As an institution, baseball should encourage Steve Cohen to spend more on payroll, instead of trying to hold the Mets back.
I would argue that MLB is better off with a Goliath. It amplifies the reaction of the fans. Think of the Yankees at the turn of the century. Her star collection and rising payroll centered love and hate on her. And that’s great for a sport. They want extreme emotions. Indifference is the enemy.
I know the immediate argument is that teams with no salary cap could just buy championships. But the four-time Yankees champions from 1996-2000 weren’t the highest-paying team in the sport at times, and even when they were at the top, they still had to run and financially hide from the competition.
When they did so, the Yankees stopped winning titles. And these Yankee champions were unique and not easily duplicated by even the wildest spendthrift. They didn’t just have talent and depth. They backed that with a confidence and belief in one another that has steeled them, especially in the postseason. Since the Yankee Three-peat ended in 2000, the Yankees have won a championship and no team has repeated in this century.
Eight different organizations have won the last eight titles, and the last two teams to have the highest payroll on opening day and win it all were the 2009 Yankees and the 2018 Red Sox. The highest payroll wins far less often than perception.
The Mets went into the weekend with a $286 million luxury tax payroll (Spotrac). In the recent collective bargaining agreement, MLB owners and players are agreed to an unprecedented fourth tax threshold of $290 million this quickly became known as the Cohen tax – also by Cohen.
He has suggested that the team could surpass that level. And the more outrage Miami, Washington and Atlanta bring in, the better for baseball. It’s great to have a villain. Something to shoot. Something to boo. There’s not much national interest in baseball. It’s such a local sport. But villainy is national.
And really, once a team hits $250M, they’re generally that far from the rest of the competition, does it really matter if the payroll goes up to $290M? I think that actually benefits the smaller payroll clubs. These types of franchises need the glitches and failings of their larger competitors. This is more likely if spending continues. The worst mistakes are made on expensive, long-term deals. This is a problem even for large editions. There are just so many roster spots and dead weight fests that log jams form. There’s just so much financial patience out there, even for those with the fattest of wallets.
Cohen has his breaking points. The Mets wanted a left assist but found the asking prices of Aaron Loup and Andrew Chafin for two examples too high and signed elsewhere. Would the Mets feel this way if the payroll was, say, $240 million?
The bigger threat to the smaller donors shouldn’t be the Mets driving the top flight. Instead, more clubs are generally feeling encouraged to increase their payroll as the lowest tax threshold has risen to $230 million from $210 million. Ten are valued at over $200 million, and the Blue Jays and Cardinals are close to that limit.
I have a feeling that one or two super teams like the Mets and Dodgers (estimated at $268 million) aren’t as dangerous to the larger group of teams, especially those at the bottom end, as a huge group of teams that are Setting Franchise Record Wages. Yes, mistakes are made here. But this is also a larger pool of stars reaching fewer clubs overall.
Ultimately, there is no such thing as a perfect system (even the capped sports don’t have parity). But as long as MLB has that system, Cohen’s co-owners should hope he continues.
The sport needs a villain.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/19/steve-cohen-is-mlbs-badly-needed-villain-with-mets-spending/ Steve Cohen is MLB’s much-needed villain with Mets spending