Don't Side With the Players Just Because You Hate Bob Nutting

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

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I am not going to write an article about why you should like Bob Nutting.  I would never.  For a long time I did defend how the Pirates operate based on the financial structure of Major League Baseball, but even that seems fruitless anymore.  

However, don’t side with the players in the current CBA negotiations because you are blinded by your hatred for the Pittsburgh Pirates owner. 

As Pirate fans, what the players are fighting against is not in your best interest.  The best interest of a Pirate fan is for the league our Buccos compete in to be structured in the same way as the leagues that our beloved, and much more successful, Penguins and Steelers get to participate in.  That structure includes a salary cap and a salary floor.  In fact, they don’t just include them, they are reliant upon them.

A salary cap allows for teams that generate less revenue to pursue the best talent of the sport on an even playing field with teams that generate more revenue.  This eliminates advantages simply because a team plays home games and are televised in a more populated area.  The salary floor then forces those teams that generate less revenue to allocate more of it to team payroll.  A real win-win honestly.

This is where I think most of the confusion around Major League Baseball is generated.  Most fans seemingly believe that having a rich owner allows for teams to pay more to players.  With the idea also being that all owners are billionaires so why can’t they just afford $100 million+ payrolls. However, understand that no owners are investing their own money into their teams after they purchase them.  They are simply allowing more of the teams' generated annual revenue to go toward payroll.

So while, yes, Bob Nutting is at fault in this regard for not allowing the teams’ revenue to be allocated more to player payroll, the Steinbrenners are not investing their own personal savings into the New York Yankees.  They are simply allowing more of the Yankees’ generated revenue to be spent on payroll. 

Unfortunately, the money generated by the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and other larger market teams is exponentially larger than the money generated by the Pirates.  In fact, the Dodgers local television contract is estimated to generate ~$240 million, while the Pirates is estimated to generate ~$40 million annually.  That is why there needs to be a mechanism in place that levels the playing field.  That mechanism being a salary cap and floor.

Since we do, in fact, live in a football town, I will put the lack of a salary cap in Steeler terms.  The Pittsburgh Steelers will be searching for their next franchise quarterback for this upcoming season.  One route they may take is signing a free agent.  

Without the mechanism of a salary cap in the NFL, the Steelers would stand no chance at signing the best, or even the fifth best, free agent quarterback on the market.  Instead, the New York Giants, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, or either Los Angeles team would snatch them yet.  I know some of those teams don’t need a quarterback, but it’s just an analogy. 

The Rooneys, as beloved as they are in this town, don’t even like to spend the league average on coaches, so they certainly wouldn’t be in the upper echelon of player payrolls if the salary cap was not in place to keep guys like Jerry Jones in check. 

So then maybe the Steelers would draft their next franchise quarterback, right?  Good luck keeping him passed his rookie contract.  If this rookie succeeds in his first few years, and the Miami Dolphins or the San Francisco 49ers want to sign him to a massive unrestricted free agent contract, bye bye franchise QB.  Pittsburgh doesn’t generate the television revenue to keep a guy like that passed a rookie contract.

Wait, the television revenue is equal in the NFL?  Must be nice.  Not so much in baseball.  But the television revenue isn’t equal in the NHL, so why can the Penguins compete?  

The salary cap.  Period.  

The mechanism in place so that the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers cannot use their gigantic metropolis area to dominate teams like the Penguins or the Columbus Blue Jackets, among other smaller market teams.

Without the salary cap/floor system, there is no mechanism in place to level the playing field of the diverse locations that professional sports team compete in, or keep the average salary of players at a fair level.  The players are the ones fighting against such mechanism in Major League Baseball.  Therefore, just because you hate Bob Nutting, don’t automatically side with the players.  It is not in your best interest.