Salary inequity gives baseball an 0-2 count

Spring training is coming to an end, and soon the boys of summer will be back at it for another season of major league baseball. Having added pitcher Roger Clemens, the New York Yankees look like strong favorites to repeat as World Series champions. Closer to home, our Minnesota Twins open the season April 6, playing host to the Toronto Blue Jays. Almost a month later, on May 4, the Twins will travel to New York to challenge the vaunted Yankees. With a team salary hovering around $15 million, the Twins cannot afford to compete with big market teams like the Yankees. Indeed, another large-market team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, will pay pitcher Kevin Brown $15 million a year over seven years.
The reason for New York’s ability to offer such inflated salaries is simple: they are a very profitable team that plays to packed houses at Yankee Stadium and generates even more revenue by selling its rich New York metro area television and radio contract. The Twins, on the other hand, share a stadium with the Vikings and Gophers, and cannot hope to generate the same figures for its media contacts. To bring light to this disparity, the Twins organization should consider taking a drastic step: refuse to play the Yankees.
By doing so, the Twins would send a signal to teams with bloated payrolls that the rest of the league will no longer act as a second farm system. The top tier teams would not have much of a league without everyone else to kick around. Last year no team with a payroll less than $48 million made the playoffs and only three finished over .500.
Baseball needs to reconfigure its revenue distribution to provide a more even playing field for all teams. This is not to say that all teams deserve equal quantities of revenue, but it does speak to the issue of fairness. A team that makes poor personnel decisions and has trouble filling its stadium surely bears some of the responsibility for its failure. By and large, small-market teams have lost their good players, not because of foolish cuts and trades, but because they lacked the funds to compete.
Baseball needs to change the way teams are funded. The two other big American sports leagues, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League, share their revenue more equitably. In those leagues, teams hailing from less then bulging metropolises, such as Green Bay, Denver and Salt Lake City, have been able to field quality teams. Baseball has been reduced to a few giants with the ability to compete, year in and year out. Even when a smaller market team like the Florida Marlins is able to buy the championship, they face no alternative but to dismantle the next year.
By refusing to play the Yankees, the Twins would be practicing an act of civil disobedience. No one would argue that Twins players are under financial stress, but a disparity is certainly apparent. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa might have lulled the league into believing payroll Darkins will go away, but given that it took 37 years for Roger Maris’ homerun record to fall, odds are amazing feats, such as were seen last summer, will give way to a league not worth watching.