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Saturday, November 22, 2008

At least Mets don't have to get under cap

I've always felt baseball needed a salary cap, as well as a salary floor, but caps can result in strange situations. Just when I was thinking it's time to check out a Knick game, now that the team is competitive for the first time in years, they trade perhaps their two best players for lesser value as part of a master plan to get under the cap in two years to make a run at LeBron James.

What should the Knicks' slogan be for the next two years? How about "Catch the expiring contracts!"

This is one time when I'm glad baseball doesn't have a cap. Imagine if the Mets were looking ahead to a bumper crop of free agents in two years and decided they had to clear out long-term big contracts. First Omar gets value for the coming year by trading Johan Santana for Josh Beckett's expiring contract. But with Carlos Beltran, he's not so fortunate, getting back the expiring contract of Andruw Jones.

But that's just for contracts expiring in a year. (The Red Sox have a 2010 option on Beckett.) Imagine if Met fans were told that we wouldn't be seeing any new superstars for two years.

Then again, Met fans have often had to wait a lot longer than two years for the team to get back in contention.

But if the Mets limit their upgrades at closer and second base because of the existing contracts of Billy Wagner and Luis Castillo, they are in effect telling their fans to wait till next year, or, in Castillo's case, for three years.

There's no cap, so if you think K-Rod is the best choice, sign him rather than save a little money on Brian Fuentes, who won't be so cheap himself.

As for Castillo, if the Mets land both a top closer and a solid setup man, as well as filling Oliver Perez' spot in the rotation, I wouldn't mind so much if they scrimped on upgrading second base and left field. Just upgrading the bench at these spots would be a lot cheaper and would add the depth missing much of last year.

Whatever happens, the Mets should give us plenty of reasons to tune in next year.

But as for the Knicks, they can't even check out top draft pick Danilo Gallinari, who might be out for the year.

Then again, Steve Henderson wasn't all that much consolation when the Mets traded away their top players in 1977.

1 comment:

Uncle Mike said...

Salary caps are ridiculous. Yeah, sure, big surprise that a Yankee Fan would say that. But it robs us of the chance to see truly great teams. Look at the NFL. Some teams that could have been great got broken up by the cap. First, the 49ers dynasty came to an end. Then the Cowboys came apart. The 1996-97 Packers, the 1996-99 Jaguars, the 1997-2003 Buccaneers, the 1999-2001 Rams, the 2000-01 Ravens, the 2001-02 Raiders, all got broken up by the salary cap. (I leave the 1997-98 Broncos as an exception because they have the excuse of John Elway retiring. And I don't count the 2001-present Patriots, because they cheated.)

Then there's the Eagles. Since 2000, they've been contenders when healthy, and they made four straight NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl. But they couldn't take the last step, becaues their management is obsessed not with winning, but with staying under the cap. They've made a Faustian bargain, which should be familiar to Met fans: "Play meaningful games" late in the season, but not enough to play and win the most meaningful game of all.

In other words, enjoy the current champion Giants while you can.

The luxury tax is a good way to have a cap without having a cap -- and yes, I know that sounds like a Yogism. But there should also be some kind of penalty for having a payroll that's too low. There's no excuse for David Glass, who married into the Walton family of Wal-Mart infamy, to spend next to nothing on the Kansas City Royals.

An owner who won't spend what it takes is choosing not to win. He's choosing to lose. Now, it's one thing to try to build for the future. I could accept the owner of my favorite team in any sport sacrificing one bad year, even two bad years, if I thought it would bring five to ten decent shots at the Playoffs. But when you keep salaries down on purpose, when everybody knows you can afford it -- and they all can, we all know that -- you're choosing to lose. You're throwing the Pennant race. You're throwing your chance at winning the World Series.

They used to ban people for life for doing that.