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…
…[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.