Lucchino, Henry in favor of salary cap
Red Sox brass address issue of competitive balance for MLB
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Despite their status as a big-market team, the Red Sox's ownership revealed Wednesday that they would be highly in favor of an "enlightened" salary cap when baseball's next collective bargaining agreement is put into place for the 2012 season.
Red Sox president/CEO Larry Lucchino noted that Major League Baseball is already doing some due diligence on what will likely be a hot-button issue in the next round of labor negotiations. But is it realistic to think that the Players Association would agree to a form of a salary cap when one has never existed in baseball?
"I think you have to make an intelligent, persuasive case for it," Lucchino said. "I do look around and I see a hockey league, a basketball league, a football league, all with forms of a salary cap or payroll system, and I think it's as inevitable as tomorrow that there will be some kind of system like that in baseball. It's just not as imminent as tomorrow."
"I think that the so-called large markets and small markets are probably united in one aspect," said Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry. "'United' is maybe too strong a word. But I think we all agree that competitive balance is an issue. If there was a way to put together an enlightened form of a salary cap, I think everybody among the owners would probably support that."
Could such a system hurt the Red Sox, a team that, in recent years, has always been among the top three teams in the game in player payroll?
"One could see it that way," Lucchino said. "I think that sometimes a short-term problem for us may be a longer-term solution for the game, for the industry, and also for us. The team we compete most directly with is the one that is sort of the outlier to the existing system, so they would be impacted even more so than we would."
Of course, Lucchino speaks of the Yankees, a team that committed more than $420 million in salary to three players (CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett) this winter.
"I think we've seen [an offseason] when the Yankees have spent like the U.S. congress," Lucchino said. "I agree whole-heartedly with John, that an examination of a salary cap, an enlightened approach to a salary cap, could make sense for the game. I think people in baseball are examining that possibility."
If such a system was put into place, Lucchino is optimistic that the Red Sox -- who have made the postseason five times in the past six years, including two World Series championships -- would remain perennial contenders.
"I think our commitment to winning would be as strong," Lucchino said. "I think winning would then be based on how hard you work, how smart you are, the kind of judgments you make about baseball evaluation, and we're happy to compete with anybody on that basis."
Wouldn't the Yankees resist such a proposal?
"I think that it depends where the levels are set," said Lucchino. "I think there are 29 teams that exist within a certain band, and there has been, in the last several years, one outlier that has been much higher. The outliers both at the top and the bottom would be most severely affected by a payroll zone, which I think his a better term than a salary cap. A payroll zone where all teams would have to be somewhere within a payroll zone. But again, that's being addressed at the highest level by baseball and its labor negotiators. I just want to reiterate what John said. An enlightened form of a salary cap would have the Red Sox support."
Lucchino said it's too early to tell what kind of salary cap or zone would be in place.
"Is it a fixed number? How is it calculated? Again, we like to talk about a payroll zone that has teams at different levels within a zone," Lucchino said.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.