The Yankees ($197M) and Red Sox ($160M)  have two of the three biggest payrolls in Major League Baseball. At the other end, the Rays ($42M) are only outspending the Royals ($36M). But according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, it is the Rays that have an unfair advantage in the AL East.

Baseball poverty isn’t a blessing. But it is not quite the curse you probably think it is.

And Sherman sets the tone early. It seems to us that most people these days understand that a team can win with a small payroll. That is not the problem. However, with a large payroll, it is much easier to win consistently. The fact the Rays have been in the playoffs twice in last three years just emphasizes how difficult it is. Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Yankees rarely miss the playoffs.

One reason they lean toward success is baseball poverty. Or, more accurately: Finding the advantages in working with the second-lowest payroll in the majors.

So which is it Sherman? Are the Rays succeeding because they are poor (as you state in the first sentence)? Or are they winning in spite of their payroll (as implied in the second sentence)?

This is not about pitying the deep pockets of the Yankees and Red Sox…

Then don’t.

…[this is] merely recognizing some problems even come with bountiful resources. Remember there is no more inefficient way to spend money than on big free-agent contracts; the dollars-for-performance success rate throughout the life of those deals is tiny.

Jesus Christ. I think I just had a heart attack in my butt. Sherman makes it sound like every huge free agent contract is a bust. Alex Rodriguez? Mark Teixeira? CC Sabathia? Mariano Rivera? Are the Yankees anywhere in 2010 if they didn’t give those guys big contracts?

Besides. One of the biggest advantages of a Sabathian payroll, is the ability to fix mistakes. In 2006, an aging, over-priced Gary Sheffield only played 39 games. So the Yankees went out and replaced him with a $14 million player (Bobby Abreu) without even blinking an eye.

If you can afford a Lamborghini, you don’t give a crap if it costs a little more than a Honda Civic to replace the windshield wipers.

Yet the Yankees and Red Sox can’t stop their spending. Because they have the money. Because they have voracious fan bases/business models that constantly must be fed more stars. Because the annual/historic call to win is intense.

See where we are going here? IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT! THEY HAVE TO SPEND THE MONEY! So, the Yankees and Red Sox will spend $100 million on a single player. Not because they think the player will help them win, but because they are worried how the fans will react if they don’t.

OMG! The fans might complain! They might *gulp* stop coming to the ballpark!

Joel Sherman, — and I mean this will all due respect — You are an idiot.

So the Yankees and Red Sox end up convincing themselves to do what they know logically is not right whether it is overspend in Japan (Kei Igawa/Daisuke Matsuzaka) or lay down big bucks on OK, but not special, starting pitching (Carl Pavano/John Lackey).

See? The Red Sox knew Daisuke Matsuzaka was going to be a bust, but they spent $100 million on him anyway…F*ck the Heck?!?

The Yankees and Red Sox do what Tampa Bay will not, such as overpay a reliever (Soriano) or give a player with modest power who depends on his legs (Crawford) a seven-year contract into his mid-30s. The Rays wouldn’t make these moves if they had the money…

OK. Maybe Sherman does get it. The Rays have been successful because they are smarter than a lot of teams. It really has nothing to do with payroll. Whew.

…not having [money] just allows the [loss of free agents] to be less controversial.

*head hits desk*

Also, by having limited money, the Rays can remove a large segment of available players from their thinking. The Yankees, for example, scrutinize every player available in free agency from Cliff Lee and Crawford and Jayson Werth to minor league free agents. Tampa Bay just eliminates the big guys. That allows the Rays to concentrate more time, people and energy on a smaller pool of players; which helps explain their above-average hit rate on players such as Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce.

Great Googily Moogily. We are now dumber for having read that paragraph. Let’s ignore for a second that the Yankees have a kazillion more resources than the Rays and as a result, have more people and time to commit to scouting all these players. But out of the several hundred free agents each season, we are talking about 5-10 players that the Rays know right away are out of their price range.

And we’ll also ignore that Zobrist and Joyce were not free agents. But somehow, Sherman feels that the Yankees have to spend so much time and people scouting the $100 million free agents, that they are unable to scout minor leaguers or a guy like Joyce, whom the Yankees faced three times in 2008 before he was traded.

Have you noticed the pattern yet? Sherman has pointed out every single free agent bust for the Yankees and Red Sox and ignored the fact that high-priced free agents are the core of each team. And with the Rays, he points out every successful acquisition, while pretending Pat Burrell and Manny Ramirez never happened.

The Rays are smarter than most low payroll teams. And the Rays are more efficient than the Red Sox and Yankees. That doesn’t make the Rays smarter or better than the Red Sox and Yankees. All those pennants and World Series rings suggest otherwise. The three teams are just approaching the same goal by going down different paths.

But to suggest that the path being travelled by the Red Sox and Yankees is somehow more treacherous than the Rays is just horsesh*t.



  1. Here is your "Idiot of the Year" award, Mr. Sherman.

  2. Sarah says:

    I know just what he means. Because of my wealth I was forced to overspend on a 6,000 square foot home with 8 bathrooms. And now three of the toilets have leaks! I am envying those people with a mere 2 bathrooms who don't have these problems.

  3. Don says:

    World of who has the advanage..high/low payroll????
    I'll go with who develops/utilizes players the best ....regardless of pay?

  4. Jordi says:

    Any mention of draft pick bonuses, slotting, compensation picks, or international development? Because if you are going to mention how players are acquired and the dollars needed, you might want to cover all aspects.

  5. Steve says:

    The big point here is about efficiency. The Yankess and Red Sox are simply inefficient at developing talent primarily because they don't. They never learned to change the oil on their car so when in need they simply buy a new car. Perhaps the biggest insult out of all of this is that Theo Epstein and Brian Cashman are considered quality GMs. The big wallet should be used to bridge those unplanned-for occurrences, injuries or productivity drops but instead these guys use the wallet on everything and consider talent development as another chip to use in July when - - for example it turns out John Smoltz may not be as good as we expected after major shoulder surgery. The fans are just as delusional, ask any Red Sox fan and they'll tell you that Victor Martinez for Masterson was a good trade - - for a team that is now left with a 52 year old catcher and John Lackey as one of their starting pitchers. I used to root for a salary cap but I now see that a salary cap would force the Yankees to say good-bye to their legends and actually make 25 intelligent decisions. Then we'd lose Theo and Cashman's ability to diminish the economic advantage of the Sox and Yanks. I'm not saying they're not talented, but if they actually used talent development along with their economic superiority they'd probably win 130 games.

  6. Tom says:

    As I read this, Sherman is not saying the Rays have an advantage because they have less resources, he is saying the payroll disadvantage can be limited by an intelligent front office.

    "Baseball poverty isn’t a blessing. But it is not quite the curse you probably think it is."

    "One reason they lean toward success is baseball poverty. Or, more accurately: Finding the advantages in working with the second-lowest payroll in the majors."

    I do not believe these 2 statements above contradict each other. In the first statement he is not saying the Rays have an advantage, he is saying that the disadvantage is not as large as it might appear. The second statement is saying the Rays have been able to mitigate the payroll disparity further with an intelligent front office.

  7. Charlie says:

    It is not that the NY and Boston are inefficient, they are completely impotent! A mentally challenged 6 year old could win the AL East with the financial flexibility NY and Boston have. NY can afford to pay A-Roid $20 mill a year through his 42nd birthday. No GM with half a brain would overpay like that unless they had no spending limit. The Rays are at a REDICULOUS disadvantage and make up for it by actually scouting, drafting, developing, and signing REAL BASEBALL PLAYERS! The fact that either the Yankee's or Red Sox do not play in the ALCS every year is an absolute joke and embarrassment to their franchises. The Rays are leading the AL East with a $41.9 million dollar payroll! Cashman and Epstein should be looking for the highest building to jump off. What a joke! Give the Rays GM a $200 million dollar payroll and see what happens. The Rays would win 130 games, dump that payroll, and rebuild with another 130 game-winning team. Go Rays!!! F the Spankees and Red Sucks!


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