Are Yankees, Steinbrenner the real socialists?

Tue, Feb 22

"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. Socialism, communism, whatever you want to call it, is never the answer."

-- New York Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner, on Major League Baseball's luxury tax and revenue-sharing programs.

The New York Yankees play in new Yankee Stadium, a building whose $1.5 billion price tag largely was covered by $1.2 billion in tax-exempt bonds. New York City's Independent Budget Office estimated that building the stadium cost taxpayers $362 million and that public financing will save the Yankees $787 million over 40 years. A New York State assemblyman argues that the stadium actually will cost taxpayers $4 billion over the same time, because the Yankees will not pay property tax on the building. The Yankees charge more than $2,500 per game for some premium seats, and much, much more for luxury boxes, both of which often are publicly subsidized through business entertainment expense tax write-offs.

The Yankees are able to reap enormous profits -- a reported $441 million in 2009 -- by selling said tickets and luxury boxes and concessions and the like, and also via the lucrative local television rights to their games, which are not intrasquad scrimmages, nor endless matches against the Washington Generals, but rather actual contests usually played against minor market teams (definition: not New York, Chicago, Boston or Los Angeles) such as the Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland Athletics. The Yankees are able to strengthen their on-field team by acquiring talented free agents who have been developed and vetted through the risk-taking of other clubs; the Yankees are able to do so because free agency is a collectively bargained player right. The Yankees benefit from a Congressional anti-trust exemption that effectively allows MLB to act as a monopoly and enjoy the inherent business advantages therein -- including protecting the Yankees' bottom line by making it nigh-impossible for other clubs to set up shop in the New York City area and poach market share from the Yankees and Mets.

Other than that, Steinbrenner is right: Socialism, communism, whatever you want to call it, is definitely not the answer.