The Los Angeles Dodgers played by the rules in signing Clayton Kershaw to a record-setting contract last week, for an average salary for $30.7 million. Their new ownership saw the potential for financial might in the franchise, bought the team for more than $2 billion two years ago, and immediately began investing in talent. The Dodgers' new owners have run the team so differently than Frank McCourt, who drew on the team's value for himself, rather than spend to improve the club.
But Kershaw's contract incrementally widened the cracks developing between the big-market teams and everyone else.
The emerging question is not really whether the Dodgers are running their team appropriately, because clearly they are, within the context of the current collective bargaining agreement and revenue sharing. The question is not whether teams such as the Braves, Rays, Reds, Indians and others are operating effectively, because no matter what choices they make, their stack of chips is going to be smaller than the mountain of money available to the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies and others.
No, the question is whether the two camps -- the Haves and Have-Nots, to borrow a phrase from the 1994-95 labor war -- can continue on their current trajectory without a fight that stops the sport developing.
Salaries are continuing to climb and the small- and mid-market teams are struggling, more and more, to keep up with the inflation.