Red Sox owner John Henry has a new revenue sharing plan

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We civilians have been talking a lot recently about the injustice of the big market teams paying revenue sharing money to small, losing, but otherwise profitable teams. Today an actual big market owner — the Red Sox’ John Henry — speaks up:

Red Sox principal owner John Henry is calling for Major League Baseball’s revenue sharing system to be overhauled and replaced with a “competitive balanced payroll tax” in an effort to create competitive balance in baseball.

“Change is needed and that is reflected by the fact that over a billion dollars have been paid to seven chronically uncompetitive teams, five of whom have had baseball’s highest operating profits,” Henry responded in an e-mail. “Who, except these teams, can think this is a good idea?”

Henry added, “While the Red Sox are in the 16th largest media market we’ve found a way to be very competitive even though we are funding other teams . . . a system that directly impacts competition has to replace the current system, that hoped to, but ultimately did not cure competitive imbalances.”

The short version: Henry prefers a system where payroll — rather than revenue — is taxed and the money goes to teams who need revenue to meet a minimum payroll that is imposed on anyone who accepts shared dollars. Wanna cut things to the bone? Great, but the rest of the league is not going to subsidize you. Which is fine, because it does prevent the problem of the Marlins or the Royals or whoever hording money and not spending it on players.

But let’s not pretend that Henry is offering this plan up out of the goodness of his heart. The Red Sox, perhaps more than any other team, have a hell of a lot to gain by payroll, as opposed to revenue, being taxed. They have tremendous revenue advantages over everyone but the Yankees, and they still would even if they cut their payroll in half.  Henry’s system would protect all of that dough in ways that it isn’t protected now.

Henry acknowledges this by suggesting that the players be guaranteed a fixed percentage of total revenues, thereby making what any one team does with payroll irrelevant in the aggregate.  I’m suspicious, however, if for no other reason than that the owners have always been really protective of their revenue data. It’s easy to hide revenue. It’s easy to launder it, for lack of a better term, to.

For example, right now the money Henry realizes as a result of the Fenway Sports Group isn’t counted as baseball revenue, even though a lot of it is made by slapping Red Sox logos on things like race cars.  Is that going to be off limits to the players too?  If Henry’s comments about the size of the Red Sox’ media market are any indication they will be, if for no other reason than they prove that he likes to downplay the team’s power and money (Boston is not the 16th largest media market. According to Neilson it’s the 7th, and that’s just the city itself. If you take into account that the Sox basically have all of New England to themselves it’s even bigger).

At any rate, if you key player salaries to some overall revenue bogey, people will argue about what that revenue truly is, and that will lead to more labor strife, not less. Just ask the NFL.

All of that said, talking about the problems inherent in the current revenue sharing system is a good beginning. Ultimately, however, it seems like keeping the same revenue sharing system in place, but simply building onto it some sort of controls that prevent teams from simply pocketing the dollars would be a better bet than totally burning it down and starting with Henry’s new payroll tax idea.

Bud Selig to teach a class at Arizona State law school

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Before Bud Selig ultimately retired, he had a couple of false start retirement announcements only to have the owners beg him to sign on for one more term. In one of those false starts he talked about how the University of Wisconsin had set up an office for him in the history department and that he’d be doing some research and teaching a class now and again. And he has, in fact, taught some one-off seminars at Wisconsin’s law school and the like.

Now something a little more permanent along those lines is in the works for The Greatest Commissioner in Baseball History. The Arizona Republic reports that Selig will join the Sports Law and Business program at Arizona State University’s law school where he will teach and advise as well as start up a speakers series in which he will bring in high-powered guests. No word on how many speakers will talk about big, important historical sports law cases like, say collusion in baseball, which was orchestrated by an ownership class in the mid-to-late 80s, of which Bud Selig was far and away the most influential member. That could get sort of awkward, I suppose.

Either way, it’s a good way to keep busy. I mean, that’s what it has to be as he’s not hurting for cash, what with the obscene $6 million severance package the owners gave him to, I dunno, not give interviews about bad stuff that happened back in the day like Fay Vincent does all the time. Stuff like collusion. Maybe he gets the $6 million for some other purpose. Who can say, really? It’s never made any sort of sense otherwise.

Anyway, good luck in Tempe, Bud. Maybe I’ll stop by your office at ASU when I’m there next month — I always stay in Tempe — and we can chew the fat or climb that butte with the big A on it or something. First round at Four Peaks afterward is on me.

White Sox sign first baseman Travis Ishikawa

Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Travis Ishikawa hits an RBI-single off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Raisel Iglesias to drive home Neil Walker in the seventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, in Cincinnati. The Reds won 4-3. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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First baseman Travis Ishikawa has agreed to a minor-league contract with the White Sox that includes an invitation to spring training.

Ishikawa was previously reported to have a minor-league deal with the Mariners last month, but the signing was never finalized. Now he joins the White Sox, who have Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche ahead of him on the first base/designated hitter depth chart.

Ishikawa had some big moments for the Giants in the 2014 playoffs, but he’s a 32-year-old journeyman with a lifetime .255 batting average and .712 OPS in 488 games as a big leaguer.

It’s possible the White Sox could keep him around as a bench bat and backup first baseman/left fielder, but Ishikawa seems more likely to begin the season at Triple-A.

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.

White Sox sign Mat Latos

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Jerry Crasnick reports that the Chicago White Sox have signed Mat Latos.

Latos was pretty spiffy between 2010-2014, posting sub-3.50 ERAs each year.  Then the injuries came and he fell apart. He pitched for three teams in 2015 — the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins — with a combined 4.95 ERA in 113 innings. And he didn’t make friends on those clubs either, with reports of clubhouse strife left in his wake.

In Chicago he gets a fresh start. It doesn’t come in a park that will do him any favors — Latos and U.S. Cellular Field don’t seem like a great match — but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.