A Plan to Make MLB Better


Yesterday, I came across Restoring Sanity to Baseball’s Economics that was published on the New York Times website and it got me to thinking about how I would make MLB better. 

Before I get to my plan, let me say that I am utterly shocked that this perspective comes out of New York.  What are the chances that the richest team in MLB would benefit from a free market system?  Nope, no conflict of interest in this take.  I’m sure it is on the up and up and only thrown out there in the best interests of teams like the Royals and baseball as a whole.

What follows might amount to the most idiotic, or most brilliant, thing I have ever written on this site.  It is submitted to you solely off the top of my head, inspired by the above article, and as such it is what it is.  My plan is not designed to intentionally help the Royals or hurt the big market teams like the Yankees.  However, in my opinion, any legitimate fix has to have that end result.  As a fan of all things baseball, my plan is designed to make things better for fans of all the teams as a collective whole.

If MLB really wants to level the playing field and as a result grow interest in the sport, the owners and players need to:

  • Implement NBA style slotting system for draft picks
  • Implement a salary cap and salary floor for team payrolls at the ML level
  • Implement a worldwide draft
  • Expand 2 more franchises

The slotting system and salary floor I have talked about for awhile.  If you couple them with a salary cap, things even out in a hurry with respect to competitive balance.  This would eliminate the luxury tax payments that small market teams receive.  However, the revenue sharing and revenue stream from the MLB central fund would still be in place.  The offseason interest generated by these changes alone would be worth any hiccups.  It would be nice to see teams sign their young starters to long-term deals with the intention of keeping them for the entirety of the contract.  It would be nice to see a free agent like C.C. Sabathia sign with the San Diego Padres or Florida Marlins for a change.  At the very least, it would be nice to consistently see teams other than the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Angels, etc. listed as potential destinations for free agent players.  With a salary cap and salary floor, all of these things become reality.  Since the cap and floor exist at the ML level, teams can still invest extra money in their farm systems for purposes of development.  Thanks to the next item however, that extra cash could not be used to acquire talent since all players would be part of the worldwide draft.

The world draft is the clear solution to a lot of the problems surrounding international free agency, but the perceived complexity of this system allows the critics to keep this concept off the table.  The more I have been thinking about it, I see no reason why the world draft can’t happen sooner rather than later.  After all, the NHL and NBA already have what amount to worldwide drafts.  Further the NHL, like MLB, has a minor league system so there is a model in place.  In short, MLB doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Adding another two franchises has been thrown around for years.  The number one target city for MLB is New York, and not surprisingly, the Mets and Yankees have been opposed to that idea.  All the evidence that I have come across suggests that New York can support a 3rd ML franchise, and it would have the additional positive impact of thinning the revenue streams of the Yankees and Mets.  With the luxury tax out of the way and a salary cap and salary floor in place, the addition of a third NY franchise would serve the greater good of baseball without adversely impacting the competitive futures of the other NY teams.  Besides, how cool would it be to have a team back in Brooklyn?  The other market could be tougher to find.  With the other changes in place, I imagine a decent number of cities would emerge as viable long-term options.  For the sake of my concocted plan, Las Vegas would be the new home of the second expansion franchise.

Adding two teams would infuse MLB with a huge amount of cash just by selling the rights to the teams.  This additional money could be distributed evenly to the 30 existing franchises.  Or, if all the owners were willing to be really progressive, they could use the money to grow the game around the world.  This could be done through the construction of baseball academies, the development of instructional programs, and the development of youth leagues in countries where baseball’s popularity is lacking.  As more kids grow up playing baseball around the world, the fan base and interest in ML teams and MLB as a whole grows.  This also would have the positive impact of creating a larger talent pool of players to pick from in future drafts.  Fifteen years from now, this could all help to make the World Baseball Classic a truly monumental international event on par with the Olympics or World Cup.

All of the above items contained in my plan are submitted to you as off-the-cuff thoughts and general opinion.  Outside of the slotting system for draft picks, I fully recognize that there is less than a 1% chance that the above ideas are going to happen anytime soon.  I also fully recognize that my “theories” are probably filled with problems that might make them invalid or impractical.  Just my take on things that could be done to make MLB even better than it is today.

What are your thoughts?