Major League Baseball Salary Cap – My View

For the past few months, I have been trying to research a potential salary cap for Major League Baseball (MLB). Although I live in New York, and a fan of the largest spender in professional sports (except maybe Manchester United) I started to wonder if baseball needs a salary cap. I watched my team sign the top three free agents for almost $500 million in contracts while other teams sat and watched. So, I started to look into a salary cap for MLB.

There are two main arguments for the salary cap. The first is that, the teams with the highest salaries always win and the second is that teams buy players and then win with those players. I am an educated civil engineer. I have been taught to use logic and numbers in finding answers. I have done some research. I have looked back over the past eight baseball seasons, 2001 to 2008. During these seasons, many different teams had won the World Series and it is only within the past few years that a salary cap has been seriously discussed. The biggest argument for a salary cap is those fans that look at the NFL, where every team has a chance to win every season. For every team in a major market, there is a smaller city that can support an NFL team and can spend the same amount of money for their players.

I have used research all found on the internet. I have used websites such as “Baseball-reference.com”, “Usatoday.com” and “Cot’s Baseball Contracts”, all good research tools. I started to ask myself questions and turned to data, numbers and statistics for answers.

Statement Number One – “Only the teams with the top salaries make the playoffs”

Each year, eight teams make the playoffs in MLB. There are six division winners and two wild card winners. Each year, these teams play in order to become the World Series Champion. Of course, the goal of any professional sport is to win…at all costs. Right?

Let’s look year by year at the teams that were in the playoffs and where they ranked in salaries.

2001
Yankees – 1
Indians – 5
Braves – 6
Diamondbacks – 8
Cardinals – 9
Mariners – 11
Astros – 17
Athletics – 29

The average of these rankings is 11th overall (rounded to the nearest whole number). Five teams in the top ten were in the playoffs, but two teams in the bottom half were also in the postseason. The winner of the World Series was ranked 8 and the loser was ranked one. The average of the World Series participants was 4.5.

2002
Yankees – 1
Diamondbacks – 4
Braves – 7
Giants – 10
Cardinals – 13
Angels – 15
Twins – 27
Athletics – 28

The average of these rankings is 14th overall. Four teams in the top ten were in the playoffs, but two teams in the bottom half were also in the postseason. The winner of the World Series was ranked fifteen and the loser was ranked ten. The average of the World Series participants was 12.5.

2003
Yankees – 1
Braves – 3
Red Sox – 6
Giants – 9
Cubs – 11
Twins – 18
Athletics – 23
Marlins – 25

The average of these rankings is 12th overall. Four teams in the top ten were in the playoffs, but three teams in the bottom half were also in the postseason. The winner of the World Series was ranked twenty-five and the loser was ranked one. The average of the World Series participants was 13.

2004
Yankees – 1
Red Sox – 2
Angels – 3
Dodgers – 6
Braves – 8
Cardinals – 9
Astros – 12
Twins – 19

The average of these rankings is 8th overall. Six teams in the top ten were in the playoffs and one team in the bottom half was in the postseason. The winner of the World Series was ranked two and the loser was ranked nine. The average of the World Series participants was 5.

2005
Yankees – 1
Red Sox – 2
Angels – 4
Cardinals – 6
Braves – 10
Astros – 13
White Sox – 14
Padres – 17

The average of these rankings is 10th overall. Five teams in the top ten were in the playoffs and only one in the postseason was in the bottom half.. The winner of the World Series was ranked fourteen and the loser was ranked thirteen. The average of the World Series participants was 13.5.

2006
Yankees – 1
Mets – 5
Dodgers – 6
Cardinals – 11
Tigers – 13
Padres – 16
Twins – 18
Athletics – 20

The average of these rankings is 11th overall. Three teams in the top ten were in the playoffs, but three teams in the bottom half were also in the postseason. The winner of the World Series was ranked eleven and the loser was ranked thirteen. The average of the World Series participants was 12.

2007
Yankees – 1
Red Sox – 2
Angels – 4
Cubs – 8
Phillies – 14
Indians – 23
Rockies – 25
Diamondbacks – 26

The average of these rankings is 13th overall. Four teams in the top ten were in the playoffs, but three teams in the bottom half were also in the postseason. The winner of the World Series was ranked two and the loser was ranked twenty-five. The average of the World Series participants was 13.5.

2008
Red Sox – 4
White Sox – 5
Angels – 6
Dodgers – 7
Cubs – 8
Phillies – 12
Brewers – 15
Rays – 29

The average of these rankings is 11th overall. Five teams in the top ten were in the playoffs, but only one team in the bottom half was also in the postseason. The winner of the World Series was ranked twelve and the loser was ranked twenty-nine. The average of the World Series participants was 20.5.

Let’s break down the number and check out some averages:

Overall average (in terms of salary) of teams making the playoffs – 11th out of 30 teams
Average number of teams in the top ten of overall salary in the top ten – 4.5
Average number of teams in the bottom half of salary – 2
Average ranking of World Series winner – 11.13
Average ranking of World Series loser – 12.63
Average ranking of World Series participants – 11.88

Over the past eight years, more than half of the teams in the playoffs have been in the top ten in salary rankings. It is not 100% of teams in the top ten are in the playoffs, and in fact two teams per season that are in the playoffs are in the lower half of the salary rankings. Also, as shown above the average playoff team has the 11th highest salary ranking.

For every Yankees that make the playoffs, there is a Rays that find a way to make it. Money may be a benefit for some teams, however statistics have shown that it is not the only factor in making the playoffs or winning the World Series.

Numbers have shown that based upon salary only, a salary cap is not needed for the teams with the highest rankings in salary do not always make the playoffs and do not win the World Series. Since 2001, the winners have been ranked 8th, 15th, 25th, 2nd, 14th, 11th, 2nd and 12th respectively. If less than half of the winners have salary rankings in the top ten, how can money be an issue?

Statement Number Two – “Teams win because they can buy players”

Thanks to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the 113 highest-paid baseball players by position are listed below. Of these contracts, 33 of them are for contracts that begin in 2009 or 2010. In addition, 22 of the contracts expire after the 2009 season and 9 of the contracts expired before 2009.

In the list below, the player’s name is listed, annual value of the contract, years of the contract and how that player’s team finished during the length of the contract.

Starting pitchers
The highest-paid active starting pitchers, by average annual value:
1. CC Sabathia, $23,000,000 (2009-15) – Current Season
2. Johan Santana, $22,916,667 (2008-13) – 2008 (2nd Place)
3. Carlos Zambrano, $18,300,000 (2008-12) – 2008 (1st Place, Lost in NLDS)
4. Barry Zito, $18,000,000 (2007-13) – 2007 (5th Place), 2008 (4th Place)
5. Jake Peavy, $17,333,333 (2010-12) – Future Season
6. A.J. Burnett, $16,500,000 (2009-13) – Current Season
7. Jason Schmidt, $15,666,667 (2007-09) – 2007 (4th Place), 2008 (DNP)
8. Derek Lowe, $15,000,000 (2009-12) – Current Season
9. Roy Oswalt, $14,600,000 (2007-11) – 2007 (4th Place), 2008 (3rd Place)
10. Mark Buehrle, $14,000,000 (2008-11) – 2008 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS)
11. Roy Halladay, $13,333,333 (2008-10) – 2008 (4th Place)
12. Ryan Dempster, $13,000,000 (2009-12) – Current Season
13. Chris Carpenter, $12,700,000 (2008-11) – 2008 (4th Place)
14. Bronson Arroyo, $12,500,000 (2009-10) – Current Season
15. Kevin Millwood, $12,000,000 (2006-10) – 2006 (3rd Place), 2007 (4th Place), 2008 (2nd Place)

Relief pitchers
The highest-paid active relief pitchers, by average annual value:
1. Mariano Rivera, $15,000,000 (2008-10) – 2008 (3rd Place)
2. Brad Lidge, $12,500,000 (2009-11) – Current Season
3. Francisco Rodriguez, $12,333,333 (2009-11) – Current Season
4. Joe Nathan, $11,750,000 (2008-11) – 2008 (2nd Place)
5. Francisco Cordero, $11,500,000 (2008-11) – 2008 (5th Place)
6. Billy Wagner, $10,750,000 (2006-09) – 2006 (1st Place, lost in NLCS), 2007 (2nd Place), 2008 (2nd Place)
7. Kerry Wood, $10,250,000 (2009-10) – Current Season
8. B.J. Ryan, $9,400,000 (2006-10) – 2006 (2nd Place), 2007 (3rd Place), 2008 (4th Place)
9. Brian Fuentes, $8,750,000 (2009-10) – Current Season
10. Danys Baez, $6,333,333 (2007-09) – 2007 (4th Place, 2008 (DNP)
11. Trevor Hoffman, $6,000,000 (2009) – Current Season
12. Octavio Dotel, $5,500,000 (2008-09) – 2008 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS)

Designated hitters
The highest-paid active designated hitters, by average annual value:
1. Travis Hafner, $14,250,000 (2009-12) – Current Season
2. Jim Thome, $14,166,667 (2003-08) – 2003 (3rd Place), 2004 (2nd Place), 2005 (2nd Place), 2006 (3rd Place), 2007 (4th Place), 2008 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS)
3. Gary Sheffield, $14,000,000 (2008-09) – 2008 (5th Place)
4. David Ortiz, $13,000,000 (2007-10) – 2007 (1st Place, World Series Winner), 2008 (2nd Place, lost in ALCS)

Catchers
The highest-paid active catchers, by average annual value:
1. Jorge Posada, $13,100,000 (2008-11) – 2008 (3rd Place)
2. Joe Mauer, $8,250,000 (2007-10) – 2007 (3rd Place), 2008 (2nd Place)
3. Kenji Johjima, $8,000,000 (2009-11) – Current Season
4. Ramon Hernandez, $6,875,000 (2006-09) – 2006 (4th Place), 2007 (4th Place), 2008 (5th Place)
5. A.J. Pierzynski, $6,250,000 (2009-10) – Current Season
6. Benji Molina, $5,333,333 (2007-09) – 2007 (5th Place), 2008 (4th Place)
7. Jason Varitek, $5,000,000 (2009) – Current Season
8. Chris Snyder, $4,750,000 (2009-11) – Current Season
9. Brian McCann, $4,666,667 (2007-12) – 2007 (3rd Place), 2008 (4th Place)
10. Ryan Doumit, $3,833,333 (2009-11) – Current Season

First basemen
The highest-paid active first basemen, by average annual value:
1. Mark Teixeira, $22,500,000 (2009-16) – Current Season
2. Ryan Howard, $18,000,000 (2009-11) – Current Season
3. Todd Helton, $15,722,222 (2003-11) – 2003 (4th Place), 2004 (4th Place), 2005 (5th Place), 2006 (4th Place), 2007 (2nd Place, Lost in World Series), 2008 (3rd Place)
4. Albert Pujols, $14,285,214 (2004-10) – 2004 (1st Place, Lost in World Series), 2005 (1st Place, Lost in NLCS), 2006 (1st Place, Won World Series), 2007 (3rd Place), 2008 (4th Place)
5. Lance Berkman, $14,166,667 (2005-10) – 2005 (2nd Place, Lost in World Series), 2006 (2nd Place), 2007 (4th Place), 2008 (3rd Place)
6. Justin Morneau, $13,333,333 (2008-13) – 2008 (2nd Place)
7. Carlos Delgado, $13,000,000 (2005-08) – 2005 (3rd Place), 2006 (1st Place, lost in NLCS), 2007 (2nd Place), 2008 (2nd Place)
Derrick Lee, $13,000,000 (2006-10) – 2006 (6th Place), 2007 (1st Place, lost in NLDS), 2008 (1st Place, lost in NLDS)
8. Carlos Guillen, $12,000,000 (2008-11) – 2008 (5th Place)
Paul Konerko, $12,000,000 (2006-10) – 2006 (3rd Place), 2007 (4th Place), 2008 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS)
9. Kevin Youkilis, $10,281,250 (2009-12) – Current Season
10. Ryan Howard, $10,000,000 (2008) – 2008 (1st Place, Won World Series)
11. Prince Fielder, $9,000,000 (2009-10) – Current Season
12. Carlos Pena, $8,041,667 (2008-10) – 2008 (1st Place, Lost World Series)
Second basemen
The highest-paid active second basemen, by average annual value:
1. Chase Utley, $12,142,857 (2007-13) – 2007 (1st Place, Lost in NLDS), 2008 (1st Place, Won World Series)
2. Brian Roberts, $10,000,000 (2010-13) – Future Season
3. Robinson Cano, $7,500,000 (2008-11) – 2008 (3rd Place)
4. Brian Roberts, $7,150,000 (2008-09) – 2008 (5th Place)
5. Dustin Pedroia, $6,750,000 (2009-14) – Current Season
Brandon Phillips, $6,750,000 (2008-11) – 2008 (5th Place)
6. Orlando Hudson, $6,250,000 (2008) – 2008 (2nd Place)
Luis Castillo, $6,250,000 (2008-11) – 2008 (2nd Place)
7. Kaz Matsui, $5,500,000 (2008-10) – 2008 (3rd Place)
Freddy Sanchez, $5,500,000 (2008-09) – 2008 (6th Place)
Mark Ellis, $5,500,000 (2009-10) – Current Season
8. Placido Polanco, $4,600,000 (2006-09) – 2006 (2nd Place, Lost in World Series), 2007 (2nd Place), 2008 (5th Place)

Shortstops
The highest-paid active shortstops, by average annual value:
1. Derek Jeter, $18,900,000 (2001-10) – 2001 (1st Place, Lost in World Series), 2002 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS), 2003 (1st Place, Lost in World Series), 2004 (1st Place, Lost in ALCS), 2005 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS), 2006 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS), 2007 (2nd Place, Lost in ALDS), 2008 (3rd Place)
2. Michael Young, $16,000,000 (2009-13) – Current Season
3. Miguel Tejada, $12,000,000 (2004-09) – 2004 (3rd Place), 2005 (4th Place), 2006 (4th Place), 2007 (4th Place), 2008 (5th Place)
4. Hanley Ramirez, $11,666,667 (2009-14) – Current Season
5. Rafael Furcal, $10,000,000 (2009-11) – Current Season
6. Edgar Renteria, $9,250,000 (2009-10) – Current Season
7. Julio Lugo, $9,000,000 (2007-10) ) – 2007 (1st Place, Won in World Series), 2008 (2nd Place, lost in ALCS)
8. Cristian Guzman, $8,000,000 (2009-10) – Current Season
9. Jimmy Rollins, $7,000,000 (2006-10) – 2006 (2nd Place), 2007 (1st Place, Lost in NLDS), 2008 (1st Place, Won in World Series)
10. Jack Wilson, $6,733,333 – (2007-09) – 2007 (6th Place), 2008 (6th Place)
11. Jose Reyes, $5,812,500 – (2007-10) – 2007 (2nd Place), 2008 (2nd Place)
12. Khalil Greene, $5,500,000 (2008-09) – 2008 (5th Place)
13. Troy Tulowitzki, $5,166,667 (2008-13) – 2008 (3rd Place)

Third basemen
The highest-paid active third basemen, by average annual value:
1. Alex Rodriguez, $27,500,000 (2008-17) – 2008 (3rd Place)
2. Miguel Cabrera, $19,037,500 (2008-15) – 2008 (5th Place)
3. Aramis Ramirez, $15,000,000 (2007-11) – 2007 (1st Place, lost in NLDS), 2008 (1st Place, lost in NLDS)
4. Chipper Jones, $14,000,000 (2010-12) – Future Season
5. Adrian Beltre, $12,800,000 (2005-09) – 2005 (4th Place), 2006 (4th Place), 2007 (2nd Place), 2008 (4th Place)
6. Mike Lowell, $12,500,000 (2008-10) – 2008 (2nd Place, lost in ALCS)
7. Chipper Jones, $12,333,333 (2006-08) – 2006 (3rd Place), 2007 (3rd Place), 2008 (4th Place)
8. Troy Glaus, $11,500,000 (2005-08) – 2005 (2nd Place), 2006 (2nd Place), 2007 (3rd Place), 2008 (4th Place)
Scott Rolen, $11,500,000 (2003-10) – 2003 (3rd Place), 2004 (1st Place, Lost in World Series), 2005 (1st Place, Lost in NLCS), 2006 (1st Place, Won World Series), 2007 (3rd Place), 2008 (4th Place)
9. Eric Chavez, $11,000,000 (2005-10) – 2005 (2nd Place), 2006 (1st Place, Lost in ALCS), 2007 (3rd Place), 2008 (3rd Place)
10. David Wright, $9,166,667 (2007-12) – 2007 (2nd Place), 2008 (2nd Place)
11. Ryan Zimmerman, $9,000,000 (2009-13) – Current Season

Outfielders
The highest-paid active outfielders, by average annual value:
1. Manny Ramirez, $22,500,000 (2009-10) – Current Season
2. Manny Ramirez, $20,000,000 (2001-08) – 2001 (2nd Place), 2002 (2nd Place), 2003 (2nd Place, Lost in ALCS), 2004 (2nd Place, Won World Series), 2005 (2nd Place, Lost in ALDS), 2006 (3rd Place), 2007 (1st Place, World Series Winner), 2008 (1st Place, Lost in NLCS)
3. Andruw Jones, $18,100,000 (2008-09) – 2008 (1st Place, Lost in NLCS)
4. Torii Hunter, $18,000,000 (2008-12) – 2008 (1st Place, Lost ALDS)
Ichiro Suzuki, $18,000,000 (2008-12) – 2008 (4th Place)
Vernon Wells, $18,00,000 (2008-13) – 2008 (4th Place)
5. Carlos Beltran, $17,000,000 (2005-11) – 2005 (3rd Place), 2006 (1st Place, lost in NLCS), 2007 (2nd Place), 2008 (2nd Place)
Alfonso Soriano, $17,000,000 (2007-14) – 2007 (1st Place, lost in NLDS), 2008 (1st Place, lost in NLDS)
6. Carlos Lee, $16,666,667 (2007-12) – 2007 (4th Place), 2008 (3rd Place)
7. Magglio Ordonez, $15,000,000 (2005-09) – 2005 (4th Place), 2006 (2nd Place, Lost World Series), 2007 (2nd Place), 2008 (4th Place)
8. J.D. Drew, $14,000,000 (2007-11) – 2007 (1st Place, World Series Winner), 2008 (2nd Place, lost in ALCS)
Vladimir Guerrero, $14,000,000 (2004-08) – 2004 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS), 2005 (1st Place, Lost in ALCS), 2006 (2nd Place), 2007 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS), 2008 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS)
9. Johnny Damon, $13,000,000 (2006-09) – 2006 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS), 2007 (2nd Place, Lost in ALDS), 2008 (3rd Place)
Hideki Matsui, $13,000,000 (2006-09) – 2006 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS), 2007 (2nd Place, Lost in ALDS), 2008 (3rd Place)
10. Bobby Abreu, $12,800,000 (2003-07) – 2003 (3rd Place), 2004 (2nd Place), 2005 (2nd Place), 2006 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS), 2007 (2nd Place, Lost in ALDS), 2008 (3rd Place)
11. Kosuke Fukudome, $12,000,000 (2008-11) – 2008 (1st Place, Lost in NLDS)
Jose Guillen, $12,000,000 (2008-10) – 2008 (4th Place)
Aaron Rowand, $12,000,000 (2008-12) – 2008 (4th Place)
12. Matt Holliday, $11,500,000 (2008-09) – 2008 (3rd Place)
13. Nick Markakis, $11,016,667 (2009-14) – Current Season
14. Jermaine Dye, $11,000,000 (2008-09) – 2008 (1st Place, Lost in ALDS)
In total, there are 186 baseball seasons included in contracts listed above that do not begin in the 2009 or 2010 seasons. Only 74 of these seasons (40%) resulted in playoff seasons. This is a far less percentage than expected for these contracts. It is assumed that the largest contracts are signed by players with winning teams. However, the above data and results show that of the “richest” players in MLB history, the playoffs are reached only 40% of the time. The World Series has been won by one 5% of these contract seasons.

Teams cannot simple buy players and championships. If this were true, the percentage of player seasons under contract to playoff seasons would be greater. Once again, I have used numbers, data and statistics to show that based upon the highest paid players a salary cap is not needed. Only 40 % of the seasons within the most expensive contracts result in playoff seasons and only 5% result in World Series victories.

Using numbers and statistics, it is shown that a salary cap in MLB is not required. What is required is better spending by management and a better farm system. As you look through the rosters of many playoff teams and World Series winners, you will find a good ratio of players who were signed as free agents, acquired through trades and those who were developed from within. While the Red Sox consistently are in the top ten in spending, it has spent on both free agent acquisitions and rewarding those players that have developed within their farm system. On the other hand, the Rays are full of players that have been developing over the years and are all finally starting to play at a high level in the major leagues. In either case, a salary cap is not needed.

By the way, if you think I am wrong and think this statistical data does not prove anything, do you also believe there should be a minimum salary cap? Should there be revenue sharing? Should the Yankees and their YES Network be forced to share revenue with the Seattle Mariners for their regional broadcasts to even the field? Should teams with new stadiums be forced to open up their wallets to teams that are playing on older stadiums that cannot bring in the same revenue? Too many questions, too many variables and way too many possibilities. Simply put, under the current system, based upon the data, no salary cap should be instituted.

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