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Brewers owner, Yankees president having a delicious little spat

Apr 6, 2010, 4:15 PM EDT

In that USA Today salary piece I linked yesterday, Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio complained thusly:

“We’re struggling to sign (first baseman Prince Fielder) and the Yankees infield is making
more than our team.”

Yankees’ President Randy Levine fired back today:

“I’m sorry that my friend Mark continues to whine about his running
the Brewers. We play by all the rules and there doesn’t seem to be any
complaints when teams such as the Brewers receive hundreds of millions
of dollars that they get from us in revenue sharing the last few years.
Take some of that money that you get from us and use that to sign your
players. The question that should be asked is: Where has
the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue sharing gone?”

Seems like a rather prickly and, well, downright mean comment from Levine, doesn’t it? I mean, Attansio may have been a bit whiney, sure, but he was merely describing a reality in payroll disparity, not indicting the Yankees. At least from what I can tell.

And to be fair: the Brewers do take revenue sharing money — reportedly about $30 million this past year — but they also have an $85 million payroll, so it’s not like they’re pocketing the money, which is the implication of Levine’s comment. The Brewers also play in a market with a population less than one-tenth the size the Yankees do, and a decent chunk of that is lousy with Cubs fans.  I think the Brewers do a pretty good job all things considered. Seems like it would call for a more politic response from Levine than the rebop he gave.

In other news, what happened to the idea of Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman doing all the talking for the Yankees and the rest of the royal court keeping the heck out of things? That has seemed to work pretty well these past couple of years.

  1. Big Harold - Apr 6, 2010 at 5:59 PM

    “He doesn’t care about the integrity of the game or a league in which all teams have an equal fair chance to compete for and keep talent.”
    There are really two issues here. One is a salary cap, which the players union will NEVER go for. No point in discussing it, the union won’t cave and the owners don’t have the brains, nerve or unity to fight them on it. Not to mention with a cap will come a salary “floor” too. Some owners won’t ever go for that either.
    The other issue is revenue sharing. The idea that most if not all the broadcast money should be shared equally. That is about as likely as the players union caving in on a salary cap. The current form of revenue sharing and luxury tax is about as far as it’s going to go. Big owners will fight to the death before that happens.
    Before free agency there were still the “Haves and Have nots” In that sense even a salary cap will not address that disparity. Revenue sharing has gone about as far as the most of the principles will agree to. Big market teams don’t want to share their investment. Small market teams don’t want to be held accountable to payroll minimums. And, players won’t go for anything that even might restrict salary growth. Why anybody continues to debate the merits of any of these things is beyond me. You might as well argue whether water is really wet or pizza is tasty. And as for the caring about “…the integrity of the game…”? It’s probably more popular then at any time in it’s history so you going to have a hard time selling people that it needs a major overhaul.

  2. Nasty Boy - Apr 6, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    Good point, The difference between the Yankees,Angels,Dodgers, and the Red Sox is they aren’t afraid to put their profits back into their teams to better them. The ones that are yelling the most are the ones that are lining their pockets with money instead of putting it on the field.If you don’t want to buy free agents, put your revenue sharing money into player development . Quit whining.

  3. Perry - Apr 6, 2010 at 6:19 PM

    To Adam & Ryan, I hear Indianapolis is a great city. According to Wikipedia they are the 14th largest city in the US versus Milwaukee at #23. But I’m sure with a little due diligence the owners of the Brewers or any of the other “small” market teams could come up with another city.

  4. Ryan - Apr 6, 2010 at 6:22 PM

    OK. I consider you pompous, enthusiastic sure, but pompous as well. We’ll agree on that.
    So by your logic (from 60’s era business transactions) teams that have moved in the past can (and will) move again. The only team on the docket to move anytime soon is the A’s, and that is only because they cannot find a stadium deal. The Brewers have a far bigger payroll with more success than the A’s, why would MLB even consider a move? Why would Milwaukee ever allow a move? Especially when the destination is one as stupid as Judy’s suggestion… Nicaragua. Why not Iran for that matter?

  5. J - Apr 6, 2010 at 6:30 PM

    The Yankees make gazillions of dollars. When they’re done paying out revenue sharing and luxury tax, they take what’s left and put it into making the team great. What exactly is dishonorable in that? Would it be more honorable to spend it on yachts for the owners? It seems to me that a lot of people have a problem with the system, but they direct that anger toward the most prominent beneficiary, rather than the system itself. I think the solution is simple: contract six teams. If the market is too small for the team to compete, that market doesn’t get a team. They can even put a third one here in New York (if you need proof that a big market isn’t the only ingredient for success, just look at the Mets.)

  6. Greg - Apr 6, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    What is wrong with how the Yankees win? The Steinbrenners, unlike the majority of MLB owners, is that they take the money the team makes and feed it right back into the team, not pocket the money to buy a 6th or 7th and their 5th yacht. Yes, the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and teams like that do have market advantage but they also have owners who care more about winning than about owning 10 houses. All these small market teams just need owners who are not cheap. And as far as relocating its not as implausible as everyone is making it sound, I know Charlotte would love a team, I’m sure Brooklyn would welcome a team back, Tennessee would like a team; so if Milwaukee would like to move their are plenty of viable markets that are as large or larger than Milwaukee.

  7. Ryan - Apr 6, 2010 at 6:36 PM

    I bet the owners of the Indy Indians, and probably the Indians themselves wouldn’t like that. Plus you want a market of 1.6 million people to support three professional sports teams? Care to try some others? Tulsa? Vegas? Portland? Boise? Omaha?

  8. Perry - Apr 6, 2010 at 6:37 PM

    Ryan, all I’m saying is moving/relocating a team is neither a new or novel idea. If the owner or owners are dissatisfied with their situation then it’s something they should seriously consider, as anyone that runs a business would. Let’s not forget, MLB is a business.

  9. Tom - Apr 6, 2010 at 6:50 PM

    Have Milwaukee and Florida Marlins , move to NYC. That solve the issue. The Yankees payroll would be cut in half

  10. by jiminy - Apr 6, 2010 at 7:02 PM

    The fair solution is to put ten teams in the New York Market. If Levine thinks the Yanks make more money because of better management, not structural advantages, then let him prove it, and show he can do better than the Brewers with the same size fan base.

  11. Perry - Apr 6, 2010 at 7:09 PM

    I defer to Greg for his choice of possible cities that would like to host a major league baseball team.
    Although I have to confess Indianapolis Brewers or maybe Indianapolis Racers has a better ring to it then Indy Indians for a major league team. But that’s just me thinking out loud.

  12. Tim - Apr 6, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    I am a Yankees fan, and I was gonna go into a whole rambling paragraph about the system, revenue-sharing, compensation picks, etc. But at the end of the day, the Yankees are playing the hand they’re dealt. They are doing exactly what any good business does, putting out the best product they can. They did not put the rules in place.
    Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

  13. Bob in MN - Apr 6, 2010 at 7:24 PM

    What does popularity have to do with integrity? Selig is not a commisioner anymore than I am a baseball player. Its a joke what he has done to the All-Star game, its an even bigger joke how he has allowed the Mega-Market teams to dominate. I really believe the revenue landscape would change drastically if we went back to a balanced schedule. The revenue disparity was never so drastic before the unbalance schedule was adopted.

  14. Matt in WI - Apr 6, 2010 at 7:25 PM

    The Brewers just opened up a brand new ballpark 9 years ago, and they love the city of Milwaukee. They are not moving any time soon.
    I used to be a Yankees fan before I moved to WI and became a Brewers fan. I can’t stand the Yankees anymore. I understand that baseball is a business and all that, but the Yankees do spend an unnecessary amount of money on people just because they can. With a much larger fan base, their own TV station, and being in probably the richest city in the world, they can afford to do that. The Brewers cannot. If they sign someone to a huge contract and that person fails, they are screwed. I see the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox use a philosophy of risk-reward for their signings: If someone doesn’t work out, whatever, pay them and move on. The Brewers do not have that luxury.

  15. Bob in MN - Apr 6, 2010 at 8:11 PM

    The biggest example of Selig’s disregard for the integrity of the game is of course the steriods debacle. I will never be convinced that Bud was surprised by all of it and that he had no idea the McGwire and Sosa were juicing back in the ’90’s as baseball came back from the strike of ’94. All he was concerned about was growing baseball’s revene back, no matter how it was accomplished.

  16. skipperxc - Apr 6, 2010 at 10:35 PM

    I will never begrudge large-market teams for using their resources to their fullest, like the Red Sox have done for several years and the Yankees are finally doing — spending money on solid talent in the prime of their careers like Sabathia and Teixeira instead of on washed-up stars like Randy Johnson and Gary Sheffield. On top of that, more and more what money isn’t spent there is spent on the draft and farm system in order to make trades for such talent or, in rare cases, to actually utilize themselves.
    I do, however, have a major problem with New Yorkers acting like they somehow *deserve* such resources. The advantage is a trick of geography and little more. Let’s see Levine switch markets with Doug Melvin and we’ll see how long it’ll take him to lament the inequity in the system.

  17. Greg - Apr 7, 2010 at 12:08 AM

    It is not the Yankees fault for having a large fan base, and don’t try to say its the market yes it helps some of course but I am a Yankee fan living in NC and I’ve never lived in NY and I know literally 100s of people that like teams without ever living in their market. And yes Charlotte would do fine with a 3rd sports franchise they’ve been pushing for a baseball team for awhile and judging from their past success, the panthers and bobcats who have made significant strides to be respectable in their leagues, I think a baseball would do well they may take a couple years but would become good. But if you want a team in Tulsa and think it would be better than Milwaukee then make a suggestion to the owner. And for having their own TV station that took time and money was put into it but it wasn’t an amount that other teams couldn’t afford, plus MLB has its own package that shows all team so every team in baseball is getting a piece of that. The Indianapolis Racers sounds like a good idea and you can’t complain about that market just look at the NCAA tournaments recent success their.

  18. Big Harold - Apr 7, 2010 at 2:04 AM

    “What does popularity have to do with integrity?”
    As long as the game is popular with the fans the owners and players get loads of cash. That reinforces the notion that there is nothing wrong with the game, integrity or otherwise. If there is nothing wrong then why change? You may not agree with that or like it but it’s true.
    “I really believe the revenue landscape would change drastically if we went back to a balanced schedule.”
    You would have to explain that in far more detail for anybody to agree with that. I don’t see it.
    “The biggest example of Selig’s disregard for the integrity of the game is of course the steriods debacle. … All he was concerned about was growing baseball’s revene back, no matter how it was accomplished.”
    PEDs predate Selig, in fact they were rampant by the time he became Commissioner so it’s not fair to blame him for that. Your probably right that his goal was to grow revenue, .. but to be fair without testing what was he going to do about PEDs? So it’s not accurate to say “.. no matter how it was accomplished.” He couldn’t accuse players of using PEDs without proof. That’s called slander and he and the owners would be sued for it, .. just like the collusion trials of the 80s. If there is a true villain in the PED scandal it’s the union management. They refused to protect the players from themselves and in fact from each other. Some of their members lost jobs because other members were cheating. If you think that the owners knew and did nothing then certainly the union did too. Apparently, the union’s goal was to maximize player salaries and nothing else. The only reason the union eventually acquiesced with regard to PED testing was public opinion stated to change. Fans got tired of hearing about steroids accusations. There were several well documented cases of high school athletes who abused PEDs and committed suicide, .. which lead to Congressional hearings. The union was never afraid of Selig and the owners because they knew that they could best them in any test of wills. They were really afraid Congress would enact a law calling for drug testing for professional athletes, .. on par with Olympic athletes. The couldn’t strike their way past that. And, as evidenced by the results of 2003 “survey” test their constituency would be exposed. And, what happened to the test that was suppose to be used ONLY to determine if a more rigorous testing was needed, .. that was suppose to be anonymous then destroyed? It ended up in the hands of the Feds. I wouldn’t count on the union giving up anything in the future. If you think Selig is ineffectual in the past, wait until after the next CBA.
    Don’t misunderstand, .. I don’t think Selig is a very good Commissioner but that has more to do with the lack of authority the Commissioner’s position has as defined by the CBA. The Commissioers’ position has serious limitation because that’s what the owners and players want. Whatever is wrong with baseball, .. if you concede anything is wrong, the union and therefore the players are equally responsible. And, the union on some level more so as they sometimes fail to see or act on the long term greater good for their own constituency.

  19. Boo Hoo Florio picked on your team - GET OVER IT - Apr 7, 2010 at 3:56 AM

    “politic response”?
    Come on. In this day and age of double-talk and PC-speak, I relish people who give it to me straight. Mr. Levine is right to call out the Brewers (among the other basement-level salary floor teams) for hoarding their revenue and not putting it back into the team. It reeks of golden parachuting CEOs that plague our society today.

  20. Pirates Hostage - Apr 7, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    There is several things needed to fix baseball’s financial disparity. None of which will be easy, because both the smaller market and larger market teams need to be penalized for putting baseball into the mess that it is in. The steps needed are:
    1. All teams need to open their books to the public, and to other teams to verify where the money is being used.
    2. Revenue sharing and Luxury tax money must have restrictive uses. (I’ll explain later)
    3 The designated hitter needs to be eliminated and a radical realignment of baseball will be required.
    4. A compensatory draft needs to be implemented for free agent signings, where teams that lose a free agent drafts compensatory picks from the team that signed that free agent.
    5. Baseball player contracts must be re-written to be non-guaranteed beyond a certain percentage of the base pay.
    As for my idea with the revenue sharing, let me start by saying that I am a fan of a small market team, the Pirates. As such, do I think that the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, etc far too often bully the smaller clubs into giving up their best players, whether that is via trade or free agency. However, small market clubs, in my opinion, far too often mis-use the money they get. To fix this, the CBA needs to be altered to require that a minimum percentage of luxury tax/revenue sharing money, say 30%, be utilized for the increase of the ML payroll. In other words, if a team receives $30Million, at least $9Million needs to be shown as an increase to a teams ML payroll. For a team like Pittsburgh, whose payroll is around $36 million, that means the follow year their payroll needs to be $45 million. This should allow smaller market teams to keep some of their better players.
    As for realignment, every 5 years, teams should be realigned to divisions based on their aggregate records over that time. That is going to place most of the division winners into a single division. While it will somewhat artificially place weaker clubs into the playoffs, you should still see the best teams winning the World Series. It allows weaker teams to develop their players against other teams of similar talent. If a small team dominates their division for 5 years, then at the next realignment, they will move to a more competitive division. It forces you to get better all the time.
    There are plenty of other things that can be added to this list, but these are the top five and will go a long way to fix baseball.

  21. phillymike - Apr 7, 2010 at 10:07 AM

    “I think the Yankee brass/ownership should be outraged when the Brewers take millions each year from revenue sharing.”
    “Well, guess what, they are paying for the cheap crap, dead wood teams from your gate revenue rather than having those owners put money back into their teams.”
    Sounds like you just defined entitlement. The Yanks make more money because they are in the largest city in the country. Therefore they should have payrolls 4 times or more then smaller market teams. By that reasoning we should cut the league in half, if your payroll is under $90 million its time for your team to go.
    MLB is a business as a whole, not each individual team. Without profit sharing and luxury taxes the smaller market teams could not exist.

  22. Perry - Apr 7, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    I don’t understand why some people insist baseball is broken and needs to be fixed. Why, because some of the small market teams are not competitive? Let’s looks at MLB in general. Major League Baseball is an extremely profitable venture for most of the team owners and players. Sure some teams are unprofitable and not competitive but that’s true in any and all businesses. Second, the players are paid very well for their services. In what real word business are the employees paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and in many cases millions of dollars after just 3 years of service. Specifically let’s take a quick look at some small market teams that recently have been able to keep their “key” player(s) under contract (Mn.,TB, KC, and even the Marlins signing of Josh Johnson). I admit most of the small market teams are not in a position to pay 3, 4 or 5 high priced players. If TB, MN. currently can be competitive and the Marlins in the early 90’s other small market teams can & should be competitive. Let’s look at the World Series winners for the last 10 years there have been 8 different teams that have won. Realignment won’t make a small market teams win the world series on a regular basis. Hell, no big market team has a monopoly on world series wins, just look at the last 10 years. Also, who in the real world thinks a baseball owner or otherwise is going to open their books to the world, it ain’t gonna happen.
    Baseball is a great sport has been and is now. It might need some tweaking but major overhaul no way. I’ll end this with one final comment MLB needs the big market teams (NY, Boston, LA, Anaheim, Philadelphia,etc…) to be successful. Small market advocates may not want to admit it but without the big market teams and the product they put on the field MLB is doomed.

  23. real stadiums have roofs - Apr 7, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    “The Brewers also play in a market with a population less than one-tenth the size the Yankees do, and a decent chuck of that is lousy with Cubs fans.”
    The proper answer to the problem: Contraction.
    That would leave a lot of angry Cubs fans.

  24. JudyJ - Apr 7, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Sure – call it entitlement – maybe your idea would work. However, the whining is beyond belief. Let’s see – if you are a corporate executive and you make a large, obscene amount of money does that mean that the busines next door that draws 1/10 of your revenue should have an executive CEO who makes the same as you do? Get the point? The fact is every single franchise has the ability to make money – no matter the size. The magic formula is to put tushes in the seats every single day – what is so difficult to understand about that? There are a limited amount of seats in Yankee Stadium and the same amount exists in Milwaukee. The difference in the product each team puts out determines the success at the gate. If you are telling me Milwaukee doesn’t have enough people to fill their stadium every day with a superior, winning team – well, then maybe there should be certain limitations in place to insure the success of those type teams – oh wait, there are. Bottomline is if you are taking a hand-out – accept it and say “thank you.”

  25. phillymike - Apr 7, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    Yes I get the point. If Coke has a better quarter then Pepsi they don’t send a part of their earnings to Pepsi. But baseball teams are not individual businesses, they are all entities of Major League Baseball. A team should not have an advantage because of population or median salary of its fan base. That is why the other major sports use a salary cap system (high and low) to prevent disparagement.
    Sure Attanasio sounds like he is whining by saying what he did. But for Levine to come back with a statement basically saying shut up, we pay your bills is a spit in the face to the system MLB has put in place regarding profit sharing.
    And realistically there are only 8-10 teams that actually have a chance of winning the WS with the revenue sharing system that is in place now. Should we (JudyJ & I) be upset with this system as fans? No. Because we are in the lucky position of going into every season knowing there are only maybe 8 other teams in the league that can truly compete with our teams. But if I lived on the other side of PA I would have a hard time swallowing this as a Pirate fan.
    The Yankees sit atop the baseball world. Does their management really need to rub it in?

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