04/07/2010 10:35 AM ET
What's behind the war of words
A look at the Yankees' financial advantages
By Michael Salfino / SNY.tv
Randy Levine said his "good friend" Mark Attanasio needs to stop "whining and complaining" about the Yanks' payroll. (AP)

The Yankees and Brewers are squabbling over the the Bombers team payroll, continuing a controversy that has already this year led to a radical realignment proposal and admonishments from celebrities in other sports.

Milwaukee's principal owner Mark Attanasio was accused of "whining" by Yankees president Randy Levine when he told USA Today on Monday:

"We're struggling to sign Prince Fielder, and the Yankees' infield is making more than our team."

Yankees infield: $85.225 million. Brewers team payroll: $80 million. Fielder is represented by, gulp, Scott Boras and is a free agent after the 2011 season.

Levine's response to the Daily News:

"As I've said, Mark's a good friend, but he needs to stop whining and complaining about our player payroll. We play by all the rules, and we always have. We've contributed hundreds of millons of dollars in revenue sharing and no one complains when they get the money.

"But use that money to sign your players. Period. As you notice, the complaining always comes from others, not from us."

BizofBaseball.com says that the Yankees have contributed 90 percent of all revenue sharing over the seven years the "luxury tax" has been in effect -- a total of $175 million. I'll say $175 million is the over/under on what Boras is asking right now just for Fielder.

Attanasio responded to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy yesterday:

"Among other things, I didn't think I was whining. I was just stating a simple fact."

McCalvey noted that the Major League Baseball Players Association held the Brewers up as an organization that spends its luxury tax dollars on players just this past Spring Training.

Things in baseball have gotten so bad -- the Yankees will spend $213.4 million this year in player payroll -- that commissioner Bud Selig is reportedly considering allowing teams to come in and out of a division like the American League East depending on whether they want to contend.

So the Royals, say, could come in for a couple of years while they are rebuilding to get the benefits of all those extra home dates with the Yankees and Red Sox while, theoretically, the Rays would replace them in the AL Central to increase their chances of competing now.

Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci reported that teams might even change leagues, just not move more than two time zones away in order to protect TV rights.

ESPN.com's Rob Neyer sides with the Brewers in this latest dispute

"Is Levine suggesting that the Brewers' owners are getting rich?" Neyer asks. "I don't believe they are (at least not because they own the Brewers)."

Roughly speaking, the Yankees play in a market with 20 million people. Give the Mets half, and that's still 10 million for the Yankees. The Brewers are sitting at about two million, if you give them Milwaukee and a broad swath of Wisconsin. The large majority of a franchise's revenues -- before revenue sharing, anyway -- is derived from local sources. The Yankees have a huge natural advantage over the Brewers, and that's obviously true even with revenue sharing.

Of course, Yankees fans point to the Mets as the example of a team with big-market advantages that didn't compete, at least not last year. That, they'll say, is evidence the Yankees 2009 success is rooted more in baseball acumen than simple dollars and cents.

Yesterday on the talk shows, their fans led by ESPN radios Michael Kay noted that the Yankees increased their payroll in 2010 by "2 percent" (actually, it was three times that -- 6 percent) while the Red Sox were growing from $121.7 million in '09 to $165.7 million this year -- a 36-percent increase. Note that the Yankees still pay players 28-percent more than the Red Sox and 68-percent more than the Mets.

Baseball's big fear is that more fans are feeling like poker star Daniel Negreanu.

"This is a sick stat, but the Yankees have qualified for the post-season 14 out of the last 15 year," he said. "Boston, with the second highest payroll, has made the postseason six out of the last seven seasons.

"I can't bring myself to care about a league that is going to have such rare turnover, not because the team is genius at drafting, but simply because they can just buy a better team with money. Boring. Totally, and insanely boring to me."

Michael Salfino is a nationally syndicated columnist and a regular contributor to SNY.tv.
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