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It’s NOT All About the Money

With the All-Star game approaching and the end of the first half of baseball nearing, the hype between the Yanks, Sox and now the Rays, is just starting.  The Yankees have consistently made the playoff for 13 seasons…will this be the year they do not?  The Yanks are also the highest paid MLB team for the past couple seasons (the Red Sox are having to spend more money after winning the WS).  This begs to question, can owners and managers buy championships?  Does the amount of money spent on a team correlate to that team’s success?

When beginning my search I noticed that Sports Law Blog did a similar comparison with salaries and success, but I could not find other comparisons after 2006.  I will attempt to continue their analysis for the first half of the 2008 season.

To start, I will analyze the top salaries, which includes 2/3 of the top AL East teams, the Red Sox and the struggling Yanks.  As many of you know, the Yanks are the most expensive team in baseball, spending a total of $209, 081,577 on their 2008 roster according to USA Today.  The next team on the list is the other New York team, the Mets, spending $71,288,201 less than the Yanks with a total of $137,793,376.  The Red Sox are fourth on the list spending $133,390,035 on their roster after winning the World Series last season.

The surprising Rays are second to last on the list, spending a mere $43,820,597 on their total roster this year.  That roster has earned them the best record in baseball. The Rays are 53-32 so far and are currently in first place by 3 games over the Red Sox, proving to the league that a low salary does not mean low quality players. Evan Langoria is having a Rookie of the Year type season, but no other Rays are really having a breakout year. This is a scary thought for the rest of the MLB with the second half of the season on the horizon. The Rays play as a team, with the heart and patience to hang in games and come back late in a match if they need to, unlike that of the Yanks so far and many other high paid rosters.

Another surprise team so far this season has been the other Florida squad, the Florida Marlins.  I remember hearing on opening day that the ENTIRE Marlins salary for 2008 was less than the salary of Alex Rodriguez alone this year.  The Marlins management has spent the least in the MLB, paying their players $21,811,500 to start opening day.  After A-Rod and his agent, Scott Boras, worked out a new contract with New York last season, A-Rod was guaranteed $28,000,000 for 2008.  I only analyzed and discussed a couple of teams.  If you want to view the entire list with all 30 MLB teams and their salaries click here.

Using the USA Today data and the results from the past several regular seasons and playoffs, I can conclude that a high payroll does not guarantee success. I have learned after watching March Madness, the NBA, MLB, NHL and just about every sport, that earnings and prior statistics that commentators and gamblers use to handicap games really mean nothing. It is all about the desire, dedication, training regimen, persistence, a little coaching and the overall mindset of the team that wins games.

Look at the NY Giants Super Bowl run and success last season. They came out of nowhere to prove everyone wrong and beat the heavily favored Patriots. Going by all the stats in the NFL, the G-men had no shot at beating Brady and the undefeated Patriots. The only thing they had on their side was the confidence from the great run they were on during the playoffs.

Since baseball does not have a salary cap, teams in New York can spend whatever they want on big name players. However, the only thing that matters at the end of the day is getting wins. Baseball is a team sport and as we can see from the Yankees past 6 seasons, big names (and paychecks) don’t always forge together to win big games. All a team needs to do is get into the playoffs and then anything can happen.

Although the MLB season is only almost half over, it still pays to point out that money does not correlate with success.  Darren looked at how this may eventually affect MLBPA agents in a post that he made back in 2006: Will The Yankees Success Hurt Agents?