Capitalism ruins baseball – Royals Review


In this week’s Hok Talk, we discuss the different and conflicting goals that make baseball less enjoyable than it could possibly be.

Baseball is a sport.

sport
1. an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes with another or others for entertainment.

If it were up to me, I would probably remove the “for entertainment” clause from that definition. Either way, it’s quite obvious that baseball meets the criteria. Players compete as a team against others using physical effort and skill. They even do it for entertainment.

Major League Baseball is a business.

Again, this is quite obvious. Each acquisition, exchange or exit of a player is accompanied not only by an analysis of its impact on the product on the field, but also of its monetary impact on the team. Teams regularly use business jargon or cite business reasons to make decisions within the team; no one finds this particularly remarkable or strange.

The goal of a sport is competition. The purpose of a business is to make a profit. When it comes to Major League Baseball, these goals are not well aligned.

It is not known how long this has been true – perhaps since the very beginning – but it has become evident in recent years. “Tanking” only appears to be a viable competitive strategy when two things are true. First, the management of the team must believe that the team, as it is currently constituted, has so little chance of competing. Second, the management of the team must believe that there is no possibility of improving the list immediately. When both of these criteria are met, it may be a good idea to exchange coins that could help another team now for coins that could help your team in the future.

In other words, in competition, it almost never makes sense to engage in a tank during the off-season. There are always dozens of free agents available and business opportunities. A team that wanted to could put a completely different roster on the pitch the following season. The problem is, Major League Baseball teams are business. Earning profit is their main goal. More than that, the logical result of a business in a capitalist system is not just to make a profit, but to earn as much profit as possible. Completely replacing the existing list may make competitive sense, but it will never make sense for the bottom line.

Additionally, in recent years, MLB teams have come to realize that they can often be more profitable by losing intentionally than by trying to win unsuccessfully. It doesn’t make them mean or bad. That makes them good companies – at least in the short term, but more on that later. The problem, in this case, is that following good (or at least reasonable) business practices conflicts with the goals of fans and players – both of whom prefer a more competitive environment.

In the short term, fans are always ready to support their teams because of a sense of civic pride or some other sense of identity. Tanking efforts can also sometimes lead to competitive stretching, which may be enough to keep fans interested. Live sports, let alone competitive live sports, is also one of the few remaining vehicles to secure live viewers for cable and satellite companies, allowing MLB to collect a large sum of money via television contracts. Yet MLB has realized in recent years that its fan base is aging. Not only is this a less profitable demographic, but it also indicates a failure to ensure that the sport grows to new audiences.

A graph posted on the Gallup website shows that while soccer, basketball, and soccer have been gaining popularity among American citizens for decades, baseball has tended to decline since the 1960s. Baseball is not going to go away. tomorrow, but in 2017, it was the favorite sport of only 9% of respondents. Football is at 7%. Basketball is 11%. It is definitely going in the wrong direction.

Resolve the conflict

So if baseball teams aren’t doing anything wrong, but the league as a whole is suffering because of their actions, what can be done? Remember when baseballs were juiced for a few years and home runs got out of hand. MLB could have tried to ban some of the behavioral changes that accompanied the juice balls. Instead, they changed the circumstances that led to these behavioral changes to incite different behavior. Likewise, the circumstances surrounding MLB profit must be changed to encourage different behavior.

MLB needs to become less capitalist.

I’m talking about revenue sharing between teams – a socialist concept that no matter what, each team needs to recognize that they are all working together to generate all the profits and that they need to be shared equally. Income sharing exists in baseball, but it is not as comprehensive as it should be. Right now the Yankees have to donate some of their profits to the Reds. But because it is not about full income sharing, it leads to inequalities that hurt sport. The way the system is structured, the Reds still can’t directly compete with the Yankees for free agents. The lack of revenue sharing rules means the Reds aren’t even required to to try to compete with the Yankees for free agents, either. Since they can’t go hand in hand and without a mandate to spend that money, the Reds determined it was more profitable to keep losing without trying to improve. The Yankees don’t care too much because, with less competition for free agents, they also save money.

Look at the other major sports leagues in North America. You will find that they all use extended revenue sharing, salary caps and salary floors to increase the competitiveness of teams within the league. This is the reason for the growing popularity of these leagues; the interests of fans, players and owners are all aligned with frequent competition because of the rules. This may not be immediately obvious to different groups in baseball. Why it’s in their best interests, but it is.

Players have long resisted a salary cap because it directly and literally limits their earning potential. However, they must realize that the luxury tax does this quite effectively on its own. Additionally, there may not be a hard rule limiting their earning potential, but fewer teams bidding for their services de facto accomplish the same. Meanwhile, teams have resisted wage floors and full revenue sharing because the current system is more immediately profitable, but the Gallup poll shows it hurts the business in the long run. This might not bother the current group of homeowners too much, but if things continue, someone will end up with the bag eventually; the league should seek to avoid such a scenario.

The good news is that the MLB has offered a minimum wage as part of its negotiations for the next collective agreement. The bad news is that the MLB proposed floor would only be $ 100 million. On the one hand, it’s too low. That would barely represent an increase for a handful of teams. On the other hand, it is a fixed amount unrelated to the benefits of sport. Finally, the MLB also accompanied this proposal with a reduction in the luxury tax. It is also a non-starter. The floor and the luxury tax should be linked to the public income figures, just as they are in other leagues and relatively close to each other. This is how you encourage competition which could help baseball to start growing again.

The owners don’t intentionally kill baseball, but the current capitalist structure encourages each team to care only about their short-term profits. MLB has allowed this to continue due to the short-term nature of most playing careers and periods of ownership. If they don’t make adjustments quickly, however, the whole thing could fall apart like a house of cards and rob Americans of their national pastime.