There was some discussion here a couple days ago about possible changes to MLB’s economic system. With the Pirates producing about as much news as the St. Louis Browns, I thought I’d set out my own idea. Not that any fundamental changes are going to happen. MLB’s system is set up to favor the big markets and both the owners, including small market owners, and the union like it that way. The owners like it because they believe the sport as a whole generates more money when the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers make deep post-season runs every year and that all teams benefit financially that way. The union likes it because its overriding priority, to the detriment of a large portion of its members, is to maximize the contracts that the top dozen or two players are able to get.
Anyway, my basic idea is to guarantee the players, as a group, a certain percentage (somewhere around the historical norm of 50% or so) of the sport’s revenue. Salaries would be paid out of a general pool, to which teams would contribute based on revenue. Players still could negotiate individual contracts with teams, but teams would have a payroll cap that would be set at a point low enough that there would be enough of the salary pool left over to guarantee every player a certain salary. This would be similar to the current minimum salary system, with the minimums still graduated based on service time. The minimums would, though, be higher, starting at maybe $1M or so. It should work out so that many players would sign contracts that simply called for whatever the minimum for them happened to be, and this would not count against the team’s payroll limit.
I think the effect of this would be that the top players still would get very large contracts, but they wouldn’t be concentrated in New York, Los Angeles and Boston. Probably most players would work for the minimum, but the minimum would be much higher. Also, because minimums would be graduated and wouldn’t count against a team’s limit, it would make no difference to a team whether it employed a player with one year or ten years of service.