It should come as much less than a surprise that when the Major League Baseball Players Association filed grievances over four teams who have pocketed rather than used their revenue sharing money for the product that one of those four would be the Oakland Athletics.
After all, the A’s have been taking in revenue sharing while tamping down its payroll for the entire century to date, never ranking in the top half in 40-man roster salaries and only above the 25th percentile four times, according to the kind people at Cot’s Baseball Contracts, and the 2018 payroll is about $15 million lower than 2017, according to Spotrac.
It is, however, unclear what the union can do about it given that Major League Baseball (a) is resisting to grievance and (b) has essentially acknowledged the A’s quasi-misfeasance by slowly choking off their revenue share.
While the handy dodge that teams like the A’s (and Pirates and Florida teams) like to use is that they are plowing the money into development, not much of use has been developed that sees the light of the major league club. But it has always been thus with the A’s under John Fisher, and Steve Schott before him – the A’s have been moderate to generous cash cows, and only intermittently have plowed the earnings back into the visible product.
While we have a side in baseball’s is-it-money-or-is-it-art debate, we won’t bore you with it here. The fact is, unless an arbitrator sees the wisdom of punishing Oakland’s post-Walter Haas history, they will remain as they have been – a team that cries poverty but ingests wealth. The club’s inability and/or unwillingness top find a stadium site only compounds the problem, because when the revenue sharing fairy stops visiting in 2020, they will become a big league team in that they are responsible for their own money.
Except for the lucrative local and national TV and radio splits. Except for the MLBAM split, which pays each team a minimum of $50 million per year. Except for all the other things that keep the A’s as green as their caps.
In short, the MLBPA grievance may be neck-deep in merit, but it doesn’t change the central truth that the A’s have been, are currently, and always going to be on scholarship because they have concluded that there is more financial merit to not spending to lose than spending to win. That is, until the new stadium is built in 2150. Once that happens – bow howdy, will they be rolling in it.
You know. Like they are now.