Dynamic Duo: A Sports Column

Zachary Grover and Pavle Ristic, Editors-In-Chief

Money means opportunity. It is a statement that is very true, and there are plenty of examples in our world that illustrate it. including professional sports. Every World Series champion since 2004 has been in the top half of the payroll in the major leagues. The Golden State Warriors performed “salary cap wizardry” to put it nicely, during the offseason leading up to the 2015-16 NBA season which allowed them to sign Star Free Agent Kevin Durant, creating a “super team” never seen before in NBA history. The question is quite clear: should all professional sports implement a hard salary cap to level the financial playing field? (pitcherlist.com).

   The 2020 World Series wasn’t fair on paper. The big Los Angeles Dodgers and their $107.9 million payroll were playing the Tampa Bay Rays with their lowly $28.3 million payroll. That is like Jeff Bezos, who can just raise the pot to whatever he wants, playing poker with someone in a normal middle class family — not fair at all. In a league without a salary cap, the best players will want the most money, and go to the teams with the deepest pockets who can afford their services. This is critically bad for a league. How will teams who are not throwing around the most money stay relevant and be profitable? It is hard, and can be seen in baseball markets like Arizona, Baltimore, and even Tampa Bay, who all rank near the bottom of the league in average attendance and payroll (pitcherlist.com).

   There is a luxury tax penalty that teams must pay if they go over a certain salary cap, but many times it is a drop in the bucket for owners already putting down hundreds of millions of dollars on their teams. In 2020, the Boston Red Sox cut players to reduce salary to stay under the luxury tax. Their record that year, a paltry 24-36 (baseball-reference.com).

   This problem isn’t just an issue in the MLB, as it can be seen across pro sports. In the NBA, which has probably the most confusing salary cap situation in all of North American pro sports, only certain teams have a “hard cap” that they can’t spend over in a given year depending on many different scenarios. According to a professional sport salary cap website, from 2015-2018 when the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers met in the NBA Finals four years in a row, neither team was hard capped, allowing both teams to assemble “super teams” and basically rule the NBA. This season, the Brooklyn Nets project to have a nine-figure tax penalty for going over the cap. However, they are among the favorites to win the title (spotrac.com).

   Simply having a hard salary cap doesn’t necessarily solve all problems. In 2020 the NHL Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning drew scrutiny for circumventing the cap by placing Star Player Nikita Kucherov on Injured Reserve during the regular season, thus having cap space to sign other players and then bringing Kucherov back for the playoff run. No league or plan may be perfect, but making a uniformed front that is fair would serve pro sports well. Let the players decide championships, not bank accounts (sportsnet.ca).