MLB Revenue Sharing

Revenue Sharing: George Steinbrenner Soon To Be Vindicated

Former Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner, did all he could but ended up losing the battle against revenue sharing. Soon, he will be vindicated.

No one detested revenue sharing more than George Steinbrenner, the Yankees flamboyant but largely successful owner of the Yankees in 1996 when the subsidy was adopted. Two of the most potent objections made by Steinbrenner were that major league baseball would suffer in a loss of fan interest if man-made tools like revenue sharing were used to create parity among all teams.

Former Yankees Owner, George M. Steinbrenner Photo Credit: New York Daily News
Former Yankees Owner, George M. Steinbrenner Photo Credit: New York Daily News

And second, Steinbrenner knew from being a businessman himself that if anyone were to give him free money, he would be tempted to pocket it for himself and his investors.

And knowing his peers and how they operated their teams, he could foresee many of them doing just that, instead of putting the money back into their team as a means of putting a competitive team on the field.

For all the wrong reasons, most of which are tied to owners “misuse” of the revenue sharing dollars that came their way, parity never came about. Which is a good thing unless fans of baseball believe the NBA has the right idea by having just a little less than half the teams in the league make the playoffs, with a few of them even sporting under .500 records for the season.

But Steinbrenner did hit the nail on the head when he predicted that some teams would live almost entirely on the revenue sharing money to support their big league payroll.

With no sheriff in town to monitor how teams spent the revenue sharing money received from MLB (Oops, that was convenient, huh?), together with MLB still keeping itself exempt from federal anti-trust laws, it is virtually impossible to get accurate numbers on each team’s revenue in a given year. Can’t touch the holy grail, so what do they do? Enter the luxury tax which, conveniently, is determined by a team’s payroll for players, and also something highly visible to the public and average fan.

Revenue Sharing: A Team Is Finally Outed

Billy Beane, A's GM Photo Credit: Sporting News
Billy Beane, A’s GM Photo Credit: Sporting News

For those who agree with Steinbrenner and others, there is justice and it’s hidden in the 2017-2021 agreement between the players and owners is a revolutionary change in revenue sharing. According to Forbes.com, “the number of market disqualified Clubs will be reduced from 15 to 13, with Oakland phased-out over four years beginning in 2017. According to Ronald Blum of the AP, the A’s revenue share receipts drop to 75 percent in 2017, 50 percent in 2018 and 25 percent in 2019 before eliminating it entirely”.

The party is over for Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s. It’s been a long time coming, and a year ago NBC Sports got my attention with a story they titled, “The Oakland A’s are a team that cries poverty but ingests wealth.”  Come 2020, they fend for themselves, though, and that just might be the true test of the “magic” Billy Beane has worked over his years with the A’s.

Revenue Sharing Crackdown: The Beginning Or Just A Show

The chances are that due to an influx of money coming from the $5 billion with a B television deal signed by MLB with various networks, and soon to divided equally among teams, Oakland will not be standing in line at the food pantry.

MLB Revenue Sharing Snapshot (Photo: Forbes)
MLB Revenue Sharing Snapshot (Photo: Forbes)

But a question comes to mind. Are the A’s a scapegoat that MLB is using to make a point, which they hope other bottom feeders will heed? Or, is MLB perhaps a bit wary of the grievance filed by the players naming other teams, including the Marlins, Pirates, and Rays — claiming they have failed to comply with rules of how they spend their revenue sharing money?

What’s fair is fair. And although George Steinbrenner was a marked man in his time for the way in which he freely spent his money to bring pennants to New York, if he were alive today it would be a safe bet to say he would not mind being Robin Hood giving to the poor…

But just make sure those “food stamps” get used for the purpose they are intended for. Seems reasonable to me, and I hope MLB ferrets out these other scoundrels because George Steinbrenner saw through this thing from the very beginning and MLB let it happen. No more.

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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