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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Where have you gone, Mephistopheles? The Yankees turn their lonely eyes to you.

Dear Satan... aka Scratch, Bub, Luce...

As you know, last night, baseball's stately plantation owners and prideful migrants achieved labor harmony. They have tweaked the current system and greased the wheels of prosperity through 2021.

Quick question: Where the hell are you?

Actually, that's a trick question. We know where you are: Somewhere in the fine print, lurking in the boilerplate, hidden in a phrase or dangling in a participle... waiting to someday emerge like Melania Trump's immigration papers.

At least, that's what I hope.

From first impressions, the new baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) keeps the de-facto payroll caps that crushed the Yankees in the early 2010s and turned the team into a big city version of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Today, the questions are the ones always asked after such a deal is made:

Is there a loophole, and can the Yankees exploit it? Make no mistake: That is Brian Cashman's job. And by the way, he won't hold a news conference and announce it. Don't expect quick analyses. That's how loopholes - and devils - work their magic.

The Yankees built their 1996-2003 dynasty, in large part, on a newly found revenue stream called the YES Network. MLB reacted by imposing huge luxury taxes on the big-spending teams (the Yankees), while other franchises built their own TV networks. Ever since, the Yankees have been a nostalgia act, presenting aging stars in season-long Old-Timers Day pageants, as they chased Wild Cards.

Obviously, sitting here this morning, I can't identify a loophole. The luxury tax cap will rise by a few million each year, but if Hal "Food Stamps" Steinbrenner stays above it for too long, his tax rate will skyrocket. The Yankees must still get below the threshold every few years - while balancing the long-term deals that top stars demand. It's a Catch-22 that the Yankees have yet to solve.

Last year, after four seasons of mediocrity, Hal finally threw in the towel, traded veterans for prospects and vowed to rebuild - just like Kansas City does. Now, we hope a wave of young stars will lift this team. But if it does happen, will the Yankees be able to keep them, when they demand to be paid like stars?

Don't get me wrong, Luce. This agreement is probably fair to all owners. Trouble is, most teams seek pennants. A few annually chase world championships. The Yankee tradition is to think of dynasties. That's where you come in.

Somewhere in the details, we need a devil.


JM said...

Please allow me to introduce myself, I'm a man of wealth and taste. And I've been photographed wearing kinky boots.

Now I just have to show up and stop worrying about my billions...

Local Bargain Jerk said...

According to the New York Post, incoming Major Leaguers will be banned from using smokeless tobacco, but current players will be "grandfathered in" and still be permitted.

The Nanny State reaches the bigs.

Der Kaiser said...

This CBA looks like a pretty bad deal for big-market clubs. The luxury tax threshold rises at about the rate of inflation, which is to say, less than the current rate of baseball salary inflation, while the penalties for going over the threshold become much more punitive. If there was formerly some expectation that Hal might trim payroll below the threshold for one year to reset the penalties and then go on a spending spree, I think we can now safely expect all teams to treat the tax threshold as a salary cap. International spending is also capped, which negates any remaining financial advantage - but at least that means it's impossible to be outbid by other teams for the next Moncada, who will simply have to decide between competing maximum $6-million offers.

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