MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' principal owner grew up a Yankees fan, but he's not exactly cheering that team's offseason spending spree.
"At the rate the Yankees are going, I'm not sure anyone can compete with them," Mark Attanasio wrote in an e-mail to Bloomberg News. "Frankly, the sport might need a salary cap."
Attanasio, who was approved as Milwaukee's owner before the 2005 season, made his comments after learning of the Yankees' eight-year, $180 million agreement with free agent first baseman Mark Teixeira. He became the third superstar to sign with New York this month, joining pitchers CC Sabathia (seven years, $161 million) and A.J. Burnett (five years, $82.5 million).
Those are staggering figures to Attanasio, who was prepared to pay Sabathia more than $100 million -- more than double any contract in Brewers history -- only to be outbid by the Yankees by about $60 million. There were no other known bidders for Sabathia's services in that pinstripe price range.
"They are on a completely different economic playing field," Attanasio told Bloomberg in a separate telephone interview. "I paid $220 million for my team; now they get three players for $420 million."
The Teixeira news came a day after the Yankees were assessed a $26.9 million luxury tax by Major League Baseball, which does not currently operate with a salary cap but does tax teams that surpass a certain payroll threshold. The Tigers also were taxed this year; both teams missed the postseason in 2008.
This newest assessment brought the Yankees' luxury tax total to $148.3 million in the six seasons since it was implemented. That figure represents 90 percent of the total paid into the system -- with the only other contributions having been made by the Red Sox (a total of $13.9 million in four seasons) and the Angels ($927,000 in 2004).
"At some point it gets to be absurd when a team has a $200 million payroll," said Attanasio, who was not the only member of Milwaukee's front office with an opinion on New York's offseason spending.
"I think it's quite clearly a product of moving into a new ballpark with tremendous revenue streams and a new person in charge who wants nothing less than a championship," said Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash. "This is very reminiscent of what they have tried before. It didn't work then, and I'm not sure it's going to work now.
"The silver lining is that we're not in the [American League] East," added Ash, the former GM of the Blue Jays. "Having been in that situation before, it can get depressing. But you just have to remember that while spending can help ensure you compete, overspending does not guarantee you a championship."
The Brewers began last season with a payroll in the $80 million neighborhood, and it reached $90 million with the midseason additions of Sabathia and infielder Ray Durham. The team is expected to be back in the $80 million range in 2009.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.