I’m Your New (Hypothetical) MLB Commissioner Part 1- How We Make and Spend Money

So, here’s the deal. Consider this post part of a fictional world where yours truly has just by some miracle been named Commissioner of Major League Baseball. The game is in its exact same state. I am now just the man sitting in the Commissioner’s Office, and not only that, but I have full autonomy. I am not shackled by the owners, players, or anyone else in terms of what I can do, although at times I will take their needs into account.

I am going to break down my plan for the game into pieces, today we start with league finances and an upfront investment into the game to ensure its long-term health. Want to tell me how great my ideas are or how horribly wrong I am? Leave a comment of contact me on Twitter @DJLJR26.

Without further delay, my first open letter to the baseball world as Commissioner.

Good Day, Baseball Fans Everywhere.

I want to begin by thanking league ownership as well as the MLBPA and the umpire’s union for this completely unexpected and humbling turn of events. In light of the pending labor and business crises that the sport of baseball is anticipating, Rob Manfred has been removed from his position as MLB commissioner and the three parties I have named above have asked for me to take on the role, not just in Mr. Manfred’s scope, but with the type of unilateral power that this role hasn’t seen since the days of Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Though I hope time will be more kind to my reign than it has been to Mr. Landis, I am honored and will do everything in my power for the betterment of the game that we love.

With that in mind, consider this the first portion of my State of Baseball address. As in taking power I have a number of changes to our great game that will go into effect, most of them immediately. I will also address some topics of conversation that will NOT be changing at this time. Today’s focus will be on investment and our finances as a league.

It is important to remember my ultimate goal. This game will no longer be solely about generating the most revenue dollars in the immediate. So much of our society has lost its integrity to the need to have next quarter’s balance sheet look better than the previous quarter. We lose even more integrity by cutting costs wherever we can find. This administration is going to invest in the game. We want it to live on for centuries, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that. For that reason, my point of emphasis will be the fan, both current and prospective, both domestic and foreign. Man and woman. Adult or child. And honestly, especially child.

So, to start, I have one big announcement about ticket pricing. Beginning after the second inning of any regular season game, anyone bringing a child aged 10 or younger to the ballpark will have their tickets discounted to no more than $10. We will call it the “10 for 10 Rule”. By doing this, otherwise empty seats will be filled, and affordable ballpark pricing will be provided for our great game. Also, any child possessing a ticket stub is also eligible for a drawing to win a wiffle ball bat and ball at the end of every ball game. We will do one drawing a night per game and increase the number of winners if this proves popular.

It is my utmost hope that our youth will take to the sport more that they can get their hands on it. This is a family game, and we want to encourage adults to bring their children to the ballpark.

Also, in the vein of youth interest, World Series games will not be permitted to start any later than 7:30 PM Eastern Time. We want kids to be able to view them in full. The NFL has been a great example for this. The Super Bowl starts at 6:30 on a school night. We should try to replicate this as closely as we can.

Continuing more specifically to financials, our current revenue sharing model doesn’t incentivize winning and encourages payroll cutting. Our sport needs to be competitive in order to be engaging to fans no matter their age. For this reason, we will alter the way in which the locally generated funds (like local tv broadcasts) are shared among the teams. Teams in the bottom half of the league in revenue generated will continue to receive revenue sharing, however the team in the bottom half of league revenue that has the best won-loss record in the previous season will now receive the most funds. Second best record will receive the 2nd most funds and so on. The team with the best record in the top of half league revenue will contribute the least to revenue sharing. The worst record in the top half of league revenue will contribute the most. We want to encourage not just spending in our game, but quality. These two things aren’t always mutually inclusive. Our own league standings and payroll statistics dictate that.

This move, coupled with a salary floor of $90 million in 2022, gradually raising by $10 million until it reaches $150 million in 2028 should ensure both investment in quality talent and better labor relations to keep our game running without pause. The league minimum salary will also be raised gradually to $1 million by 2028. Our luxury tax structure will remain, but we will not have a salary cap. We believe the luxury tax has proven itself a strong enough deterrent to teams looking to outspend their mistakes.

In addition to the above, we will include a new source of cash flow into our revenue sharing plan: broadcast streaming. Our teams currently have the ability to negotiate broadcast streaming rights with any platform they desire but find themselves not negotiating in an effort to not alienate their cable partners. Allow me to take this worry out of their hands. I have already reached out to Twitch, YouTube, Amazon, Twitter and Yahoo about a plan to provide anyone with an internet connection and the corresponding service the ability to watch every game without blackouts anywhere in the world. This will be a negotiation, and the money will have to be right, but the future of sports broadcasting needs to be just as accessible if not more than the bevy of other entertainment options that people around the world have today. I want us to be on the cutting edge of this.

Once a deal has been made it will be up to the teams to run their broadcasts, and teams will be incentivized to provide the best broadcast they can. Money from the streaming deal will be distributed in a ranked order much like the previously mentioned local revenue, but this time, the team with the most average views per capita per game will receive the most money. The team with the fewest views per capita per game will receive the least. Teams will need to have good broadcasts to ensure that their stream is popular relative to their media market. All options to encourage viewership are on the table, and I encourage our organizations to get creative.

With all these revenue sharing rules in place to encourage a more competitive product, 6 years before free agency eligibility and service clock rules will remain the same. If teams still feel that winning isn’t as important as future team control, then more power to them.

Additionally, in terms of finances, growth of the game and broadcasting, we are in talks to help fund the broadcast of some combination of the NPB, KBO, CPBL and Dominican Winter League either through cable television or one of the previously mentioned streaming services, if not both. We don’t see those leagues as our competitors but rather our brethren. Their ability to get in front of eyeballs is to our benefit, and we are going to use our lobbying power to make the Saturday NPB Game of the Week or return of the KBO on ESPN happen.

Along with this investment, we will be providing funding to both women’s international baseball, including the Women’s Baseball World Cup and the Negro League Museum in Kansas City. Neither of these institutions should ever feel such a financial burden that they may be in danger of shuttering. We are going to do our part not only to allow them to survive but amplify their footprint in any way that we can.

Speaking of international baseball, I am putting a committee of current players and my cabinet (more on that in a later post) together to strategize on how to make participation in the World Baseball Classic more appealing. The tournament will go on as planned right now, but all improvement ideas are on the table.

In terms of international baseball, our teams have done a great job of having a footprint overseas and building academies. My predecessor started the building of domestic youth academies in many of our largest cities in America for young players with potential futures in baseball as well. Those have begun to be pipelines for Major League talent. Allow me to claim publicly right now that any of the 22 MLB markets that do not have one of these youth academies will have one within the next 10 years at most (the rate of their building appears to be one every two years right now, we are increasing the rate by 400%). Further, we want these academies to not just be a place for steering youth towards baseball, but to a part of the fabric of their locations, a place for our youth to be able to find a sense of community. Not everyone is going to make it as a pro, but everyone can learn life lessons.

As a last investment into the future of our game, minor league salaries now start at a minimum of $35 thousand. With the recent downsizing of the minor leagues, this is more than manageable. An entire minor league system will cost less than $6 million to staff. At the same time, fewer ballplayers will fall by the wayside because they can’t handle the financial burden of supporting themselves while trying to make the big leagues. Most importantly, paying a living wage is the right thing to do. The remainder of MLB’s new ancillary minor league structure with the new development league and relationships will independent leagues will continue as well.

I am not delusional. I know this is a stark investment to ask of the owners. Our game is healthy, but coronavirus is a reminder of how even the best business plans can be toppled. By investing in our game, we are going to be able to bring the joy of baseball to both new and existing fans, and admittedly we are going to make a lot of money in the long run.

That can only be done with a good product on the field as well though, and we are going to make subtle adjustments to improve our game. More on those next time.

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