Detroit Tigers ownership opposing luxury tax increase is tough to swallow

DETROIT, MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES - 2022/02/07: Motor City Casino next to Comerica Park in downtown Detroit. (Photo by Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN, UNITED STATES - 2022/02/07: Motor City Casino next to Comerica Park in downtown Detroit. (Photo by Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

Breaking news last night from the Athletic as the Detroit Tigers were one of four franchises to oppose the proposal of a MLB luxury tax increase to $220 million.

Per the report in the Athletic late last night by Evan Drellich, ($) four Major League Baseball owners, Bob Castellini of the Reds, Ken Kendrick of the Diamondbacks, Arte Moreno of the Angels and Chris Ilitch of the Detroit Tigers, were opposed to raising the competitive balance tax.

Revenues for Major League Baseball teams have increased dramatically over the past decade, but the average player salary actually went down from 2015 to 2019:

Players believe one solution to this is raising the luxury tax threshold, allowing big-market teams to spend more, and presumably force smaller-market teams to spend more to compete.

But it’s worth noting that not all small-market owners were opposed to the increase, although in theory it would hurt them. These four owners took a personal stance on the issue, as Evan points out.

Do you take the red pill or the blue pill, Detroit Tigers fans?

I was talking about the article this morning with the other co-editor of the site Chris Brown, and there are two ways to look at this recent news.

The Red Pill

This is the baseball argument, wherein we are asked to believe Chris Ilitch voted no on the luxury tax increase because he felt it would hurt his team’s chances of winning.

The theory here is that all the struggles of rebuilding, and the new personnel in the Detroit Tigers front office, and the changes in the minor league development staff, and the talent in the minor league system, finally have the team ready to compete now and remain nimble enough to have sustained success.

So just as the Tigers are ready to compete, this new, higher Competitive Balance Tax could let bigger market teams gain a competitive advantage. As ex-Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer discussed, teams like the Mets, Yankees, and Dodgers would get the ability to spend on free agents and field a competitive team, while the Detroit Tigers — just another blue collar team in a “Detroit vs. Everybody” world — gets left behind yet again.

The Blue Pill

This is the business argument, where we are asked to believe Chris Ilitch is just another greedy billionaire whose primary motivation is to make money, and he is willing to cut corners to save a few bucks.

Many people who view owners this way. But there remains a sizable group of fans who remain willing to let things play out. Call it delusion, or call it faith, but some fans don’t want to believe the owner of their favorite team is one of the bad ones, and that the club will spend money when the time is right.

That seemed like the case with the Detroit Tigers for most of this offseason. Only the Mets and Rangers have spent more on free agents this year, so it becomes a bit harder to make the penny-pinching argument. But then we see the unbelievably petty proposal from the owners to consider meal money part of the calculation for luxury tax.

That blue pill is knowing perhaps ownership will not spend the funds to bring a title to Detroit. As much as we have praised the recent developments in the Detroit Tigers farm system in developing talent, the fact still stands, they have not won anything. Farm system rankings are nice, but winning titles is even better.

The blue pill is knowing that baseball is not just a kids’ game, it is a business that has cold, harsh truths to it. If you want to take the red pill and listen or talk in an echo chamber and not want to be “negative”, it is your right. But hearing the news this morning is not some sort of parlor trick. It is the reality why we are not having baseball right now.

The Detroit Tigers fan base has two options of what they want to believe, but neither changed the fact that after this leak, it does not paint the picture of the Tigers very well.