Ask Gary: Should baseball have a salary floor, also?

by Gary Shelton on March 31, 2018 · 2 comments

in general

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

I know one very big roadblock to having a team salary cap in MLB is the players union - but given the state of free agency this season, wouldn't it make sense for the players if - a big if - there was a corresponding salary floor? According to, the average team payroll for 2018 is $131m, with a high of $235m and a low of $57m. A salary cap of, say, $175m would cause 4 teams to reduce their total salary by about $95 million. A salary floor of $110m would cause 9 teams to raise their total salary by in excess of $200m. Of course, MLB, like the NFL, would have to increase profit-sharing among teams, but if that was possible wouldn't it make sense for the union to be promoting this?

Cecil DeBald

It certainly would have my vote, Cecil. It makes great sense which, of course, means it won't happen.

I don't know if you could get the Players' Association to see its wisdom, however. One of the reason that salaries are astronomical is

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because of the breakthrough contract, be it Catfish Hunter's Andy Messersmith's or Reggie Jackson's or Alex Rodriguez's. A salary cap of any kind would limit that.

Then there is this: It isn't just the Players' Association that is  against it. One of George Steinbrenner's constant arguments was against revenue sharing. He'd say "Why should I pay for Milwaukee's shortstop and then have him come out and try to beat me?" Owners have resisted any bit of revenue sharing you could imagine, which is why the game has haves and have-nots, which the NFL doesn't have.

I'm sure that if the NFL had to vote on revenue sharing today, instead of in the 1960s, then greed would take over and you'd never get it passed. But the game works better when everyone has a chance. You still get dynasties, like the Patriots, but in theory, everyone has the same opportunity.

In baseball, a lot of teams can make the playoffs, but usually, the World Series is for the big money guys. And when they win, they can act as if they have overcome great odds. It's like the scene in Camelot when King Arthur realizes his guys have all the armor.

Baseball isn't fair. But it's happy not being fair.

Other than the first few Devil Ray seasons, can you remember any that had, shall we say, the problematic expectations as this season? Can there be a luckier human being than Jim Hickey?
Given how trips from the Rays bullpen may occur with maddening frequency, what is your over/under on the average length of Rays games?​
Barry McDowell​
In most seasons, the Rays were expected to be terrible. But  no one really expected any better. Even in 2008, when the team went to the World Series, people thought they'd be terrible.
There has never been a year when the Rays turned loose of so much talent, however. The MVP. The All-Star. The home run leader. The Captain. The No. 2 pitcher. The No. 3 pitcher.
People forget, however, that the team didn't exactly break up the '27 Yankees. That team was third, and if everyone was back, it would be third or lower this year.
I've been surprised at how much optimism the team seems to have, however. Cash. Sternberg. Matt Silverman. All of them expect to be around 80 wins, which means they would be as good as last. year. I don't think they'll be that good, but what do I know?
Hickey was terrific. He deserves to win, and to lead a pitching staff that will have starts that mean something.

In 2017, MLB owners paid these 12 players, who did not play a single game, a total of $206 million.

Josh Hamilton tex 36 $28,410,000
Prince Fielder tex 33 $24,000,000
Carl Crawford lad 35 $21,857,142
Alex Rodriguez nyy 41 $21,000,000
David Wright nym 34 $20,000,000
Scott Kazmir lad 33 $17,666,667
Melvin Upton sfg (minors) 32 $16,450,000
Matt Harrison phl 31 $13,000,000
Billy Butler oak 31 $11,666,667
Rusney Castillo bsn 30 $11,271,428
Allen Craig bsn 32 $11,000,000
Ryan Howard phl 37 $10,000,000
TOTAL   405 $206,321,904
AVERAGE   33.75 $17,193,492


With the passage of the latest federal spending bill, MLB owners now can legally pay minor league players less than minimum wage, which probably will save them about $8 million if they were to pay these players a living wage.

Has there even been a more dramatic combination of stupid and mean exhibited by any one other than MLB owners?

Scott Myers

Well, there was Hitler. And Pol Pot. And Gordon Gekko. But that's about it.

I noticed this a few years ago. It doesn't matter how many millions  of dollars that most pro leagues have, they want all of the nickels and dimes, too.

Scott, I love your charts. There should be a wing at the Baseball Hall of Fame dedicated to waste, and I'd put you in charge. A reminder: These are just guys who didn't play at all. The list of guys who played and underperformed is endless.

I read recently that Bobby Bonilla is still getting paid by the Marlins. To me, that's silly.
NFL Rule Changes questions - 3 of them!

(1) What do you think about the new pass rule in the NFL? I know it's always in the interpretation  but is it a move in the right direction, or just more overkill for what should be a simple action - as someone said, every kid that plays sandlot football knows if it's a catch or not.
(2) And if it's a catch, will the end result be more "catch - then fumble" calls?
(3) The NFL is going to allow an official viewing off-site to direct the game officials to toss a player out of a game – is this a way to take action the on-field officials miss…or a way to take the pressure off on-field officials – “it wasn’t me, it was those guys in NYC…”?

Cecil DeBald

1. The simplest skill on a football field is catching a ball. It really is. Most kids can do it. And the confusion that a simple catches causes is amazing. We aren't building rockets here. We're judging if a guy caught a ball. That's it.

The scouts I talked to about the catch rule think it was well covered and well thought out before. This strikes me as a ploy to fool the public into trusting the game all over again. I don't know if it makes things clearer or more confusing.

When I was a kid, we officiated our own games. I'm sure you did, too. And I can never remember a big argument over whether a catch was a catch. I remember calls about whether a guy fumbled or not, or whether a guy scored or not, but we pretty much agreed on a catch. So why do we need a new interpretation to figure it out?

2. I think it'll be much the same, but if I had to guess, I'd guess we come up with more catch rulings than fumble rulings. Every other call goes to the offense, doesn't it?

3. I think it's that illusion of justice that comes from "the eye in the sky." I don't really know that a guy watching a monitor in, say, New York is a better judge than a referee looking at replay here. But if you take it out of the local judges' hands and make it a quiet, autonomous ruler (think: the Wizard of Oz) everyone will feel better.


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