Not all of the mainstream press accepts the owners’ recent whining about salary caps at face value, and today the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bruce Jenkins takes a whack at it. A key thing to remember about salary caps:
To make the Jason Kidd-to-Dallas deal work last year, the Mavericks had to re-sign Keith Van Horn, who was living in retirement with no intention on coming back, and send his contract to New Jersey (I think only his hat made the trip). Just the other day, a column on the Sports Illustrated Web site noted that “the Cavaliers possess two enormously attractive (trade) assets in swingman Wally Szczerbiak and forward Ben Wallace.” You’re thinking, what? Then you realize it’s not about their talent, but their soon-to-be-expiring contracts.
NBA trades are all about expiring contracts. You’re not trading for help, you’re getting people you can’t wait to unload. “Hey, did you see the guys we acquired to put in next summer’s trash can?” The chemistry-tortured Detroit Pistons would probably do well to unload Rasheed Wallace before the February 19 deadline, but wait – if they keep him until summer, they clear some cap space. Come to think of it, the NBA is just barely being played in real time. In our minds, we’re already well into 2010, when LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Steve Nash, Dwyane Wade and several more top free agents have chosen new teams.
As many have established, salary caps are bad ideas economically speaking. But even if they weren’t, they are aesthetic nightmares that insert unsightly, unwieldy, and downright complicated concepts like “franchise tags” and “expiring contracts” into the sporting discourse. Are they comprehensible? Well, sure, and I suppose it would be no great trick for every team to hire a cap guru if they felt the need. Certainly the readers of this blog could get their heads around caponomics if they had to.
But there is no escaping the fact that salary caps and all they have wrought serve to alienate the common fan from the essence of the game even more than he is already alienated, thereby rendering sports a slightly less enjoyable thing. Sure, no matter what the economic situation is, the Royals would never have been able to sign CC Sabathia. But without a salary cap in place at least there is an enemy to complain about in the Yankees or their skinflint owner or their brain dead GM or what have you. What do Kansas City bargoers complain about if there is a salary cap? Section 1.5(A)(1)(i)?
Such a discussion wouldn’t even be worth the beer.