We don't delve much into politics here — so many more important things to fight about, right? — but Hank Steinbrenner co-mingled baseball and the politics of economics in his discussion of revenue sharing, piggybacking somewhat on similar comments from the Red Sox ownership group:
"At some point, if you don't want to worry about teams in minor markets, don't put teams in minor markets, or don't leave teams in minor markets if they're truly minor," Steinbrenner said. "Socialism, communism, whatever you want to call it, is never the answer."
This of course sounds very much like typical right-wing hyperbole about taxation. MLB has a taxation system, whereby the wealthiest — i.e., those who can most afford it — pay extra, and those funds help out the most disadvantaged in the system. Sound familiar? It should; it's the basis for the progressive taxation system, the one that has been in place in the United States since the implementation of personal income taxes 100 years ago.
Sounds like Hank believes he's been Taxed Enough Already.
[It should be noted Steinbrenner is making a different argument than one made by Henry, who has criticized the system on the grounds that small-market teams are taking advantage of it by pocketing the money. Steinbrenner seems to be criticizing the basis of the system itself.]
But even if Steinbrenner is right that this system is "socialism [or] communism," The New Republic's Jonathan Chait argues simply: So what?
Of course, if you define a system of sharing revenue between every franchise and forcing them to compete on the basis of managerial skill rather than raw economic power as "socialism," then of course socialism can work. It works in other sports franchises. But clearly owners who are long on economic power and short on brainpower will oppose a system like that. Why force yourself to out-scout the Milwaukee Brewers when you can spend them into the ground?
This of course is the secret to both the Yankees' and the Red Sox' success under the revenue sharing system: They have competent front offices that make few mistakes, and they have enough money to paper over the few mistakes they do make.
I think Chait is mostly right that the arguments of big-market teams like the Sox and Yanks are more born from a desire to keep as much of their money as possible (as opposed to some altruistic desire to better the game of baseball), but he goes too far when he describes the Yankees' revenue stream as "an idiot-proof racket." As any Yankee fan of the 1980s (or Mets fan in the 2000s) can probably attest, even incredibly wealthy teams need competent leadership to capitalize on their advantages.