If nothing else, it makes the tightwads far more cost-effective than their big-spending brethren. As
Forbes pointed out
at midseason, the aforementioned teams in Pittsburgh, Tampa, Oakland, Atlanta and Cleveland were spending less than $1 million per win, with Oakland and Tampa each hovering around $630,000. Compare that with the Dodgers, who were easily the league's least cost-effective playoff team at $1.7 million to $2.1 million per win.
It should be noted, however, that World Series wins are seldom cost-effective. As
Kevin Wells at The Washington Times
noted earlier this year, teams among the Top 5 payrolls in the league have won eight of the past 18 World Series. The only team to win one without shelling out salaries in the league's Top 15 was the Florida Marlins back in 1997, when their payroll ranked 25th out of 28 teams.
It's not that other thrifty teams haven't made it to baseball's biggest stage. It's just that they don't tend to fare well while they're on it. The 2010 Texas Rangers were ranked 27th when they lost to the 10th-ranked San Francisco Giants. In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays had the second-lowest payroll in the league, but lost to the 12th-highest Philadelphia Phillies. The Colorado Rockies made the World Series with the league's sixth-lowest payroll in 2007, only to be swept by the team with the second-highest: The Boston Red Sox.
As a business plan, keeping the payroll down has its benefits. The Houston Astros, for example eked out 50 wins this year and finished their first season in the American League by losing their last 15 games. By doing so,
they'll make a profit of roughly $99 million in 2013. That would make this year's Astros the most profitable team in league history and more profitable than the past six World Series champions combined.
It's also a great way of angering the fan base, poisoning the clubhouse and removing any hope of a playoff berth by midsummer. While small-budget teams have made big noise this season, the path to a championship is still lined with money. In the past 18 years, teams with payrolls ranked either first or second in the league have won the World Series seven times: The Yankees in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2009 and the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007. Even if you don't win, outspending everyone else still provides teams the best shot at late-October baseball. Though the Yankees didn't win it all in 2001 or 2003, their highest-in-the-league spending got them to the big show.
As well as drafting, researching and scrimping have worked out in Oakland, Tampa, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, major-market spending in Los Angeles, Boston, St. Louis and Detroit is maintaining baseball's expensive status quo.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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