Could NY’s problem become the Orioles’ loss?


With Major League Baseball about ready to announce league-wide suspensions in the biogenesis case, Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees might well be receiving a lifetime ban from the game. Granted we only know what’s been reported in the national media, but it seems that the two options are that and a suspension lasting from now until spring training 2015. Having said that, it’s very clear that there are a lot of different sides to this still-evolving story, one of which has to do with a small accounting problem involving Rodriguez’s salary. In this ESPN article, Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter outlined how the Yankees’ organization could stand to actually benefit from this. In fact, it could well be to the Orioles’ detriment.

Showalter appears to have purposely loaded this comment with some passive-aggressive points, all of which should be appreciated from the standpoint of Orioles fans. Ultimately the bottom line is that even though he’s having a down year so to speak, Wieters is exactly the type of player that a team like the NY Yankees would try to steal away. Granted the Orioles have two years to sign him long term, and that in and of itself might be a decent possibility. The franchise stepped up and signed Adam Jones to a long term deal last year, and I suspect that there’s the same push to do that with Wieters either this year or perhaps next off season.

Courtesy of USA Today

However I would submit that what Showalter’s also saying is that baseball needs a salary cap. Some industry experts would argue that baseball indirectly has a salary cap by way of the luxury tax, and they might have a slight point. However the fact is that baseball needs a salary cap that in effect would mandate that a team could not participate in league play if they were over a certain payroll number. All the luxury tax does is force a team to pay money into a revenue-sharing program if they go over the payroll number. The fact is that some teams actually figure that luxury tax into their operating budget, and in that sense it’s a wash.

In this specific case, it’s most certainly fair that Rodriguez should not collect his salary from the Yankees while he’s suspended. In effect, there’s no point in suspending someone if they’re going to be paid during their suspension. However Showalter’s point is that from an accounting perspective that revenue shouldn’t come off of New York’s books, and thus should still count towards the luxury tax. Otherwise Rodriguez being suspended indirectly helps the Yankees by giving them more money to spend on players without hitting the luxury tax.

I’ll be honest; I’m a bit torn on this. On one hand, the people who commit “crimes” are the ones that should be brought to justice. The Yankees aren’t the ones who committed the “crime” here…per se. I do fail to believe that someone on some level had to know that a player as high-profile as ARod was doing what he was doing. And for the record, the same is true of someone like Brady Anderson or Rafael Palmeiro from the Orioles. But in the same respect, should the team itself be punished to that extent because of the sins of one of it’s members?

While I’m torn on this, I would lean towards saying yes. Moreso than in any other sport, baseball commissioners have at times done things “for the good of the game.” So while there’s no precedent for this, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that a team such as the Yankees suddenly being handed extra money (in a sense) wouldn’t alter the competitive balance of the sport. Yankee fans of course will stick to my point above in that the team shouldn’t be penalized because of the actions of one player, and they might well have an argument there. Furthermore, it would send a message and set a new precedent in that teams themselves might be held accountable in the future for the actions of their players when it comes to PED’s.

Ultimately, whether or not Matt Wieters or any other player remains with the Orioles is up to the player and the team. If the Orioles feel they want to take the plunge to extend Wieters today or at some point during the term of his current contract, they’ll do so. If they allow him to hit the open market and he walks, they have nobody to blame but themselves. However whether we’re talking about Matt Wieters or anyone else, I believe the point is that New York was dumb enough to give out a ridiculous contract like that, and they shouldn’t benefit from something that’s designed to be a punitive measure.