Red Sox owner John Henry has a new revenue sharing plan

Leave a comment

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.

Murray Chass rightfully nails Major League Baseball on minority hiring

Rob Manfred
Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Murray Chass lays off his vendettas against the people he feels have wronged him, he’s still capable of making some sharp points. Particularly when he’s working in his old bailiwick of the business of baseball.

On Sunday he wrote a blog post about minority hiring in baseball. As in, the nearly complete lack of it, at least in front offices:

Manfred has talked a better job on minority hiring than he has performed. He has created a pipeline program through which members of minorities are supposed to be able to advance into major league front office positions. However, no role models seem to exist as inspiration for younger employees.

In Manfred’s 20 months as commissioner, clubs have hired or promoted 19 high-ranking executives. Eighteen of the 19 are white males. The lone minority is Al Avila, the Tigers’ general manager.

Chass reports that Rob Manfred and, in the past, Bud Selig have leaned on clubs to hire friends or trusted lieutenants but claim they have no power to tell clubs who to hire when it comes to minorities. It’s pretty dang good point.

Moving beyond Chass’ points, it’s worth observing that one way baseball could better populate the executive ranks would be to hire more minorities in entry-level positions. What a better way to become a friend and crony than to have, you know, been there a long time? The game has had a horrible track record in doing this, however, for one simple reason: it pays crap wages for all but the highest of executive positions, pushing away candidates for whom money is, in fact, an object to pursuing a dream in baseball which, by demographic necessity, favors the rich and thus favors whites. Earlier this year MLB launched a pipeline program aimed at getting more minority candidates into entry level MLB jobs. That’s a good start to addressing the problem, but it’s going to take years for that to bear fruit, assuming it ever does.

Back in June Kate Morrison and Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus wrote a four-part series regarding this very issue, and it’s well worth your time. Among the points made is one that, given his vendettas, Chass surprisingly didn’t make himself: sabermetrics is partially to blame! Go read Kate and Russell’s work on that, but the short version: front offices want MBA/STEM types now, not people with athletic backgrounds. People with those degrees have expensive educations and, in turn, cannot afford to take pennies to work in baseball when they can make far more in other industries, thereby continuing to favor the rich and the white.

I don’t think Rob Manfred or Bud Selig before him or the people who run major league baseball teams are bigots. I don’t think that baseball, as a whole, wants to keep minorities out of top jobs. Chass doesn’t make such a claim either and he, like I, noted the pipeline program.

But baseball is a business rife with cronyism and nepotism which leads those in power to hire friends and relatives, thereby keeping the executive class overwhelmingly male and white. Baseball has shown that, when it wants to, it can lean on teams to make certain hiring choices. Will it do the same to push for greater minority representation in management ranks? Or will it continue to throw up its hands up and say “hey, that’s on the clubs?”

Tim Tebow hits a homer in his first instructional league at bat

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets hits a home run at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Getty Images
9 Comments

Because of course he did.

It wasn’t just his first at bat, but it was his first pitch. It came off of John Kilichowski, an 11th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Vanderbilt.  The ball went out to left center, off the bat of the lefty Tebow.

Next time, meat, throw him a breaking ball.