Thursday, April 06, 2006

It's About Who Gets What Share of the Pie 

Scott at Lawyers, Guns and Money (what a great name--if this blog were focused on Middle East issues, I think I'd call it Mohammed's Radio) has a great post about competitive balance and salary caps in pro sports. His post has actual facts, so maybe it will make Guthrie understand that the reason the Reds suck is not really because the Yankees don't suck:
It's actually quite amazing the extent to which progressives who know better repeat the argument--which is pure management propaganda--that if players aren't exploited only a few teams will be competitive. Consider this from Malcolm Gladwell, speaking in June 2002:
If there is a work stoppage this fall -- as I hope there is -- and if the players come to their senses and we get a cap and revenue sharing, I'll come back to the game. In the meantime I'll spend my time watching the NBA where, I'd like to point out, a team from a minor, regional metropolitan area just gave a team from Los Angeles a run for its money. Imagine that!
Of course, what's ludicrous about this is that in MLB 2001 a team from New York was given all it could handle by small-market Oakland (you remember, when Derek Jeter made the Greatest Play Ever (TM) by flipping the ball toward the catcher, and then willing Giambi not to slide, and then willing the umpire to blow the call, in the key game that prevented the invincible Yankees from getting swept.) This is the perfect example of the tautological nature of these arguments; somehow, the Lakers winning yet again can be spun as a tribute to the highly competitive NBA, but if the Yankees barely beat a better team in the postseason this proves nobody can possibly compete with them (although--and I make no judgment about whether this is better--it's obvious that far fewer teams can plausibly win an NBA championship at the beginning of the year than a World Series. The less "teamy" nature of baseball is far outweighed by the fact that a star player has vastly greater impact on an NBA team than an MLB one.) Gladwell's rare moment of idiocy does give us a hint, however, about why this nonsense became strongly entrenched: the big Yankee run of the late 90s and early 00s. The thing is, though, that while the '98 Yankees were an authentically great team, the 2000/1 Yankees weren't. The 2001 A's were a better team than the Yankees, their narrow loss in a 5-game series notwithstanding, and of course that year the Mariners won 116 games. Now that their luck in post-season has run out, it's becoming harder to believe that the Yankees are unbeatable, and in fact in most of these years they weren't (and, of course, their '98 team was not primarily built around expensive free agents in any case.)
Read Scott's whole post--it's very good. And it's why I say that NFL players are vastly, vastly underpaid. As Scott implies later in the post, there's no reason you can't have revenue sharing without a salary cap.

Also--Go Tribe! Way to start the season! CC--get better!
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