Monday, June 23, 2008

Free trade?: Money and competition

From the Archive: 10/25/07

[a friend wrote:]
Shame on all of you. Look at payroll discrepancy! Where would the Indians be if they had made the same trades Theo did over the last 3 years??

[my response]

If you're waiting for socialism before you let yourself have a good time, well, I’m not quite sure what to say to that.

I’m all in favor of luxury taxes and income re-distribution in the name of competitive balance. However, current inequities do not diminish my interest in nor my enjoyment of the game.

And I don't think they should.

I don't think they should for one simple reason. Baseball teams are not like poor people. The main reason for this is that poor people are poor, whereas baseball teams are rich. (They are also not people; of course. this is especially true of the Yankees.)

The idea that there are 'haves' and 'have nots' in baseball is simply not apt. Everyone who owns a baseball team is rich beyond our wildest dreams. The Rockies are owned by Coors. They don't have money? They couldn't choose to spend more on payroll if they wanted to?

There’s a manipulative capitalism way of saying people are free to choose, and a real way. Its wrong to say that people who are slowly starving to death 'choose' to work for 2 cents an hour because the alternative they're not 'choosing' is quickly starving to death at 0 cents an hour. This isn't a real choice, and it isn't right. But baseball teams are rich rich rich. And they really do choose not to spend on payroll.

Boston and Denver, and New England and the rocky mountain region, have comparable populations. If the Red Sox are a 'bigger market' team than the Rockies, and so have more money, then that's because people in new England care more about baseball than their rocky mountain counterparts. Good for us! And if people care more, and are willing to pay more, then they are more deserving of a better team. Why should the sox be penalized for having passionate fans?

This is not analogous to saying 'why should tycoons be penalized for their initiative and entrepreneurial spirit by paying taxes or a fair wage?' Tycoons have more power than their workers, and so workers can't negotiate fairly, and so need institutionalized assistance (like labor laws and unions). And corporations use and depend on government infrastructure and human resources and public education for future employees, for which they owe money. The Red Sox do not have more power than the Rockies- the Red Sox can't fire the Rockies or ship them off to China. And the Red Sox do in fact pay a heavy luxury tax, which is distributed among the other teams. They incur this penalty as a result of choosing to pay a lot of money for their team on the field. Good for them. That’s their choice.

If the Rockies spent more money, more fans would care and show up. Toronto sold out Skydome every day when they were great in the early 90's. Cleveland sold out every day when they were great in the mid and late 90's. These are 'small market' teams. Fans everywhere care, and show up and pay money, when their teams win. And when teams win, they make lots of money. And if teams bothered to spend that money on players, then they'd win more, and they'd get a return on their investment. But Pete Coors and the Coors brewing company would rather pocket the money, instead of reinvesting it and giving the fans a better team. or, when they tried that, they wasted it on mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, and decided it was safer to pocket the money than risk it on free agents.

I don't see why the jerks who run teams should be rewarded for being stingy.

So sure, luxury tax and such. But life is short, and in the meantime, I am going to enjoy a perfect game, played somewhat imperfectly, and in an imperfect world.

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