Despite his one-year suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs, Alex Rodriguez is still one of the top players in Major League Baseball history with 696 career homers and all the other numbers to go with it.
As such, in his 22 seasons he earned $441.3 million, the most in the history of baseball. Rodriguez was a huge beneficiary of the unrestricted free-agent market.
But now that A-Rod is one of the top candidates in the derby to purchase the New York Mets, he seems to see things in a different light.
On an ESPN conference call Thursday, the right-handed hitting third baseman turned Sunday Night Baseball analyst sounded like he’s in favor of what the players’ union and its cohort has always dreaded: a salary cap.
“Downside protection is always the most important part of investing in anything,” he said. “What I will tell you is that I was there for 1994 when we walked away, but understanding that the leverage of the players in 1994 was totally different than it is today.
“Then, we had a stranglehold on professional sports; baseball was [No. 1]. Today, the NBA has become an international conglomerate. The NFL is a juggernaut. Back then there was no Netflix. There was no Snapchat. There was no Disney+, ESPN+, and everything in between to attract your attention.
“Today we have to really work collaboratively with the players and the owners to say, ‘How do we compete together to become No. 1?’ The only way it’s going to happen is [the two sides] get to the table and say the No. 1 goal is to get from $10 [billion] to $15 billion [in gross revenue] and maybe we split the economics evenly.
“So, that’s the type of the conversation [they must have], instead of fighting and fighting against each other because there’s too much competition out there right now.”
Quick history lesson: In 1994, the players struck on Aug. 12, and the owners tried to implement a salary cap. The National Labor Relations Board ruled against the owners in 1995, ending the strike and their dream of a cap. Spin ahead to last month when the owners floated a 50-50 split of revenue to reopen the season. It was a non-starter again and undoubtedly will be next year when the two sides have to negotiate a new long-term labor agreement starting with the 2022 season.
The sport grossed $10.7 billion last year, but stands to suffer massive losses this year, playing a 60-game season due to the spreading coronavirus. As it stands, the players earn about 48-percent of the revenue even without a cap.
“Alex benefited as much as anybody from the battles this union fought against owners’ repeated attempts to get a salary cap,” Tony Clark, the executive director of the MLB Players Association, said Thursday in a statement released by the union. “Now that he is attempting to become an owner himself his perspective appears to be different. And that perspective does not reflect the best interests of the players.”
A-Rod in a subsequent statement said his goal as a broadcaster and fan is to grow the game.
“When I was asked about the CBA expiring in 2021, I answered honestly, but never mentioned the world salary cap,” he said. The statement also said A-Rod has been in contact with Clark “to make sure we’re aligned in taking our sport to the next level, and showcasing the world’s best athletes.”
A-Rod’s quest to acquire the Mets is ongoing.