For years, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have been locked in a bidding war for baseball’s highest priced free agents. And now it appears that the Red Sox have finally blinked.
According to the Associated Press and Business Week, Red Sox owner John Henry called — for the second time — for a salary cap. (The first time was when the Yankees beat out the Red Sox for Alex Rodriguez in 2004.)
It’s no coincidence that this follows in the wake of the Yankees’ signing of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira for $423.5 million. Red Sox president Larry Lucchino quipped: “The Yankees have spent like the U.S. Congress.” Hank Steinbrenner shot back: “Along with a few other teams, we’re basically baseball’s stimulus package.” Score one for Hank.
Both Lucchino and Steinbrenner seem to think that a salary cap is in baseball’s future — Lucchino called it “as inevitable as tomorrow.”
Not if the Players Association has anything to do with it. The purpose of a salary cap is to hold down salaries, which means that Lucchino and
Henry simply want the same value at a lower market prices.
The ostensible reason for this salary cap: you guessed it: competitive balance, the same issue that nearly forced a work stoppage back in
2002. “I think we can all agree,” Henry said, “that competitive balance is an issue, and if there was any way to put together an enlightened
form of a salary cap, I think everybody among the ownership parties would support it. I think it’s quite possible to put together a partnership between the players and owners going forward.”
I think what we all can agree on is that a salary cap in any form is what the owners have been trying to force on the players for years, and
that if “competitive balance” was really what the Red Sox are seeking, then they should be quite happy with what happened in the American
League last season when the Tampa Bay Rays went from last to first and beat out the Red Sox for the AL pennant — and did it by spending $89.6 million less than Boston.