With the Mets’ elimination tonight by the St. Louis Cardinals, the domination of baseball by mid-market teams continues. Since the Yankees played the Mets in the 2000 World Series, teams around the mid-point of baseball’s payroll rankings have thrived in the post-season. Rick Karcher, over at Sports Law Blog, has some of the details (http://sports-law.blogspot.com/2006/10/again-this-year-high-payroll-does-not.html):
“The most important category on the
report card last year in terms of measuring general manager performance and
sound organizational business decisions was the "Spent What Was
Necessary" category listing all the teams that
made the playoffs last season without breaking the bank: White Sox ($75M),
Angels ($98M), Braves ($86M), Cards ($92M), Astros ($77M) and Padres ($63M).
Now here's the irony. This season, 4 of these 6 teams actually spent more on payroll this year and did NOT make the playoffs: White Sox
($102M, and 4th highest payroll), Angels ($103M, and 3rd highest payroll),
Braves ($90M), and Astros ($92M). Interestingly, St. Louis
actually spent less this year ($88M) and
DID make the playoffs again, and San
Diego, with the lowest payroll of the entire group at
$69M, made the playoffs again as well. [See
Today's Salary Database, 2006
Looking at the other teams making the playoffs this year in addition to St. Louis and San Diego, the Mets spent the same this year ($101M) and made a complete turnaround from last year. The Dodgers spent $15M more this year ($98M) and it paid off for them. The Yankees spent $15M less this year and still made it with a $194M payroll, but got ousted by Detroit who spent their $82M very wisely this year. Boston, with the supposed "boy wonder" in charge and the 2nd highest payroll of $120M, can thank Minnesota (who spent half as much as them) and Detroit (who spent about $40M less than them) for not making it this year. Oakland ($62M) and Minnesota ($63M) each won their respective divisions this year -- As usual, Beane and Ryan got it all figured out. Whatever those two guys are making, it's just simply not enough. ”
Karcher also adds this nugget:
“Here's an interesting statistic. There are 12 teams that spent between $60M and $89M, and 5 of them (42%) made the playoffs (and as of this date three of them are still in it). There are 10 teams that spent more than $89M, and only 3 of them (30%) made the playoffs (but only one of them is still in it).”
George Will also got into the act recently (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/13/AR2006101301415.html):
“But there also is resentment of the Yankees' financial advantage, which has been inimical to baseball's competitive balance.
That, however, is a diminishing problem, for two reasons: Major League Baseball has implemented more redistribution of resources, and a new breed of general managers (e.g. Oakland's Billy Beane and Minnesota's Terry Ryan) is using new player-evaluation metrics to wring more baseball value from fewer dollars.
The Yankees' payroll of $206.4 million (not including the almost $30 million tax paid to MLB on the portion of the payroll over $136.5 million) is 2.4 times the Tigers' payroll. The Yankees' third baseman earns 68.7 times the salary of the Mets' all-star third baseman (Alex Rodriguez, $25.7 million; David Wright, $374,000). The shortstop makes approximately what the Marlins' team makes (Derek Jeter, $20.6 million; Marlins, $20.68 million). But the 2006 Yankees did baseball -- and the rest of America, if it learns the larger social lesson of the story -- the favor of demonstrating the steeply declining utility of the last $100 million of payroll.”
Will also notes:
“There still are revenue and spending disparities between baseball teams that are impossible between NFL and NBA teams because those leagues have salary caps and more centralized revenue sources. Nevertheless, when the Tigers dispatched the Yankees Oct. 7, baseball was guaranteed its seventh different World Series winner in seven years. There never have been seven consecutive Super Bowls, or seven consecutive NBA championships, won by seven different teams.”
None of this, of course, means that baseball has achieved anything like perfect parity. But, as I have said before, a lot of the complaints about Yankees payrolls in particular, and baseball payroll disparities in general, is a kind of moral outrage, as opposed to a sober assessment about whether most teams have “hope and faith” or about the overall health of the sport. On the former count, clearly most teams do. And, on the latter count, given baseball’s record attendance and revenues this year, it’d be tough to argue that the sport is being seriously hurt by what disparities do exist.
One of the responses to Karcher’s column suggested that there were five teams that were really disadvantaged enough to make the prospect of their competing a real challenge: Toronto, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. Toronto has certain disadvantages owing to exchange rate issues and the like, but the franchise has drawn four million fans in a season, plays in a large city, has a competitive team, and appears committed to inching its payroll upward (and it spent quite a bit on high-profile free agents last off-season). Of the other four franchises, Milwaukee would appear to have the most promising future, with a nice new (tax-payer funded) ballpark and an excellent core of young talent. But, the other franchises, while facing market disadvantages could also clearly spend more than they do. Today’s USA Today analyzed how the NHL salary cap is pushing teams that once spent much less money toward the cap number. So, for example, though they say they can’t afford it, the Anaheim Ducks will spend $40 million on payroll this year. Other, smaller market NHL teams are also spending $40 million or more. The Royals cut their payroll this year, though the team makes millions of dollars in annual profits, mostly due to revenue sharing. In fact, if NHL teams in small to medium markets are shelling out $40 million in payroll, it’s a joke that some major league teams are spending the same or less than that on their rosters, given that baseball’s revenues are about three times that of NHL revenues. In other words, though the Royals can’t spend $200 million on their payroll, they certainly could spend more than they do (as could the Brewers and Pirates) and thus push themselves into a range in which other teams have been fully competitive over the past six years.