February 19, 2004

Sour Grapes? Here is the complete text of John Henry's comments:

"It will suffice to say that we have a spending limit and the Yankees apparently don't. Baseball doesn't have an answer for the Yankees. Revenue sharing can only accomplish so much. At some point it becomes confiscation. It has not and it will not solve what is a very obvious problem.

"More often than not, $50 million, on average, will not allow a major league baseball franchise to field a highly competitive team. Every year there will be an exception, but that is really the baseline number. So what has meaning are the dollars spent above $50 million. Most clubs can perhaps afford to spend $10 million to $25 million above that figure trying to compete. A few can spend as much as $30 million to $60 million above that. But one team can and is spending $150 million incremental, and at some point 29 owners and their players say to themselves, 'We can't have one team that can spend $10 above the baseline for every incremental dollar spent by an average team.' One thing is certain the status quo will not be preserved.

"Fifty-seven percent of baseball fans polled this week by ESPN.com characterized this week's events as 'disgusting' and 'sad.' As for me, although I have never previously been an advocate of a salary cap in baseball out of respect for the players, there is really no other fair way to deal with a team that has gone so insanely far beyond the resources of all the other teams. There must be a way to cap what a team can spend without hurting player compensation in toto without taking away from the players what they have rightfully earned in the past through negotiation and in creating tremendous value. Revenue sharing alone, sufficient to address a problem of this magnitude, would require pure confiscation -- but there is a simple mechanism that could right a system woefully out of whack.

"Regarding the questions about how I feel about Alex going to New York. Personally, I am very happy for Alex. He very much wanted to play in games that have meaning. This year he will get that chance. We will be ready as well. The Yankees will have spent more than double the incremental dollars we will spend this year. It's a huge advantage, but we're not waving a white flag. We're going to continue to work just as hard to bring home a championship and are fortunate to have fans that are as uncompromising as we are when it comes to demanding excellence."

George Steinbrenner's response: "We understand that John Henry must be embarrassed, frustrated and disappointed by his failure in this transaction. Unlike the Yankees, he chose not to go the extra distance for his fans in Boston. It is understandable, but wrong that he would try to deflect the accountability for his mistakes on to others and to a system for which he voted in favor. It is time to get on with life and forget the sour grapes."

And then Henry: "I've been asked by the commissioner to not respond to the New York Yankees' comments today. I've agreed and will abide by that request. The anticipation about the 2004 season is at an all-time high. So let's shift our sights to the field. Let the games begin."

As one SoSHer wrote, "drivetime talk radio can't start quoting numbers like Henry did -- it would be bad for business so they just go for the easy angle -- Boston vs. MFY over Arod, curse of the whomeever. Once again proving the laziness of the typical media member." [cough] ... While perhaps being issued at the wrong time -- though considering how the rivalry has intensified since last summer, there may have been no right time -- Henry's statement does not sound like whining to me.

And just as the topic doesn't lend itself to soundbites, it isn't easy to offer an opinion in a short blog entry. I do not support a cap on either players salaries or owners profits. And part of the issue with Boston having the #2 payroll is that they play in the same division as the Yankees. If Boston was in the AL Central, I don't think their payroll would be as high as it is now. For 2004, the #1 payroll (Yankees) is approximately twice that of the #5 team (Cubs). And while on one level, that does seem unfair, the Tribune Company, which owns the Cubs, could spend more if it chose. There are no guarantees that spending equals success, but it does allow a team to make a few mistakes (Andy Morales, anyone?) and get away with it.

Then there are issues of what makes a "large market team" in the first place? It clearly isn't tied to population. And what of the penny-pinching owners who apparently pocket any luxury tax monies they receive, refusing to put money back into their teams (which I believe was the whole point of the tax)? Why should the Yankees reward Owner X for not trying to improve his club, for discouraging competition? ... The Red Sox have a clear financial advantage over many other teams and with the construction of new seats on the right field roof, they should be bringing in even more revenue. And that is how it should be. Both the Yankees and Red Sox are supported by big, loyal fan bases and they both should be allowed to use that loyalty to improve their product. And as pointed out in the SoSH thread, when you look at team payrolls as a percentage of published revenues, the Yankees and Red Sox spend about the same.

It is a very complicated issue and I have no idea how best to solve it (although the SoSH thread does have some suggestions). Perhaps Henry's comments would have been best made in an owners' meeting or brought up around the next CBA negotiations. Either way, Henry must have known the reaction his remarks would get. ... And the rivalry just got a little more heated.

SoSHer Angel Santos in Red notes the "extreme circumstantial luck" the Yankees had re: A-Rod. "They needed (a) a superstar to want out of an organization; (b) a signed player to break his contract by playing a pick-up game of basketball and end his season with an injury; (c) said superstar – noted for his superior defensive prowess – to want to change positions as well as ... (a) have their failed financial commitment in a no-hit 3B prospect nullified by his desire to void a $12M contract and play for the NFL team that just drafted him and (b) get out from under Boone's contract to make Arod a wash financially. George and the media come off as incredibly savvy, but some need to realize and credit luck with the way some of these stars aligned." ... As Ian Browne points out, the Rodriguez deal was simply a better match, in terms of both players and money, for New York. The Yankees did not "out-smart" Boston.

Also: "The Sox were relieved to find out that there was no truth to the rumor that Pedro Martinez had been involved in a serious car accident in the Dominican Republic. ... Martinez, who was in Boston yesterday, is expected to report on time with the rest of the pitchers and catchers tomorrow." ... Curt Schilling: "The way I've got it figured, I'm starting that first game vs. the Yankees (April 16 at Fenway Park) because of the way the rotation falls on that Friday. I've known that for about two months and I'm nervous about it and excited about it. Our schedule is not going to be easy. This division is going to be incredibly tough, but I look forward to stuff like that and that's one of the reasons I came here, to be a part of that. You can treat it the way you want, but I need to dwell on it and let it simmer. ... If Red Sox fans weren't passionate and angry and pissed off and bitter and didn't hate the Yankees, they wouldn't be who they are. Same thing with Yankee fans."

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