John Henry's Hammer (Head)

John Henry, the co-owner of the Boston Red Sox has called for a salary cap. This makes John Henry: (a) an idiot (b) a greedy S.O.B. (c) a hypocrite, (d) all of the above. Smart money’s on (d). Hey John, when did this idea occur to you, before or after you failed to lure Mark Teixeria to Boston? Oh wait a minute; you called for a cap five years ago when Alex Rodriquez went to the Yankees instead of the Red Sox, and your cohort Larry Luccino said the same thing in 2002 when the Yankees outbid the Sox for José Contreas. If I understand the logic it’s that Major League Baseball would somehow have been better off if the second richest team had signed these players instead of the richest.

Here’s the basis of the crocodile tears: the Yankees’ 2009 payroll of roughly $205 million will be $70 million higher than that of the Red Sox. But do the math. If you subtract A-Rod’s salary of $32 million and Teixeira’s $20 million, the Yankees’ payroll drops to $153 million. Now add those salaries to the team that tried to get them—the Rex Sox—and their payroll rises to $187 million. You’ll excuse me if I find Henry’s call for a salary cap less than sincere.

Three other thoughts: If having the biggest payroll guaranteed a championship, the Yankees would have raised their tenth consecutive World Series banner last fall; in fact, they’ve won just two in the span in which they’ve had the biggest payroll, the same number as Boston.

Second, let’s call this what it really is: John Henry’s desire to put more money into his own pocket. Check the revenues against payroll and insincerity shows up in spades. The Red Sox shell out about 60% of their revenue ($201 million) in salaries; the Yankees spend 74% of theirs on salaries. If John Henry spent at a comparable level, his payroll would be $154 million. So where’s the extra 14% going, John?

Finally, MLB needs a salary floor, not a cap. Can we please stop pretending that baseball owners are paupers? Back in the days when the late Carl Pohlad used to cry the blues about how the Minnesota Twins were losing money (and they weren’t), he was the 245th richest man in the world. For these guys owning an MLB franchise is the play toy equivalent of a ten-year-old with a train set. What’s criminal isn’t the Yankees spending more than $200 million, it’s the Colorado Rockies spending just 31% of their revenue on salaries, and the Florida Marlins ownership pocketing millions in luxury taxes assessed to the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, and Tigers, but shelling out just 15% of their revenue for talent.

How about a floor of no less than 50% of total revenue for salaries, a move that would force ten teams to raise payroll? How much better would the Marlins be with a payroll of $51.5 million instead of $15 million? Ask the Tampa Bay Rays; they went to the World Series with $43 million. Maybe that’s what really bugging John Henry. Didn’t he spend $8 million more than that on the draft rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka?

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