economic system they have agreed on. And the league itself formed a new economic reform committee to examine major issues.
“We have a disparity problem in gaming on the revenue side and therefore the ability to spend for players,” Manfred said this month. He praised Peter Seidler, owner of the small-market San Diego Padres, for his massive payroll, but he questioned its sustainability.
“There are real underlying issues with income disparities in the game, which are so different from capped leagues and leagues like football, where national income is actually shared,” said Bob Nutting, the principal owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Nutting’s club receives help from other teams under MLB’s revenue-sharing system, but has the third-lowest payroll in MLB, at $91 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. He added: “It’s a longer discussion, but I think it’s worth it.”
“I believe the vast majority of players, agents and clubs don’t like the economic system of baseball,” said John Henry, principal owner of the big-money Boston Red Sox. told Boston Sports Journal. His team’s payroll at the start of the 2023 season was estimated at $211 million, 12th in MLB. He later added: “The system has to change. Competitive balance remains a major problem for clubs.
Tension between management and workers is inherent in baseball. The finances of most teams are not public, and MLB is the only one of the major North American men’s professional sports leagues that does not have a strict salary cap. In the NFL and NBA, revenue is split between team owners and players at a fixed rate.
And although there are concerns in the sport regarding the model of crumbling regional sports networks, which brings substantial cash to teams, MLB is a lucrative business. On the 2022 World Series, Manfred said MLB’s gross revenue for the 2022 season would be “just under” $11 billion – the amount reached in 2019, the last full season before the pandemic.
During collective bargaining negotiations before last season, players conceded on some points in order to get more money for their younger counterparts and to raise the thresholds for the so-called luxury tax, in which teams that exceed certain amounts are penalized.
As a result, teams spent $4.2 billion this winter on free agent deals and contract extensions, according to Spotrac. Chief among them are big-market teams like the Yankees ($574 million), Mets ($498 million) and Padres ($838 million).
“It begs the question of why they made this decision and why others don’t,” Clark said of the Padres compared to other small-market teams. “It’s very clear from the San Diego owner’s public comments that they want to compete, that they’re capable of competing, that they’re excited about the team that they’ve built there at San Diego. This should be celebrated and not questioned.
Clark said teams have the flexibility to spend whatever they want and sometimes go through cycles of winning and spending. But he added that it was “in everyone’s interest to invest in the product” because when it is better, it attracts more fans and therefore more local revenue.
Based on the history of labor in the sport, Clark said he believes MLB’s new economic committee — which resembled the blue ribbon panels of the 1990s and 2000s — was part of a renewed desire for a salary cap, which he also noted was not a new idea.
“What’s interesting are the comments that come a year after the new deal,” he said. “What’s interesting is the headline-grabbing comments in the context of a remarkably exciting offseason where teams competing and engaging in the free agent market have created a level of excitement that I think positive.”
In past union negotiations, Clark said, the union proposed changes to the revenue-sharing system that it said would have incentivized teams to spend and compete, but MLB opposed any changes. He also said players were open to a salary floor, which would require teams to spend a minimum amount, but the league proposed one that would come with a corresponding luxury tax system which was much more rigid that now, what the union opposes.
Although the luxury tax system has been treated as a soft cap by some teams, several teams have ignored these limits at times. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Yankees – who have often exceeded them – were among the six teams to exceed the tax threshold of $ 230 million in 2022. The list also included the Philadelphia Phillies, Red Sox, Padres and Mets.
They have all won titles in the last five years or fought to win them, and remain among the World Series favorites – minus the Red Sox – in 2023. The 2022 World Series champion, the Houston Astros, had the eighth-largest payroll in MLB. It doesn’t always correlate with titles, but it has certainly helped teams improve their playoff chances.
Clark cautioned against making any definitive statements on the current labor agreement just a year after it took effect. He said it takes time for all its provisions to come into effect and then be studied.