The Importance of a Salary Cap in the MLB

Josh Weishapl, Sports Editor

The Importance to Implement a Salary Cap in the MLB

Schrift (2021) stated that “Professional basketball and football use a salary cap to give every franchise a competitive chance to win.” This is also true in the two of the other three “Big Five” sports. The NHL and MLS incorporate a salary cap to keep the teams fair and not let big markets eat up the star players. The only league in the significant five sports that doesn’t have a salary cap in Major League Baseball. Some people like this idea, yet others do not agree and think it should be changed.

Instead of a salary cap, the MLB implements a “luxury tax.” This luxury tax, also known as the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT), puts a small tax on the amount of money a team can spend on rostered players. Mignanelli (2020) had an idea to use the CBT and also enforce something called a salary floor and explains it by saying, “A combination of a salary floor with the luxury tax would create an artificial salary cap, but wouldn’t hinder the richer teams from spending as much money as they want as long as they don’t mind paying the luxury tax.” This artificial salary cap would be a “best of both worlds” scenario for players and owners as the owners would be able to regulate spending while the players would be able to continue being paid an abundant amount of money. 

This leads to another point that happens to be one of the main reasons the MLB doesn’t have a salary cap. The MLBPA does not want the owners to have more money and control over players. Nic (2021) mentions that “The MLB has no salary cap because the MLB Players Association will not agree to it in fear that it would give more money to owners and less to players.” Understandably, the players would want some say in how much they get paid. However, the owners have been trying to persuade the players to abide by a salary cap for the past decade and longer, to no avail. 

The strongest point that people have against a salary cap is that it’s supposed to bring parity to the league, yet almost all the leagues that utilize a salary cap have far less parity than the MLB. The NFL, NHL, and NBA all use the salary cap, yet on multiple occasions, these leagues have teams that are nicknamed “dynasties.”  In all three of these leagues, a team has won back-to-back championships in the past 20 years. In those 20 years, the NBA has seen it happen three times, NFL has had it occur once, and the NHL has had repeat champions twice. Snyder (2021) argues that “MLB hasn’t seen a repeat champ in a long time. It’s now up to 21 straight World Series that we’ve seen a new champion crowned.” To go even further, in the past 20 years, the NHL has only seen 12 different teams win a Stanley Cup, the NFL has had 13 different teams hoist the Lombardi Trophy, and an abysmal ten different teams have lifted the Larry O’Brien. So to say that a salary cap helps bring fairness and equality into sports is quite questionable as the only major league without a cap has the most parity of all.

However, the MLB has a small problem with growing their smaller markets, which therein plays a part in the amount of money a team can use for players. Sports journalist Tremaroli (2017) points out, 

“For years, baseball fans have heard about the dominance of certain teams. Year in and year out, the playoff picture is never complete without including the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies, Angels, Cubs, Braves, and Cardinals in the discussion. What do all of these teams have in common? These teams are large market teams. That means they generate a TON of revenue from ticket sales and other sales. This benefits these teams in ways that the other 22 teams cannot.”

These large MLB teams operate so that the bottom two-thirds of the teams can’t. This money can be used for anything that a team needs to use, including signing players and extending contracts.