As I sit here writing this, MLB’s Opening Day festivities are just one (!) sleep away. The Mets will kick things off in Miami against the Marlins. Once the first pitch is thrown, New York will officially own the highest Opening Day payroll in MLB history.
That’s good for Mets players, an organization trying to win, and the fan base. But is it good for baseball? That depends on who you ask.
We’ve heard rumblings regarding MLB owners being annoyed about how Steve Cohen did business this past offseason. But how does commissioner Rob Manfred feel about it? He spoke out of both sides of his mouth during an appearance on The Show, a podcast hosted by New York Post writers Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman.
I assumed he’d go the more negative route since that would track with the majority of owners (who Manfred obviously works for). So, I was surprised when he first said this (all quotes via New York Post):
What Steve spent in the offseason was completely consistent with all of our rules. He perfectly had every right to spend those dollars. There are actually real benefits for the game associated with that spending. It does energize the Mets’ fan base.
To his credit, and I meant this: Steve wants to win. That’s a good thing.
Your damn right it is. This is also exactly what Cohen has consistently said when asked about his team’s offseason spending. Sure, the payroll is at a record level. However, Cohen is also paying a record amount of luxury tax according to MLB’s competitive balance rules.
Before those warm and fuzzies settled in for me, though, the commissioner went on to talk about the same-old bologna:
The downside is spending at that level, particularly at a level that kind of steps away from everybody else, emphasizes a problem that baseball, since I started in 1987, has grappled with. And that is the disparity in the revenues that are generated in our markets produces a challenge in terms of competitive balance.
Blah, blah, blah. Wah, wah, wah. The first thing that came to my mind — and most fans, probably — is if this has been an issue since 1987, why is it still a problem? While baseball is a wonderful game, it gets stuck in its ways all too often. If there’s a problem, how about we actually fix it instead of letting it linger?
Also, it’s hard to make the revenue argument when the Mets lost the most money of any club last year, according to Forbes:
Top 5 MLB team values per Forbes:
Top 5 profits(2022)
Top 5 losses
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 23, 2023
The Mets’ spending was also one of the driving forces behind MLB forming an economic reform committee. How could spending and payrolls be changed looking into the future? Your guess is as good as mine right now. However, Manfred appears to be laying the foundation for a salary cap at some point:
I don’t think anybody on the club side has made up their mind that a salary cap [system] is necessarily the answer. We have, over a long period of time, avoided making the salary-cap proposal.
But there is one truism that is hard to hard to ignore: There are arguably … five major professional sports in North America. Four of them have one system. One of them has a different system. I’m sort of a believer in the idea that the majority eventually gets it right. When you’re the outlier, you have to ask yourself the question of: Does somebody else have the system right?
Could that be what fixes the spending “problem” that’s been ailing baseball for more than three decades? Once again, that’s anybody’s guess right now. One thing we can be sure of, though, is that Cohen will continue to do what he wants, whether other owners like it or not.
MORE ON ESNY:
• Boston Globe writers concede to Yankees’ eventual 2023 domination
• Yankees’ Aaron Judge chasing more home run history in 2023
• Giants are wielding their Saquon Barkley leverage
• Mets will host ‘Bark in the Park’ for three games this year
• Odell Beckham Jr. crashes NFL owners meetings, talks to Jets brass (PHOTOS)
You can reach Matt Musico at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.