If money alone determined the winner of the World Series every year, Steve Cohen’s New York Mets would be the runaway winner for 2023.
As the MLB season draws near, they’re tied up to roughly $375 million in luxury tax payroll with almost $500 million committed to free agents this offseason alone. Whether lavish spending from teams like the Mets and Padres is actually good for baseball has been a hotly debated topic that gained a brighter spotlight with every additional record-breaking signing across the league.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred gave his piece on the matter, both its “real benefits” and the “problem” that the arms race has emphasized, via Mark Sanchez of the New York Post. Manfred asserts that on the plus side, Steve Cohen’s green light spending spree means one thing – “Steve wants to win. That’s a good thing.” The aggressive moves, he says, have reinvigorated the Mets’ fan base while working within the parameters the league allows.
“What Steve spent in the offseason was completely consistent with all of our rules. He perfectly had every right to spend those dollars,” the MLB commissioner said on Tuesday night during a live “The Show” podcast with The Post’s Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman at The Ainsworth Midtown in Manhattan. “There are actually real benefits for the game associated with that spending. It does energize the Mets’ fan base.
But at the same time, their increase in spending doesn’t mean the rest of the MLB will follow suit. Only those with owners wielding extra large pockets and the motivation to reach into them would get into it. The rest would stand pat, further increasing the gap between the haves and have-nots.
“The downside is spending at that level, particularly at a level that kind of steps away from everybody else, emphasizes a problem that baseball, since I started in 1987, has grappled with. And that is the disparity in the revenues that are generated in our markets produces a challenge in terms of competitive balance.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred talks about Steve Cohen’s Mets spending during The Show’s live taping at The Ainsworth NYC with @Joelsherman1 and @JonHeyman #Cadillac #sponsored pic.twitter.com/ExnAglVLmE
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) March 29, 2023
It’s no innovative thought to worry about the payroll disparity amongst MLB rosters. It’s a feature that’s present throughout the rest of the major American sports leagues. However, it’s turned some teams into perennial losers that couldn’t possibly compete with the big spenders year in and year out.
The Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, two of the lowest spenders in the league, both won a World Series during the 80s and haven’t sniffed one since. They won’t look at the Mets’ moves and try to make a splashy signing of their own. Instead, they might be hoping not to lose one of their key free agents to one of those bigger teams willing to pay more.
The gap also continues to widen in the NBA as big-market teams like the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers outspend plenty of their peers. However, landing a big player via the draft in the NBA or even the NFL could swing a franchise’s fortunes much quicker and with much more gusto than it would in the MLB, where nine players get equal opportunities to bat instead of a star point guard or quarterback you can rely heavily on.
There have been discussions of a salary cap that could even the playing field, among other potential solutions. It’s still not clear what exactly Rob Manfred and the MLB will do to address the issue, if anything at all, but the discussion is far from over.
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