Them’s Fightin’ Words, Levine

NY Yankees and Yomiuri Giants Championship Trophies on tour in Tokyo

Earlier this week, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio was quoted in USA Today in an article about opening day payrolls.  The quote — “We’re struggling to sign Prince Fielder, and the Yankees infield is making more than our team” — didn’t seem to go over well in New York.

Today, someone from ESPN New York decided to call up Yankees team president Randy Levine and asked for his thoughts on the quote.  Levine’s response?  Something along the lines of, “Somebody call the Waaahmbulance.”

The full quote:

“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?”

I thought Tom Haudricourt did a great job of refuting Levine’s argument.  As TH notes, the Brewers got roughly $30 million in revenue sharing money last year, and the team has expanded their payroll by more than $60 million since Attanasio bought the team.

In short, the Brewers have been using that money to sign their players.  Without that revenue sharing money, Ryan Braun wouldn’t be locked up.  Without that revenue sharing money, the Brewers wouldn’t have been able to sign Fielder to a contract that bought out his first two years of arbitration.  Without that revenue sharing money, it’s likely the Brewers couldn’t even afford to keep players once they hit arbitration — they’d be three years-and-out players, instead of six years-and-out.

Haudricourt also mentioned the fact that the Brewers quite possibly have the league’s worst TV deal, while the Yankees have their own cable network that infuses even more cash into the beast — the Yankees aren’t just a baseball team; they’re an entertainment conglomerate.

Could a new TV deal paying more help the Brewers close the gap?  Sure, but it’s still highly unlikely the team will ever have a payroll over $100 million.  In order to do that, the Brewers would have to practically scrap their scouting and minor league development budget, which would be equivilent to organizational suicide.

Levine is just upset that his team has paid more into the revenue sharing system than any other team, and that’s because they’ve consistently spent more than any other team.  I’ll be the first to admit that they’re not breaking any rules, and they’re just exploiting the current system.  But that doesn’t change the fact that something still needs to be done to put a cap on spending, otherwise teams like the Yankees will continue to increase their revenues through outside projects, while teams like the Brewers will just fall further behind.

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