By Andy Milone
British soccer and American baseball already are two completely different sports… just picture baseball’s biggest players like Prince Fielder running around on the soccer field, and it will cause obvious laughter.
But there is another difference between these sports: one team can no longer dominate Major League Baseball (MLB) while four teams (arguably more) continue to have a destructive advantage in the English Premier League (EPL). It’s a 2000 era state of mind, which discourages one baseball team from becoming a dynasty.
The NY Yankees and LA Dodgers—the two teams with the largest payrolls in the sport—exemplify this separation from the EPL with a simple metric, the total number of championships won since 2001.
NY Yankees – 1
LA Dodgers – 0
No need for sabermetrics here.
Lack of competition is no fun
I played soccer for my entire life, but I grew up watching baseball because my friend took me to multiple NY Mets games when I was younger. I eventually was talked into watching more soccer for my “soccer education,” and I did end up following the Premier League for a number of years. But the same teams always won (with the exception of Leicester City in 2015/16). It’s rare to find an American who enjoys watching baseball and soccer because they are such different games.
I was this unique fan for many years, but I now pledge my allegiance to the game of baseball because of the league’s effort for competitive balance.
This effort creates a certain phenomenon around the game making it difficult for a baseball franchise to repeat, or even have continued post-season success. It’s a continued success in the Premier League which leads to a competitive misbalance. Uncertainty is exciting because it’s unpredictable, and a team can beat any team. A baseball team can slip into the playoffs and still win it all… just look at the 2014 World Series to examine how two Wild Card teams made it to the November classic.
The Undisputable Facts
A Premier League team has completed a season with the accomplishment of a back-to-back title four times since 2000. This baseball era of back-to-back possibility came to close when the 2000 NY Yankees were the last MLB team to complete a season with a back-to-back World Series title. The NY Yankees lost the 2001 World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks – a new trend of “anything can happen.”
Premier League champions of the 2000 era
Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Chelsea were the lone winners of the Premier League title in the 2000 era until the 2015/16 Leicester City Foxes pulled off arguably the most unlikely championship in sports history. One may have thought a whirlwind change in the competitive landscape was coming, but Chelsea won it all the following season, and Leicester City finished 12th.
Since 2000, the Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Kansas City Royals registered World Series trips twice in a row, but they all failed to come away with the sweep of two championships, expressing again the difficulties of putting together two championship seasons in a row. The San Francisco Giants proved through their 2010, 2012, and 2014 titles, the perfect winning formula requires at least one year to rebuild… in a non-perfect world, it requires more than one. The non-perfect world create excitement in baseball.
Even the 2017 Chicago Cubs—who appeared to be a team poised for further greatness following their 2016 crown—are not fulfilling expectations at the halfway point of the 2017 season.
|2016||Chicago Cubs||Cleveland Indians||4-3|
|2015||Kansas City Royals||New York Mets||4-1|
|2014||San Francisco Giants||Kansas City Royals||4-3|
|2013||Boston Red Sox||St. Louis Cardinals||4-2|
|2012||San Francisco Giants||Detroit Tigers||4-0|
|2011||St. Louis Cardinals||Texas Rangers||4-3|
|2010||San Francisco Giants||Texas Rangers||4-1|
|2009||New York Yankees||Philadelphia Phillies||4-2|
|2008||Philadelphia Phillies||Tampa Bay Rays||4-1|
|2007||Boston Red Sox||Colorado Rockies||4-0|
|2006||St. Louis Cardinals||Detroit Tigers||4-1|
|2005||Chicago White Sox||Houston Astros||4-0|
|2004||Boston Red Sox||St. Louis Cardinals||4-0|
|2003||Florida Marlins||New York Yankees||4-2|
|2002||Anaheim Angels||San Francisco Giants||4-3|
|2001||Arizona Diamondbacks||New York Yankees||4-3|
|2000||New York Yankees||New York Mets||4-1|
MLB champions of the 2000 era
The Premier League system has its similarities to Major League Baseball, but there are many flaws, which the Premier League should try and model after the American pastime.
MLB teams are required to pay 31% of their local revenue towards a redistributed pot resulting in the larger revenue teams putting in more and receiving less, while the smaller revenue teams put in less and receive more. The central fund of national revenue is distributed based upon a franchise’s accumulated revenue. Market disqualified clubs (13 teams playing in the largest markets) face additional limitations when it comes to receiving revenue sharing benefits.
The Premier League features revenue sharing for its British television broadcasting where 50% of the broadcast revenue is shared equally. The remaining 50% of British television revenue is determined via the club’s table position from the previous season and facility fees. Facility fees are based upon the number of times that a team’s match is shown live… basically the teams with the biggest market (or fan base). 2015/16 Leister City were atop the table in first place from Week 23 of the season until the final day, but they still were behind four teams in facility fees. How is a team supposed to compete with popularity when they aren’t properly garnished live broadcasts on Sky and BT when they demonstrate success?
There exists a tax on all MLB franchises who have a payroll exceeding $195 million.
There is no tax in Premier League soccer, but there is less effective salary cap limiting money spent from British television revenue, which can easily be sidestepped when the money trail is traced to sources other than television. The uncompetitive teams will continue to be relegated and lose money while the successful teams will continue to qualify for the UEFA Champions League and gain money. It’s this simple, and it continues to happen.
Amateur Draft Pick Lottery
The MLB amateur draft opening round already is based upon winning percentage from the previous season, but there are also competitive balance selections awarded based upon a team’s market size and local revenue.
There is no such draft in Premier League Soccer; most amateur “prospects” start in a club’s academy or youth team. This is a choice by the youth player and his family, but one can figure that the most popular, winning clubs will attract the most number of youth to their respective academies and teams. If the team is located in London and Manchester, there is the assumption that they have a bigger pool to select from as well. Even if the best youth players are not playing in the best British systems, scouts will find a way to get these better players. It’s a broken system dominated by fiscal resources and popularity.
Free Agent Compensation
Any signed MLB free agent subject to compensation (the best players in one year’s market) results in the forfeiture of higher remaining draft picks in the amateur (Rule 4) draft for market disqualified teams and tax paying teams.
SB Nation describes the most basic soccer transfer:
“Club 1 has a player. Club 2 wants a player. Club 2 and Club 1 thrash out an agreeable price, the player and Club 2 thrash out some agreeable wages, and then the transfer happens—the player’s registration is transferred from Club 1 to Club 2, and he signs a new contract—and all parties are happy.”
Therefore, the low-earning clubs cannot afford the fees of the big name players and cannot afford to retain their big stars when they become free agents and have no control. There is no penalty for signing the big name players. It’s all money, and if Leicester City had not won the Premier League title, they may not have been able to reach an agreeable price to bring back their star, Jamie Vardy.
The baseball season includes a postseason with added pressure and possibility for the downfall of the top level teams.
There are 38 games for each Premier League, and the final season record is the determinant of a champion. There is no playoff system, and there are no additional games for the best clubs in a season. Some version of a postseason would raise the facility fees of a team, which just happened to sneak into the postseason—analogous of the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals during the 2014 MLB postseason.