While the NBA and NFL have operated under salary caps for years (the NBA’s is a soft cap), MLB has remained steadfast in resisting that financial structure, allowing teams to spend to their heart’s content. The league does employ a luxury tax, though that’s hardly a deterrent for deep-pocketed clubs like the Red Sox, Yankees and Dodgers.
With players and owners still licking their wounds from contentious labor talks that resulted in commissioner Rob Manfred unilaterally enacting an abbreviated, 60-game schedule for 2020, the potential for a salary cap has emerged as a recent talking point in some MLB circles. Former Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was the latest to weigh in, implying he’d be in favor of a league-mandated salary cap.
“The only way it's going to happen is if they get to the table and say the No. 1 goal, let's get from $10 to $15 billion and then we'll split the economics evenly,” the ESPN and Fox analyst suggested during a conference call Thursday. “But that's the type of conversation instead of fighting and fighting against each other because there's too much competition out there right now.”
Spoken like a true MLB owner, which is exactly what A-Rod hopes to be. The 44-year-old, along with fiancée Jennifer Lopez, is leading a bid to buy the Mets with longtime owner Fred Wilpon putting the team up for sale. Former and current athletes DeMarco Murray, Brian Urlacher and Travis Kelce have joined Rodriguez’s pursuit of the Mets, who have reportedly narrowed their ownership search down to four groups. Hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen could be the favorite to acquire the Queens-based club after reportedly submitting a $2 billion bid for a majority ownership stake.
Rodriguez clarified his stance after receiving pushback from union leader Tony Clark and others in MLB (former Athletics and Dodgers right-hander Brandon McCarthy was among those critical of A-Rod’s musings), insisting he never said “salary cap.” “Yesterday, when I was asked about the CBA expiring in 2021, I answered honestly, but never mentioned the word salary cap,” said Rodriguez, who, as ESPN notes, pocketed $448 million over his 22 major league seasons.“I suggested on the call that both sides—players and owners—work together to make baseball as big as the NFL and the NBA.”
Clark strongly denounced Rodriguez’s pro-ownership take, framing his comments as hypocritical. “Alex benefited as much as anybody from the battles this union fought against owners' repeated attempts to get a salary cap,” said Clark, a former teammate of A-Rod’s on the New York Yankees in 2004. “Now that he is attempting to become an owner himself his perspective appears to be different. And that perspective does not reflect the best interests of the players."
Did Rodriguez’s feather-ruffling remarks cross a line or is he correct in his assessment that players and owners need to put their differences aside for the sport’s greater good? Wherever you fall on the matter, the 14-time All-Star’s polarizing comments certainly has the masses riled up.