By Dan Schlossberg
Mets owner Steve Cohen made waves throughout the baseball world this winter as he was seemed unbothered by the so-called “Cohen Tax” threshold of the luxury tax.
He not only blew past the $293 million luxury tax threshold, signing 10 free agents and creating a $374 million payroll for luxury tax purposes, but bragged that he did nothing wrong and was simply following rules set by others.
Now his actions have sparked creation of a new “economic reform committee” that allegedly has the goal of trying to reduce revenue disparity between clubs — a tall order when the Mets are paying their players nearly $100 million more than the Yankees, who rank second on Spotrac’s ranking of projected 2023 payrolls.
Cohen not only has the highest payroll in baseball history but the best-paid players — at least in terms of annual average value. Pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander may work every fifth day but still earn $43.3 million each. Nice work if you can get it.
The not-so-subtle hint here is that owners, after spending a combined $1 billion during a free-agent feeding frenzy in December, are again considering a salary cap.
Always anathema to the Major League Baseball Players Association, such a cap exists in football, basketball, and hockey.
Without it, the theory goes, some of the weaker franchises will not only dwell at the bottom of the divisional standings but could even go belly-up.
Even the minimum salary has jumped to $720,000, thanks to the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, and will rise $20,000 a year until it’s time to negotiate a new one — after the 2026 season.
If the owners stick together, the mother of all labor interruptions could smother the game. Owners, players, and fans suffered through the 232-day player strike that wiped out the 1994 post-season and the start of the 1995 campaign. But what if an entire season were actually lost?
Even Steve Cohen’s billions couldn’t squelch such a scenario.
But lets hope cooler heads prevail — not only among the owners but also among the players.
Last time around, the game was halted by a 99-day lockout that intruded upon 2022 spring training. But the union’s eight-player executive committee, which included such high-paid stars as Max Scherzer and Francisco Lindor, voted 8-0 to reject the contract settlement offered by the owners.
Fortunately for the game, the rest of the union overruled them.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ covers baseball for forbes.com, Latino Sports, Memories & Dreams, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and other outlets. His latest book is Baseball’s Memorable Misses, published February 7. E.mail Dan via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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