Yankees fans are spoiled, yes, I said it. We are, it’s true.
George set up a culture for the Yankees which differentiates from 90% of the other teams in the league. No, I’m not talking about signing big name free agents, as every bar patron will harp on you for. I’m talking about the Jeters, the Mattinglys, the Posadas, the list goes on. The Yankees like to keep their homegrown talent home. Yes, Cano lovers, there are always exceptions. This summer, in fact, marked the first time in a long time where we had a fire sale. None of the players we parted with, however, came up through our system. We only traded rentals.
Why isn’t this true throughout the league? Why is it that Royals fans can win a world series and a short year later have to sell their jerseys on Craiglist because the players are off to ‘greener’ pastures? I think Major League Baseball needs to change free agency in a way where the team who develops a player (and whose fans have watched develop) get an advantage in negotiations to keep him.
How do we do this? We have the team’s interests to protect, the player’s interest, the player’s union, the list goes on, is there a system fair to all? I think there is. My concept is simple, but the devil is in the details. In the times of a luxury tax system, MLB needs to give teams a break for signing their own. (All the numbers below are spitball, obviously, the unions would have to negotiate. They are simply for arguments sake.)
In my system, if a player qualifies as a ‘hometown hero’ then a percentage (20%) of his salary doesn’t apply to the luxury tax. For example, if the Yankees sign a hometown hero for 20M, only 16 M applies to the tax level. If the Red Sox try to sign the Yankees’ hero, the full 20M would apply. Simple concept, right? Would it work? That depends, who qualifies? What about the small markets who still can’t afford the 20M since the salary is still the same?
Can you name our home town heroes? I’m not saying every team has a hero, so the selection criteria should be tough but fair. It would be have to be a combination of years on the big league team combined with years in the system. Perhaps 5 years with the big league team or 8 overall in the organization. I’m totally flexible here, we want it to be tough, but attainable. The player would also have to have been named an All Star at some point. Yes, I just dropped that bomb. I’m tempted to even say they had to WIN an All Star game. Can you imagine if getting voted to and actually winning the game mattered to the players? Maybe we would watch it, then. But that is a different conversation. With this criteria, the Yankees current Hometown heroes would be Betances, Gardner and Sabathia. I think this is a fair assessment of our ‘heroes’ at this time. (Note: All Star game selection criteria is another rule I would change, but that is a different article)
‘But this doesn’t change the fact small market teams cannot afford to pay these guys’. I hear ya, so here is the next rule. The original purpose of the luxury tax was not to Robin Hood the large market teams, but to level the playing field. I propose that the allocations of the tax to the small markets remain the same, but all the disbursements would HAVE to go to home town heroes. If a team has no qualifying players, they either lose it or it’s saved in the league coffers for them.
So, did we create change that would benefit and be agreeable to the player and the players union? I think so. We are creating an environment where a player can stay home or move on, based totally on personal preference. His options remain exactly the same with the added caveat that he can stay home even in a smaller market with equal or more salary.
Will this be agreeable to the league? Again, I think so. The league is always trying to create a relationship between players and fans. You know it hurts the league’s overall popularity when teams lose fan favorites. There is no additional financial burden on the league, in fact, it solves the ‘what should a team spend the luxury tax money on’ question. Of course, the bonus of additional value to the All Star game can’t be forgotten.
Major League fans are very jealous of Yankees fans, not only for the free agency spending sprees of years past, but for the ability to retain our ‘Home Town Heroes’. I think the league needs to create a situation where more teams are able to keep their players home. If this policy were in place, would Cano still be in pinstripes? This has just been one suggestion. I would love to hear more ideas, either totally different, or tweaks to the start above.