Luxury Tax vs actual spending and Dobrow

Marlin blog FishStripes read a few random posts at one of the Pirates’ blogs and the Post-Gazette and then said this about acquiring Jose Castillo:

"I have heard in the past that Castillo has an attitude problem." Additional reader comments said: "The Fish landed a real lump of coal in this guy.. this guy should be called Jose Mendoza with the way he performs."

Ok.. no SB Nation jokes. Where they got the "attitude" problem stuff is beyond me. Perhaps they need to do a site search here.

If anyone has any clue about Jose Castillo it is Mickey White who, last I heard, is still working for the Fish. Castillo signed as a teenager as an undrafted free agent in 1997 and White took over as scouting director here in 1998.

In any case, congrats to Castillo for catching a ride. May he finally get the chance he so rightfully deserves.

The average age of the Pirates 40-man roster on April 1, 2008, will be 27.4 years as it stands today. I assume that is the youngest 40-man for us in quite awhile.

Speaking of numbers, take a look at the widening spread between the Luxury Tax threshold and the Pirates spending on player salary since the 2002 Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed:

Notice the Pirates payroll trend falls from 2003 to 2008 at just under $1M per year while the Luxury Tax grows at $8M per year on average.

I estimated the Pirates 2008 payroll at $42M since that was the median of the previous five years. But as we all know, it could be $28M just as easily if more dumps were to take place. Plus, I graciously included opening day payrolls instead of the average salary for the year because as we all know, the Pirates dumped in 2003 so the gap is really much wider than what shows.

The idea behind the Luxury Tax (actually known as the Competitive Balance Tax) is to try and halt player salaries from growing too fast allowing smaller club’s the ability to stay in the game. Think of it as a salary cap because it penalizes the club’s who exceed it. 

What is interesting about all this is that the owners allowed a 6% growth in player salaries annually. So if you use their general thought, $40M in player payroll value in 2003 would be worth $53.5M in 2008… $50M in 2003, which is what Kevin McClatchy had seemingly promised Pittsburgh taxpayers with his PNC gift, would be worth $67M in 2008.

It is conceivable that by 2009 the Pirates could have a $20M payroll as they dump to rebuild which would be a $142M gap – 20% more than it is today.

Wow.

Now as we go forward we can answer the question – is it possible to rebuild and remain competitive at the same time?

Sure.. by trading the aging, expensive, and/or underperforming roster players like Morris, Sanchez, Wilson, and Nady, as well as players with value like Bay and Snell, for as many AA+ type impact prospects as possible to build around McCutchen. Then, with the roster at a bare minimum cost, sign as many impact stop gap players as possible on two to three year deals up to the $67M we should be spending while the franchise develops the youngsters.

But that’s a perfect world.. one we haven’t seen in Pittsburgh since Leyland days.

The McClatchy Company does a great job with newspapers but they certainly don’t seem to understand the Internet:

"The company has been increasing its online-ad sales force, and adding video and more-frequent news updates to its newspaper Web sites… This year, McClatchy joined a consortium of newspaper companies in a deal with Yahoo that some analysts believe could bring significantly more traffic and ad revenue to members’ Web sites." – Wall Street Journal 12/25/07

The public doesn’t want to have to play a video to see a newspaper article, fight off ads that take over your computer, or have to see a lot of flashy ad movement while trying to read the headlines.

Look at the St. Petersburg Times new look, for example. While they are not in the McClatchy portfolio, their website had been one of the best reads on the Internet and now holds the useless flag.

Two papers in the McClatchy brand are the Miami Herald and Bradenton Herald and they make you feel like you are flying in an airplane at 500 feet and 200 mph while looking out the window. If you don’t turn flash off, you risk seizures from the repetitive ad movement.

Newspapers need to go back to the basics online – provide quality coverage first. Hit me hard with coverage – tell me what’s happening and where – make me want to dig deeper.

Once that is achieved, use lead-in’s that force us to click to read each article we want to follow. The subsequent page should have their advertising in stationary format using color as the attractor, for example.

Until these big newspapers get back to the basics, I’ll stick with my news aggregator that removes the ads.

Maxmim Online’s Larry Dobrow penned a nice piece on the Bucs at CBSSports.com yesterday. It’s pretty funny.

"The Pirates careen into 2008 in much the same manner they’ve entered every season since Barry Bonds left for the West Coast 15 years ago: without a hope or a clue. The potential opening-day lineup, rotation, bullpen and defense are almost morbidly mediocre. The farm system is barren of impact players beyond CF Andrew McCutchen — who, if recent history repeats itself, will be rushed to the majors and then traded for Ryan Church. It’s bad, dude."

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