Money. It has to be the biggest excuse in the world of sports. “We need more money, or we can’t compete.” Or, “The difference in payrolls between the richest and poorest teams is too big.”
While I agree that it is necessary for Salary Caps to be implemented, in the case of the NHL and NFL, it has greatly increased parity and league-wide financial security. But, you just need to look at baseball, and more specifically, the New York Yankees to see that money doesn’t buy a lot of things, including happiness (A-Rod) and World Series’ rings (Yankees 2001-2006).
It turns out that spending a lot of money doesn’t matter, even in baseball the most individual of all sports. It turns out that you still have to spend the money wisely. There’s a thought, Georgie. The Minnesota Twins made the playoffs, and promptly got swept by the Oakland Athletics. But my point is that the two “big” acquisitions they had this season were Tony Batista and Rondell White (that’s right, about every Expo fan who ever existed just cringed.) It turns out that once they cut Batista and made White work on his swing in the minors, they went on a roll and went on to win the American League Central. Not only that, but the Athletics used Moneyball to get their division championship and their first spot in the ALCS since 1993 when they lost to the Toronto Blue Jays when they went on to win their second straight World Series.
Just for fun, let’s look at the payrolls of the Detroit Tigers, and Athletics, one of whom will represent the American League in the World Series. The Athletics have a payroll of $62.2 million while the Tigers have a payroll of $82.6 million (all figures according to USA Today). Add that up and you get approximately $144.8 million, or for comparison’s sake, $49.8 million less than the Yankees payroll, and only $24.7 million more than the Boston Red Sox payroll who finished third in their division, the AL East.
So, the age-old adage of you have to spend to win in baseball is proving itself wrong right before our very eyes. It may help you make the playoffs, and it may help you get through a round or two or even get you to the World Series, but does not guarantee success by any stretch of the imagination.
Only three of the top-ten teams in payroll, and two of the top-five made it to the playoffs: the Yankees (1), New York Mets (5), and Los Angeles Dodgers (6). Teams that didn’t make the playoffs include the Red Sox (2), Los Angeles Angels (3) and defending World Champions, the Chicago White Sox (4). The rest of the teams that did make the playoffs? Look no further than the St. Louis Cardinals (11), Tigers (14), San Diego Padres (17), Twins (19) and Athletics (21). Oh, and don’t forget the Florida Marlins, who despite the lowest payroll in baseball (and lowest since the Pirates and Expos in 1998) were in contention until the last couple of weeks of the season.
Do you know what the Marlins payroll looked like? $14.998 million. Over a 25-man roster. That is less than half of the next lowest team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. And they were still more competitive than most teams in baseball. How does that work? A-Rod makes almost double what the entire Marlins organization spent in salaries. A-Rod could have paid the entire Marlins team their salaries and still have close to $10 million left. Just to put it in perspective for you. That would be, for those keeping score at home, $180 million more for four playoff games and one playoff win. That’s good spending if I ever saw any.
Just because I know you’re curious, the Pirates payroll in 1998 was $13.752 million and the Expos had a whopping $9.2 million payroll. Only Rondell White ($2 million) and Carlos Perez ($1.5 million) made anything over $1 million.
Ahh, the good ol’ days. It turns out that spending money does more for the players than the organization, and until baseball realizes that, I’ll be here to mock and ridicule the Yankees, Red Sox and anyone else who thinks spending a lot of money will guarantee a World Series win. And, after another failed season, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi will be asking for more money to compete, because every one knows that he’ll need more money to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox. Riiiiiight. Maybe he should come right out and say it: The money is for a brain transplant because that is what really helps you win in baseball. Just go ask the Yankees.