The ‘Have Nots’ Challenge in Baseball and Elsewhere
Was the Yankees’ signing of Mashiro Tanaka “good for baseball”? On MLB-TV last week the question was pitched and batted around. It’s good for the “haves, healing ” bad for the “have-nots, discount see ” was the consensus. Already an encouraging political sign, we thought: “haves” and “have nots” instead of “big market” and “small market” teams. .Missing, however , was mention of the logical walkoff of the verbal game: if it’s not good for all, it’s not good for baseball.
We know about the similar absence of logic when we connect the nationwide economic divide and education. Eight states generally identified as among the country’s 10 poorest – Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky,, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Oklahoma – are also listed as having the most inferior schools. All are averse to asking residents to pay a little extra in taxes to improve their educational systems.
Yet, national stats show that top-spending states get a generous payoff: they dominate math and reading proficiency exams in the country’s elementary schools. It’s not surprising, says Michael Leachman, a director at the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities: “If you invest more in your schools, you’re going to end up with a better-educated and ultimately higher-income population.”
It’s taken Baseball more than a century to learn – and act on – that obvious investment lesson as it applies to the sport. Team owners have seen fit to enhance the amount of revenue-sharing and luxury tax dollars distributed to have-not teams. But, after the combined impact of saving on A-Rod and spending on Tanaka, the Yanks stand with the Dodgers far ahead of the rest of the field. Here is an estimate of selected 2014 team salaries (approximate until season starts): Yankees $200 million, Dodgers $220 m, Red Sox $158m, Nationals $158m Tigers $153m, Giants $140 m, Blue Jays $132m, Rangers $124m, Angels $108m, Cardinals $100m, Braves $99m, Orioles $98m, Kansas City Royals $91m, Reds $88m, Mets $87m, Rays $85m, Padres $84m., Indians $84m, Oakland A’s $72m, Mariners $71m , Pirates $70m.
Those stats tell us, among other things, that the Yanks and, especially, the Dodgers, figure to dominate lesser-funded teams for the foreseeable future. That may not apply this season for the Yankees. They share a competitive edge in the AL East with the Red Sox and, perhaps, the Rays. The Giants will be hard put to keep pace with the Dodgers as is. If Tanaka joined the Kershaw-Greinke-Ryu-Haren rotation, the term “no contest” comes to mind. It’s the last term Baseball should want to see in play in any of the six divisions.
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The Need for Tanaka: “The Yankees were not willing to accept the likelihood of punting another season for tax purposes. And so they obtained a 25-year-old pitcher in the prime of his career who brings stuff and celebrity to their brand. Time will tell if it was money well spent, but for the Yankees, it was money they needed to spend to stay within striking distance of the Red Sox and Rays.” – Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated
A White Sox Optimist: “I expect off-the-chart production from (Cuban first baseman Jose) Abreu. I think he’ll out-hit Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes and be a durable 600-plus plate appearance presence in the middle of the lineup.” – Former ChiTrib columnist Phil Rogers, now with MLB.com
Insensitivity: Mets GM Sandy Alderson often finds a way to entertain media people when he comments on the challenges associated with the budget-conscious Mets. But his sense of humor on display at a writers dinner the other night – applauded by some – clearly needs work. Alderson noted that the NY teams had each signed a Japanese pitcher during the week, but that the Mets would be paying Daisuke Matsuzaka at a minor-league rate while the Yanks had signed Mashiro Tanaka for $155 million. He thus succeeded in insulting Dice-K while reminding restive Mets fans of the team’s continuing short rations. Nice double play, Sandy.
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