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A Modest Proposal


(with apologies to J. Swift)

I have solidified my rambling thoughts on how baseball should be run. Several aspects of this have been tumbling around in my conscious and sub-conscious for many years, and the current state of affairs has forced me to allow them (or forced them) to coalesce.

Many of these ideas need refinement, tweaking, correcting, and development. But the basic framework would greatly increase fan interest in baseball, and set it apart entirely from other sports. (Until they see how well it works, anyways.) It is also totally impossible for it ever to happen, so there's that. But what the hell.

My opinion is that baseball is one business, not thirty separate ones, and should be treated as such.

The main premise that this is built on is that the players will get a certain percentage of revenues every season. Revenues could be defined as all broadcast fees (both national and local), all gate receipts, sales of all licensed apparel and what-not, all concessions, and perhaps parking fees - although that last part is probably unnecessary. I'm arbitrarily setting the players' share at 55%. The owners would get 45%. These numbers would come from regular season games only. Post-season income will be discussed later. The teams and players would make equal contributions to pay minor league player salaries from their funds. A fair amount can be determined; divide it out by lower amounts to the lowest levels up to higher amounts at AA and AAA.

Players would be payed every season based on a certain measurement. Let's say fWAR, just so we have a number. Every player that was on a roster (or injured list) for a whole season would earn $1mm base. If a player was on the MLB roster for half a season, they would get a $500k base. The remainder of the players' share of the revenue would then be ascertained by dividing it by the total fWAR generated during the season, and multiplying that constant by each player's fWAR contribution.

Now the fun part. After the completion of the World Series every season, teams would select five players that they would "protect". All of the rest would enter the redraft pool. At a certain date, there would be a draft order set. It could be based on the previous seasons record, in reverse order; it could be random; it could be a snake draft; it could be a straight draft. I'm open for debate on that. Anyways, the draft would be a couple of weeks after the order was determined.

The excitement that would accompany that re-draft every season would be phenomenal. And if you have a real star on your team, or stars, they will be protected and your team will have continuity. And your management could certainly re-draft their own players if they are available at their pick, and if they want them over other players that are available.

Since players' income is based on production (over their base $1mm) there will be no bidding wars. Incomes would vary yearly, but the base is pretty solid. It's like being paid on commission! Oh - no penalty for negative fWAR.

So that players could leave a situation that they didn't like, after five years of service time they could opt out of being kept on a team. Perhaps there could be a total opt-out, where the original team could not re-draft them, or just a chance of going into the draft. Or the player could choose one or the other. They could then be kept for a descending number of years...say three, then two, then one. But if a player likes playing in a certain place (and their team wants them) they can stay there for their whole careers.

I suspect that this would cause more player movement than happens currently - but maybe not.

As to minor league players, teams would have control for five years. After that period they would go into the general draft. Teams could draft forty players every season (their basic forty man roster) and the bottom fourteen could play at AAA or AA when not with the major league team, earning whatever their pro-rated number is for the time spent at any level. There would be little incentive to keep good players down on the farm as their sevice time would no longer be an issue. New player drafts would basically happen the same as they do now, but the draft order would be randomized every year.

Post-season play would be paid differently. The division of money would be the same - 55% of revenue to the players, 45% to the teams. But amounts would be paid based on team results. The longer your team was in the playoffs, the more you would get, with the champions getting the largest share. Each player on, say, a 30 man roster would get a "full" share. A certain percentage would be paid to any other players that were on the team that year, based on service time.

There is no incentive to tank. Minor leaguers would not be held back...in fact, if they can help a team win they are incentivised to bring them up. Players that went undrafted could go into a second, minor league draft so that they could continue their careers. They would be available for the re-draft the following season.

Every franchise would have great excitement going into every new season. How could this not be a huge booster of attendance and viewership?

Lots of kinks to work out, for sure, and of course this could never happen. But to me, it combines the best of socialism with the best of capitalism. There's a ton of money out there to be spread around. This would depress the top earners some, and bolster the bottom and minors. I'm fine with that - and those top performers would still get the top paychecks.

An older player could be more attractive to a team than they are now, as it would just be a one-year commitment.

Injuries would be an issue, but again - your injured time is counted as being on the roster. If you were out the whole season with an injury, you would earn the base $1mm. That's not so bad.

So there you have it. I've saved baseball! (And this would work really well in basketball, too.) Feel free to rip my pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky dream.