How Uncle Alkie Saved Baseball

added 12/11/2000 by Alkie
Contracts for more than $250M? Free agents only available for 6 defined teams? Teams trading the same players...AGAIN???


I know that no one has actually come out and formally asked me to fix the game, but I know that you all were thinking it, so here goes.

Instead of getting a real job, I've spent the last few days now, thinking for everyone on how to fix the world's greatest game.

There are some serious fundamental problems that we can (almost) all agree on. One, there is far too much difference between teams budgets for specific players. Two, the haves are so far ahead of the havenots in general, that you can already eliminate a full 10 teams from serious contention. Three, agents now run (ruin?) the game. Four, parks are getting smaller while players get bigger.

Let's go one by one, shall we?

One: The budgeting difference between teams is outrageous. No kidding! When you have teams that are paying more for one single player than other teams are paying for an entire team, you've got automatic problems. First off, let me say that the fault is not that the teams with money are getting the great players (they are), but that they keep horribly OVERpaying these players, driving up the prices of mediocre-at-best players and leaving nothing but the overpriced crap for the bottom-feeder teams.

I have a GREAT idea on how to start paying not only paying baseball players, but professional athletes in general. Who here remembers the Ricky Williams deal? You know the one where he had to (god forbid) EARN his money?? Everyone swears it's the worst contract ever signed, but for WHO?? Ricky Williams? Pu-lease. This guy is still making upwards of 7 or 8 digits to play FOOTBALL. Surgeons (you know, the people that save lives) make about $115,000 annually (on average) right now. I'm not saying that athletes, as entertainers, shouldn't be allowed to make as much money as possible, but I think it's way out of control.

So, here's how it works. There is already a rating system in place to figure out what teams would get in return for potential free agents leaving. Say Pedro Martinez were to leave Boston via free agency, the Red Sox would get a certain amount of draft picks based on Pedro's ranking and PAST performance.

We use this system and assign "points". Hell, tweak the system if need be. Teams can sign players for a certain amount of time. So, you'd sign Jeff Bagwell to a 7 year extension. That's it. We would use a scale (based on league average gross revenues) to determine a dollar amount per "point" and THAT is what the athlete would be paid.

For example: the system runs on a "past two years" model. Let's say Bagwell had averaged 600 at bats, a .304 average, .500 slugging, .400 on base, 42 HRs, 130 RBI, and 140 runs over the past two seasons. Now, let's say arbitrarily that this gives him a point "total" of 99.4 out of 100 possible points. You now write a simple equation based on league average gross revenue that would allow a player with 100 points to earn a set amount (let's say $10 million for this example). This would mean that Jeff Bagwell would earn $9.94 million next season. Period. Bonuses? It's already figured! Perks? Well, that part still needs to be hammered out.

Now, because my system still calls for FUTURE PRODUCTION, Baggy couldn't drop off next season and expect to continue to get paid the same. If you're worried that this system doesn't work because it assumes that a player will only be paid in the future for past work (meaning that players in their retirement season have zero incentive to play) then you can pay players at the end of a season for the previous season using the same method.

You want some serious advantages? How about player loyalty! If you're half as sick as I am of seeing MLB become the NBA as far as learning a whole roster of new players each season, this cuts down on the inherent "need" to go play for a team that can pay more money! Since each team would pay the same player the same, players would be more inclined to stay where they are.

Also, this would allow for lower revenue teams to trade for a certain amount of YEARS from a certain player, if wanted. "Sure, the PHILLIES want to pay some awful pitcher $8M a year for two years, $6M a year more than he's worth" but under MY plan, you would trade for Jackass' second YEAR of service, which you would pay out based on his actual performance.

You have a league minimum that is set at least at $200,000. Sounds low, right? And how much did YOU make last year? Do you have a college degree? Graduate degree? Aren't you a smart, well-mannered, hard-working individual that deserves more? And do you GET it? Hell, no. Odds are you never got a 4000% raise for changing employers. Actually, odds are you never got a 4000% raise, period! If a player is hurt, he earns league minimum. That's right, oh, boohoo. Some guy with a fraction of the job skills you have, just got paid a "paltry" $200,000 to do...NOTHING! Sounds fair to me!

As you make a variable sliding scale for paying players, teams are not stuck only buying the players THEY can afford, EVERYONE should be able to. In my next column, I'll explain why when I get into how to fix the problem with the haves and havenots.