Baseball fans love stories about the underdog. They also love to hate the New York Yankees, that is of course, non-Yankee fans love to hate the Yankees.
The Yankees are an easy target because they are in the playoff mix nearly every season, missing only one post-season since 1995. A perception of greed and cut throat business surrounds the New York organization, which spends more money than any of the other 29 teams in baseball. Some have referred to them as the “evil empire.”
Does money and success make you evil? Last time I checked, that was the American dream. That’s just one of a few points I want to discuss today.
Because the Yankees are typically in the playoffs, many have a misconception that baseball is no longer played on a level playing field.
Aside from the last decade-plus’ steroid scandals and the centerfield portion of Houston’s ballpark, baseball is generally played on a level playing field. What I’m saying is that, in principle, there is nothing wrong with the current playoff system or teams with lots of money using their resources to get there.
In today’s America, there seems to be a growing and unsettling culture emerging where people with lots of money are attacked for no other reason than the fact that they have lots of money. People say that baseball players make an “unholy amount of money.”
Baseball players get there money just the same as employees of any other field get it. They are receiving a portion of the billions that are generated through revenue acquired by the team. If they were not getting their fare share, people would be up in arms about that. Keep in mind that no boss in his or her right mind would ever agree to give an employee more money in a paycheck than they expect that worker to generate during his or her time with the company.
In other words, Alex Rodrigez’s contract may look unholy to the more humble in society, but in reality, he is merely getting a share of the revenue his name generates through merchandise and ticket sales. The Yankees would not pay him millions if they were not making millions. That makes Rodrigez’s contract, not only legal, but ethical as well.
There are problems with greed and corruption in this country, and those problems exist in New York, but don’t confuse what happens on Wall Street with what happens at the December winter meetings in baseball.
My second point is that having lots of money does not always spell success. In fact, in baseball, it spells success less often than you would think.
The top 10 teams in terms of payroll are the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Phillies, Mets, Tigers, White Sox, Angels, Mariners and Giants. Of those ten, only three earned playoff berths in 2010.
The Giants are the only team in the top 20 in payroll that has made it all the way to the World Series.
The other World Series team is the Texas Rangers. Where do they stand on the payroll scale? They are No. 27 out of 30 in payroll. Standing at No. 21 is the Tampa Bay Rays. They didn’t do anything but win the American League East in 2010, beating out non other than the Yankees for that title.
The Chicago Cubs have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the last four years, netting zero trips to the league championship series, meaning zero trips to the World Series.
The Mets have done the same, and they have not come close to getting into the playoffs. The Tigers and White Sox continue to be underachievers in the AL Central, all the time, carrying massive payrolls.
The Red Sox and the Angles too have spent hundreds of millions of dollars, but they netted no playoff appearances in 2010.
How diverse were the playoffs this year?
The NL East Phillies are No. 4 in payroll, but the NL Central winner Cincinnati is No. 19.
The NL West victor, San Francisco, is No. 10, while the NL Wild Card winner, the Braves, are No. 15.
In the AL, the East winner is, as mentioned before, No. 21, while the Central winners, the Twins, are at No. 11. The West was won by the Rangers at No. 27, while the No. 1 Yankees won the Wild Card.
In the World Series, which starts this week, we have a team representing the top 10 in payroll and a team representing the bottom 10 in payroll.
All in all, I’d say that money may create an unlevel playing field during the winter meetings, but it has little affect between the months of April and October.
People cannot blame the Yankees’ bloated payroll for their success. They were beaten out by the No. 27 team last week. The Rangers go to prove that teams can’t blame the lack of money for non-success either.
Rich teams like the Mets went home after September because of poor on-field coaching and poor general management. Poor teams like the Pirates went home, not for lack of money, but for the exact same reason the Mets did. Both teams are seeking new managers for 2011.
When it comes to the World Series this week, may the best team win.