Depending on who you ask these days, $30 million is either substantial or inconsequential. I’m certainly not going to turn it down if that amount were dropped out of an armored truck onto my doorstep. However, it does mean different things to different people. $30 million (or so) can buy:
- 789 median priced ($389,000) homes in the Bay Area
- Conan O’Brien’s F-U money from NBC plus severance for his staff
- A Hollywood movie deal for a Uruguayan filmmaker whose main claim-to-fame was a popular 5-minute short on YouTube
- A lot of free lunches in Oklahoma City, as Clay Bennett was not forced to pay that amount when Seattle’s pols voted down a possible renovation of Key Arena (that could’ve brought a reborn Sonics team to town)
- Only 30% of the personal funds that gubernatorial candidate and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman is willing to spend on her campaign
- Not much if you’re a small market team, according to Billy Beane.
To really catch the weight of what Billy said, here’s the entire quote courtesy
ESPN’s MLB Network’s Peter Gammons:
“The way the system is right now, there really is no difference between a $75 million and $40 million payroll,” said Oakland GM Billy Beane. “I think a lot of small-market clubs look at that and ask, ‘Why pay $75 million when $40 million will buy me as many wins?’ “
The sad part is that I left out $5 million to keep the analogy going. As discussed earlier in the week, the A’s budgeted $79 million in ’07 only to get 76 wins. Last year they budgeted $47 million and got very nearly the same record.
Remember that we’re talking about a league with no salary cap and no salary floor. Where the biggest team can outspend the smallest by nearly tenfold. Where, unlike other North American pro leagues, certain teams can get away with having their contention windows extend infinitely while less endowed teams may have to count on 1-2 years in a decade as their window. Where my modest plan for a salary cap was ripped to shreds by Billy in the span of a paragraph. Where the Marlins are shamed into working out a deal for an informal salary floor of their own, yet there’s no talk of a formal floor in the next CBA.
I can’t blame Billy for shrugging. $30 million in a single year – via a revenue sharing check perhaps – might get you an ace starter and a dynamic hitter or slugger. Instead you might get Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand. Or Eric Chavez, Matt Holliday, and Mark Ellis. Or most of A-Rod. You get the idea.
Instead, you might put that money towards scouting or high draft pick bonuses. Fair enough. But maybe that gets boring. Maybe you want to mess around with the system a bit, even if you know there’s only so much you can do. The way Mychael Urban is interpreting the A’s interest in Ben Sheets, messing around may be exactly what Billy’s doing.
We know what would likely happen if Sheets donned green and gold. Sheets, who didn’t pitch last year while coming off elbow surgery, finds Oakland a good place to beef up his numbers (as long as he stays healthy), increasing his trade value for a post-ASB pickup by a big money contender. Billy and David Forst get yet another set of nice prospects in a July trade, Sheets gets the stretch run to earn his last serious multiyear deal, everyone’s happy. Same goes for Duke. Meanwhile, B/D figure out who’s desperate for starting pitching now while also potentially keeping an ace arm away from an AL West or wild card rival (if the A’s are actually competitive in 2010). The best part? Since the $30 million is from revenue sharing, it’s quite literally found money.
One way to make the whole charade more, well, fair, is to implement that cap and floor together. I suggested $50 million three years ago, which is far too low in this day and age. The NFL’s team salary floor for the 2009 season was $100 million, which was baked in thanks to the league’s heavy revenue sharing (the 2010 season will neither a cap nor a floor). That’s not realistic in baseball given the nature of both MLB owners (greedy) and union (stubbornly proud). If $75 million is not enough and $100 million is too much, is a realistic figure $85-90 million? There’s no way the have-nots will consent to spending $90 million on payroll unless they got a ton more shared revenue in the process, and the haves won’t consent to subsidizing the whole affair.
Since we’re just playing with funny money at this point, let’s say that all of these historically self-serving parties suddenly become their better angels. There’s still a disparity as the Yankees’ payroll is around $180 million, but he lowest is $90 million while the average payroll is somewhere around $105 million. The free agent market is more lively each offseason as all teams look for various veterans to fill out their rosters instead of just replacement-level players. Would this make MLB more competitive overall? Put yourself in Billy’s shoes. What would you do with the extra scratch?