Major League Baseball and the Salary Cap Debate

Bennett P.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Hanley Ramirez before a World Series game against the St. Louis Cardinals 

Major League Baseball has always been a sport filled with cheating, from throwing games, to using performance enhancing drugs. We can say this is cheating because it is against the leagues rules, but how fair is the league itself? This article is about major league baseball (MLB) and their decision not to limit the amount of money teams could spend, which is called a salary cap. MLB’s decision not to include a mandatory limit to how much team’s are allowed to spend has always been controversial. Other major sport leagues such as the NBA, NHL, or NFL use a cap hit to ensure all teams have a fair chance at winning, but the MLB decided it wouldn’t matter, but after all, more money does mean a bigger budget for buying and signing players. The difference in pay from team to team is so giant that in 2013, Alexander Rodriguez of the New York Yankees had a bigger salary than the entire Houston Astros team. As weird as it sounds, many people believe it makes sense for MLB to allow teams to spend as much as they want. The real question is, should MLB implement a cap hit? This article sets out to determine this very question. Even the average salary of an MLB payer has increased drastically over the years. As seen in the chart below, the average player’s earnings have nearly doubled since 1996, rising to 3,386,000$ American dollars a year. To put that into perspective, the income of the average MD specialist doctor in the U.S. earns 177,000$ American dollars a year. chartgo-8

Of the 10 teams that made a World Series appearance in 2013, only three were also in the top 10 paying teams (Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers). Furthermore, three of those 10 teams were in the bottom 5 paid teams (Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays). The fact that so many poor teams made it to the world series shows that pure spending money may not be the biggest factor in MLB success.


Many people do believe that the MLB’s current system is entirely legitimate, which is a fair opinion. One big factor for why people believe this is that since the amount of money a team makes (and then uses to pay players) is entirely dependant on how the team promotes itself and attracts a fan following. As much as this makes sense, there are two big issues with the idea. First, the very premise of each team having a fair shot at making money is misleading. Teams in larger cities such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, and Chicago Cubs will have way more people to become fans than say the Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals, or Cleveland Indians, simply based on giant population differences. The second issue arises when you consider how much some teams have for spending money that was not at all earned by fans buying tickets and merchandise. When famed NBA player Magic Johnson bought the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012,  he planned to spend enormous amount of money to improve the team, and he did just that, as the Dodgers spent more money on player signings than any other team in 2013.

The hard truth is, the lack of a salary cap isn’t fair. Teams with more fans  (mostly teams with larger cities) have a big advantage because they may spend ridiculous amounts of money however they please. As bad as it sounds, however, the amount of money any given team makes, has conclusively shown not to have a serious effect on that teams success. The major effect on how a team plays has proven to be years of smart spending, trades, and marketing, not simply total amounts of money. In conclusion, the current system is unfair, yet it makes little difference to MLB. It is possible, or even likely we will see an MLB salary cap in the future, but for now it’ll stick with a cap-less system.


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