Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Baseball's Crooked Playing Field

A week ago, the Twins and Tigers played out their respective regular seasons in a thrilling 12-inning tiebreaker at the Metrodome that ultimately ended in a walk-off victory for the Twins. The historical contest was everything a baseball game should be: two evenly matched teams battling one another to the bitter end in a high-stakes, must-win affair. Both the Twins and Tigers had their own sets of strengths and flaws, forcing each team's manager to engage in a lengthy chess match in an effort to work around his roster's weaknesses and put his best players in position to step up and deliver.

The Yankees/Twins ALDS match-up was a different story entirely. The Twins were severely overmatched from the start in this series, because the Yankees are a far, far better team. And that's not because their roster is more smartly assembled or because they are a more well-coached group of players. It's because a nearly unlimited payroll has allowed them to construct what is essentially an All-Star team. Each player in the Yankees lineup is a quality hitter and a legitimate home run threat. Their pitching staff is star-studded. Their bullpen is lethal.

But it's not difficult to see why this Yankees team is so dominant. Just look at who New York's big contributors were in this ALDS series. In Game 1, the Yankees received a dominant start from C.C. Sabathia, who they purchased for $161 million during the offseason. In Game 2, they got another strong start from A.J. Burnett, another spendy offseason rotation addition. That game ended when Mark Teixeira, their $180 million first base acquisition from the past winter, hit a walk-off homer. And the Yankees' biggest offensive game-changer throughout the entire series, Alex Rodriguez, is an admitted steroid user who made $32 million this season. In the end, the Yankees beat up on a far lesser team and got exactly what they paid for during the offseason: a trip to the ALCS with a World Series berth likely to follow. As we are all surely aware (especially after listening to the TBS announcers ogle over them for the entirety of the series), the Yankees are a great team. But, is that really anything for them or their fans to be proud of?

Major League Baseball's failure to create a remotely even playing field is rather egregious, and I think it's pretty sad that at this point it is widely accepted. The Yankees' $201 million payroll is about 33 percent higher than that of the next closest team -- the Mets -- and more than three times that of the Twins.

Whereas focusing their funds in certain areas forces small/medium-market teams to live with weaknesses in other areas, the Yankees are able to spend at will, filling nearly every position with star-caliber players. Whereas small/medium-market teams necessarily must occasionally let in-house talent walk when it gets too expensive, the Yankees are able to retain any player they want to (imagine how differently this series may have shaken out if the Twins still had Torii Hunter and Johan Santana). Whereas small/medium-market teams must build by drafting wisely and uncovering hidden gems on the interational scene, the Yankees are able to flex their financial muscles by plucking prospects whose signing bonus demands put lower-payroll teams out of the picture and by throwing heaps of cash at all the top international talent.

MLB has taken measures to keep big-market teams from gaining too large an advantage over their smaller-market counterparts, but these efforts have fallen laughably short. Without a draft slotting system, an international draft or a salary cap (or at least a luxury tax system that actually gets meaningful results), the big-market teams have pulled away and gained a massive competitive edge. The Yankees are making a mockery out of baseball's system by piling up a $200 million payroll and buying up all the top players on the free agent market.

Obviously, having a massive payroll does not automatically ensure outstanding results. The Mets ranked second in the majors in team payroll this year and were miserable. The Yankees, prior to this ALDS sweep, hadn't won a postseason series since 2004. People point to the fact that baseball has crowned eight different World Champs in the past nine years as some sort of proof that the system is sound and that the league features plenty of parity, but there is no denying that being able to outspend your opponent threefold provides a massive inherent competitive edge. That's just not right.

The Twins have overcome their budget constraints and have enjoyed more sustained success than almost any other small/medium-market team over the past decade or so. They have consistently posted winning records, they've made the playoffs five times in the past eight years, and they gave the Yankees a run for their money in this most recent ALDS series. But the fact remains that the Twins went 0-10 against the Yankees this year and were outhomered 6-0 by New York's cash-soaked lineup during this past series. People look at the Twins' epic struggles against the Yankees over the past eight years or so -- particularly in New York and in the postseason -- and they talk about how the Twins are mesmerized by the Yankee mystique. I'm not sure I buy that. The Twins are just consistently getting beat up on by much better teams. The Yankees don't make the same type of fundamental errors as the Twins in these games because they have better players. That's what money buys you.

As a fan of the Twins, I feel the burden of this remarkable payroll disadvantage, so I can't even imagine how much heavier that burden must weigh for fans of teams like the Royals and Marlins, who've not been lucky enough to escape from the doldrums.

The token response to these complaints is that life isn't fair. Well, baseball isn't life, it's a game. And it sure as hell ought to be fair.

65 comments:

Dwade said...

The Marlins have two WS titles in the last 12 years and won as many games as the Twins did this year in one fewer game. Loria may be a mongrel and an idiot, but they aren't languishing by any stretch of imagination.

Nick N. said...

The Marlins have certainly had their runs, but they've had a lot of bad teams and they are a great example of a team that just can't keep any talent in-house because of their payroll situation. They had to trade away Miguel Cabrera before he got expensive and now they'll probably have to trade Dan Uggla and/or Josh Johnson. They've done well enough, all things considered, but they've had a lot of sub 80-win seasons and it's not because they're bad at identifying talent.

Tricia said...

Love that last line about baseball being a game, and it sure as hell ought to be fair. Yes!

David said...

I think it's kind of fun to try to beat those rich bastards. The Yankees have had a financial advantage for decades, but they haven't won much lately. I still think we had a shot at beating them this year.

Badger said...

I would agree with your argument if it was not for the fact that the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, etc. pay a tremendous amount in cap penalties every year and most of that money goes into the pockets of the receiving owners rather than team building. For example in 2004, the Yankees payroll was $185 million and they paid the $76 million in penalties. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays were the beneficiary of some of this money and in all received $33 million dollars. However, the Devil Rays only spent $29.6 million in 2005. That's 4 million dollars less than they received in revenue sharing for the 2004 season. So if the Devil Rays, Twins, and the Marlins, etc. cannot compete with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox, etc. it is because their owners do not care as much about winning as they do about making a buck. I know you need an excuse for why the Twins lost but it's not because the playing field is unfair but because some owners are dedicated to winning and others are dedicated to profit.

Anonymous said...

The Marlins' two titles are always used as evidence that small market teams can compete, but everyone seems to forget that Florida pretty much bought their first title, bringing in a bunch of expensive free agents to make their run.

Their 2003 run was more in line with a small-market team, but that team won the NL wild card with 91 wins in a year in which the big-spending Yankees won 101 and the slightly-less-big-spending BoSox won 95.

It's not unreasonable to say that if Florida had been forced to compete for a playoff spot with the beasts of the AL East, they probably would have been on the outside looking in come October.

Nick N. said...

I think it's kind of fun to try to beat those rich bastards. The Yankees have had a financial advantage for decades, but they haven't won much lately. I still think we had a shot at beating them this year.

The Twins had a shot, sure. But it's ridiculously unfair that essentially any team going into a series against the Yankees is a huge underdog solely because they couldn't dream of spending the same amount of money on talent.

I know you need an excuse for why the Twins lost but it's not because the playing field is unfair but because some owners are dedicated to winning and others are dedicated to profit.

Badger, thanks for the thoughtful response -- you raise some valid points.

You're right that there already is a luxury tax in place but obviously it's not doing much to deter spending. You're also correct in noting that some owners are simply pocketing the money they're receiving through this system rather than investing it back into their team. There are two simple solutions to this. One is to institute a hard cap with a both a maximum and minimum. Or, if you're not into forcing teams to spend a particular amount, another (more realistic) alternative would be to institute a more aggressive luxury tax that will curb the ridiculous high-end spending, while making it so teams who don't reach a certain minimum payroll requirement (say, $50M?) receive incrementally less benefit from the luxury tax. So to say, you won't get the money unless you are investing it back into your team.

Finally, my column today is not about needing "an excuse for why the Twins lost" -- the Twins lost this series by themselves. It's about pointing out a huge flaw with the way Major League Baseball is currently structured. This flaw is highlighted when an All-Star Yankees team sweeps a low-budget midwest team out of the playoffs, so I thought this an appropriate time to address the issue.

There's no way you will convince me that the playing field isn't unfair in this league. If you don't think that the Yankees' ability to spend 2-3 times more than most of the league's teams could conceivably spend -- even with a great owner who doesn't emphasize profit -- gives them a huge inherent advantage, you're kidding yourself.

Anonymous said...

How much was the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays' payroll last year (as opposed to, say, the Red Sox's...whom they beat in the ALCS)....and how much was the AL Champion Detroit Tigers' payroll in 2006?

The Yank's payroll didn't cause the Twins' baserunning blunders.

RayC said...

How much money does Twins owner Jim Pohlad have again?

Anonymous said...

http://www.startribune.com/business/16332206.html

Anonymous said...

It's called a commitment to winning, something the pathetic Twins will never believe in.

Nothing is stoping the Pohalds from spending some cash, we just bitch cause other teams are doing it and we're stuck with Nick Punto as our prime offseason move.

Don't blame the Yankees, blame the Pohlads and the the other countless owners will line their pockets with luxery tax money instead of putting it back into their team.

The system is screwed up and it need work, but I'll point the finger at these billionaire owners who want money instead of rings way before I blame the Yankees.

Anonymous said...

While the Twins operate in a much smaller market than the Yankees their ownership group/Pohlad family is much wealthier than the Steinbrenner family, in fact the late Carl Pohlad was among the 102 most wealthy people in America with a net worth over $3.6 billion so please spare us the lack of funds available to invest in the team.

The Steinbrenner family could have been content with a smaller payroll and the team and would still make a good profit in their market, but choose to reward their fans for their loyalty, and invested heavy dollars at at great risk, and produced a winner. Remeber spending huge FA dollars is no garantee of producing a winner.

The Twins also reap the rewards of revenue sharing and I doubt the Pohlad's complain much when MLB cuts those huge checks do they?

Instead of pocketing those funds and calling it good, maybe they should reinvest those dollars back into their team instead of their own fat wallets.

The Twins have a larger market share than both the Cardnals and Rockies but they've all had successful years and all 3 could have easily advanced (their openents simply outplayed them).

Nick N. said...

How much was the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays' payroll last year (as opposed to, say, the Red Sox's...whom they beat in the ALCS)....and how much was the AL Champion Detroit Tigers' payroll in 2006?

Individual exceptions don't disprove a trend. No one has said it's IMPOSSIBLE to win a division with a lower payroll and certainly anything can happen in the short series setup that comprises baseball's playoffs. But -- I repeat -- if you don't think teams like the Yankees enjoy an enormous competitive advantage by virtue of having a far larger budget than other teams, you are kidding yourself. It's not even debatable.

The Yank's payroll didn't cause the Twins' baserunning blunders.

No, but it did lead to their winning 103 games during the regular season, gaining homefield advantage, getting a huge pitching edge in both of the first two games and outhomering the Twins 6-0. It takes more than a few baserunning blunders to go 0-10 against a team in a season. Anyway, as I said in my comment above, this article isn't specifically about this year's Twins/Yankees ALDS series, it's about an overarching problem in MLB's structure that comes to light at times like this.

Don't blame the Yankees, blame the Pohlads and the the other countless owners will line their pockets with luxery tax money instead of putting it back into their team.

I addressed this in an earlier comment in stating that the luxury tax revenue should only fully benefit teams that are investing that money back into their team. It's not a difficult concept to grasp.

This conversation isn't limited to the Twins, even though I used them as my example (being that this is a Twins blog)... most small-market teams don't have owners on Pohlad's level in terms of personal worth. And beyond that, regardless of how much money Pohlad has it is completely unfair to expect him put far more into the team than he's making from it. It'd be nice if every owner was like Mark Cuban, but that's not realistic. No team can hope to earn as much as the Yankees do in that market, and baseball needs better guidelines to stop turning that into a humongous advantage for New York teams.

Alex said...

I think the biggest problem is not just a salary cap but a minimum salary per team. If a team can't generate enough revenue to meet this minimum after a few years they should fold. E.g. maybe have a min =70 max=130 and anything above the max pays a penalty.

SethSpeaks said...

"How much money does Twins owner Jim Pohlad have again?"

I've never liked this argument... how much money the Pohlad family has, has nothing to do with how much revenue the team brings in. Could they dip into their other revenue streams to help the Twins? Maybe, but who would do that?

The Steinbrenner family spends more money simply because their team generates more revenue. I really doubt that they've dipped into their own savings accounts in any way.

Anonymous said...

The Pohlads COULD have retained Santana and Hunter and spared us the sight of Carlos Gomez running the bases and swinging the bat. They are, after all, multi-billionaires.

Mike Ilitch allowed Ordonez to vest into an $18 million option for next year despite declining revenues and a local market in economic ruins. Why? Because he wants to win.

If Mark Cuban bought the Twins, do we think he would have let Santana and Hunter go?

If we were a small market with an owner without deep pockets, I think we could complain. But in this case, we should blame the owner, not major league baseball.

Anonymous said...

How much money does it cost to teach your baserunners to look for the third base coach when rounding third base?

On the road with.... said...

I don't believe ol' George Steinbrenner spent all that money for Yankees fans. He spent it to fuel his own ego. He wants to win sure, but it is ego driven. After 2001 World Series loss to Arizona, George got mad and started buying all-stars. I won't my owner to step up money decisions when warrented but just to buy for sake of ego does not prove to me the Yankees owner cares about their fans.

Anonymous said...

awwwwww, boo hoo hoo. I'm a sad sack twins fan named Nick who cant seem to understand baseball economics and the idea of "fair" are not a mutual concept. I guess the twins should have just not even showed up bc I mean it was such a foregone conclusion that the big bad yankees would beat them and not even have to swing the bat. The yanks just show up and teams tremble at their massive salaries and just give up. boo hoo hoo. In the words of a great comic book master.....WORST.....BLOG....EVER.

Nick N. said...

To those who are coming over here after reading the excerpts of this post on Neyer's blog, I suggest you go through the entire original post and/or the comments section before stating your case. I'm seeing a lot of people point out that Pohlad has enough money to spend more, but that kind of misses the point. It's unfair to expect any owner to spend way more than they team is earning in revenue, and no team outside of New York could possibly hope to haul in the kind of revenue that the Yankees do.

How much money does it cost to teach your baserunners to look for the third base coach when rounding third base?

That's the type of thing that happens when you have to force bit players into prominent roles. Fortunately for the Yankees, that's a dilemma they can afford to avoid.

Anonymous said...

I love the Twins apologists who insist, that the 5 titles in 8 years is somehow a great thing.
Listen, it is better than losing no doubt. But, eventually you have to take that next step. That next step would've been, in the off season this year, after we lost game 163. Really outside of 2006, this division has been the worst in baseball. Look at our record outside of the division over all those years.
Signing Nick Punto, and no relievers, no starting pitching in the off season does not show a commitment to winning. By winning I mean in the playoffs.
The way this season ended was great, but for me it was a hallow disappointing season. The division was terrible. We made safe moves for marginal players. The Rauch deal is the only one that would pay dividends next year. OC batted .241 with an OB% of .265 before the last 3 weeks of the season. He is not a 2 hitter and very much a diminished fielder @ short stop.
I don't care about the money differences. When you have a chance to be good, really good, for multiple years you have to go for it, and sacrifice. The Twins have never done that. They won't this off season either (watch as they sign junk in OC and Pravano).

All the talk about payroll, although somewhat valid, is still a cover up or deflecting the real issue, which is trying to build a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER, for a few years, when you have the window of opportunity. Sorry I yelled.

Nick N. said...

In the words of a great comic book master.....WORST.....BLOG....EVER.

Really more of a paraphrase than a direct quote, but that still doesn't stop this from being one of the most amusing comments ever.

Anonymous said...

Nick, the ammount of money the owner has does matter. Do you think when Steinbrenner bought the Yankees the team was pulling attendance of 3 mill plus? They were lucky if there were 15,000 a game back then. He spent money to bring in name players hence better attendance hence more revenue. If he did not have a lot of money, he could not bring in the talent to improve the product on the field hence poor attendance. He invested money into his team and built to where it is today. I am enclosing the link for attendance as proof. last I checked, the m-dome held over 60,000 but average attendance is 25,000. I guess you should blame the fans for not coming to the park to support their team. Lousy fans you have.

http://www.baseball-almanac.com/teams/yankatte.shtml

Nick N. said...

last I checked, the m-dome held over 60,000 but average attendance is 25,000. I guess you should blame the fans for not coming to the park to support their team. Lousy fans you have.

Metrodome holds around 45,000 for baseball. The Twins also have a metropolitan population of around 3.2 million to draw from, as opposed to 19 million in New York.

Yeah, must be the lousy fans.

Anonymous said...

So now it's a population issue. Nick, I admire the loyalty and passion, I really do. I apologize if the website I went to gave me the wrong attendance #, it was probably for football games. The reality is that if you guys had held onto Santana, Bartlett, Garza ( I believe he was yours ) it would have taken us 5 games to close this series out instead of 3 and it would have only cost your owner an additional $25 mill for those extra two games, and maybe attendance would have been better but I doubt it. I sure as hell hope that with all this whining you have season tickets, cause if you don't, then you my friend are part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Nick, you make an excuse for the Pohlads as if they have no control over their revenues.

Yes, New York is a large market. But first off, split it in half because the Yankees are in one of the few markets that has two competing franchises.

The Steinbrenners have such a rich revenue stream because they invested in the business. In 1973, they bought the team for $10 million and drew less than 1 million fans. They developed the Yankees brand, spent money to bring in quality players, renovated the stadium, were the first to sell cable TV rights, sold marketing rights to Adidas, developed the YES cable network, etc. etc. etc.

By contrast, Pohlad bought the Twins, won his World Series, got tired of his new toy, tried to move it to North Carolina, and ultimately tried to get the Twins contracted out of the league.

If the Steinbrenners ran the Yankees like the Pohlads run the Twins, perhaps the Yankees would have a $58 million payroll today, too.

Cy Farnsworth said...

Why is that the Yankees shouldn't be allowed to spend as much as they want? In any other business in the world the owner can invest as much money as he wants to try and outperform the competition, but for some reason in baseball people act like they are entitled to see their less successful business succeed.

OK, so competitive balance is good for the league as a whole, I can buy that argument. So the Yankees actually give small market teams money out of their pocket to allow them to keep up. It's not their responsibility to stop improving their team, to stop building their business, just because Pohlad or Loria declines to do the same.

Finally, here's the most convincing point for me: there is no salary cap because small market owners don't want one. There have been zero serious efforts to institute a hard cap and any of the recent CBA negotiations; probably because the cheaper owners want to continue making money without spending to a salary floor.

It sucks for Minnesota and the other low payroll franchises, but the resources to change things are out there. Ownership just chooses not to utilize them.

Nick N. said...

Nick, you make an excuse for the Pohlads as if they have no control over their revenues.

I'm not making excuses for the Pohlads. I was never a fan of Carl Pohlad. This is about the league as a whole and the sad fact that even the most well-run franchise with the most generous of owners could not hope to keep up with the Yankees in terms of spending while operating out of an average-sized market.

I specifically noted that the Twins have been in better shape than some over the past decade. But some franchises have really felt the hurt of lopsided payroll structuring, and for many of those franchises there doesn't seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

In any other business in the world the owner can invest as much money as he wants to try and outperform the competition, but for some reason in baseball people act like they are entitled to see their less successful business succeed.

NBA? NFL?

DMT said...

Honestly when is this complaining about payroll going to stop? If you look at the teams with the most money, they're all in huge money-market areas. New York is the financial capital of the world. Why is it hard to understand the Yankees can spend the money they have earned for being a successful franchise? So you're willing to tell me that if the Twins go into a decade and a half run winning their division almost every year and keeping their talent while filling the gaps with good players, you would be upset at team ownership for putting out a good team? Get real. I know MN isn't a big market area, but don't constantly punish us fans because we enjoy their winning tradition.

Cy Farnsworth said...


NBA? NFL?


Fine, professional sports in general restrict sound and legal investment into one's own business. My overall point still stands.

DMT said...

I need to make another point, because this doesn't come up too often. People ask why do the Yankees spend so much? There's a couple more reasons why. The Yankees have a winning record year in and year out, for 15 years(I may be wrong) the Yankees have been in probably the top 5-6 in their overall season record. What does that give you? A low pick in the MLB draft. The Yankees will not land a Joe Mauer or Zack Greinke as easily as the losing teams. The last guy to really make a splash was Derek Jeter. If the Yankees relied on their farm they wouldn't last too long in the AL East. Which brings me to point #2.

The Yankees are in the toughest division in baseball. Toronto(finished 4th this year!) could easily have won in the AL Central. Barring tough years by Alex Rios and Vernon Wells, they could have provided Boston with a good fight. That's the reason they spend, to keep up with the tough teams we have to face 18-19 times per year!

Nick N. said...

Fine, professional sports in general restrict sound and legal investment into one's own business. My overall point still stands.

It does? Last I checked, Major League Baseball was a professional sport.

New York is the financial capital of the world. Why is it hard to understand the Yankees can spend the money they have earned for being a successful franchise?

They've been a very successful franchise in large part because they play in the financial capital in the world. I don't understand how you can write those two sentences consecutively without seeing the irony.

I'm not denying that Steinbrenner has done a good job of building the Yankee brand, but to it's ignorant to act like the team's success is not largely a result of where they play.

The Yankees have a winning record year in and year out, for 15 years(I may be wrong) the Yankees have been in probably the top 5-6 in their overall season record. What does that give you? A low pick in the MLB draft. The Yankees will not land a Joe Mauer or Zack Greinke as easily as the losing teams. The last guy to really make a splash was Derek Jeter. If the Yankees relied on their farm they wouldn't last too long in the AL East. Which brings me to point #2.

Gee, I'm so terribly sorry that the Yankees have been saddled with the burden of picking low in the first round because they finish at the top of the division every year. The draft is built that way specifically BECAUSE it is supposed to be difficult to maintain a dynasty.

The Yankees are in the toughest division in baseball. Toronto(finished 4th this year!) could easily have won in the AL Central. Barring tough years by Alex Rios and Vernon Wells, they could have provided Boston with a good fight. That's the reason they spend, to keep up with the tough teams we have to face 18-19 times per year!

If the Yankees can't win without drastically outspending their opponents, then they don't deserve to win.

I can't stand this widespread notion that the Yankees are entitled to win the AL East and should be able to do whatever is necessary to achieve that goal.

DMT said...

I'm not denying that Steinbrenner has done a good job of building the Yankee brand, but to it's ignorant to act like the team's success is not largely a result of where they play.

----
That is exactly what gets me. So basically you're blaming the Yankees for being in the spot they're in because some crazy baseball guy decided the Bronx was a good place to start up a team(back in the 1900's).

Do you see how silly you sound? Look at the Giants, A's, Cubs, Astros. Why aren't they as dominant as they should be, coming from huge financial cities or surroundings, in your argument they should be in the playoffs EVERY year.

DMT said...

Gee, I'm so terribly sorry that the Yankees have been saddled with the burden of picking low in the first round because they finish at the top of the division every year. The draft is built that way specifically BECAUSE it is supposed to be difficult to maintain a dynasty.

-----
You really think I didn't know that? My point was that if the Yankees continue to have winning records their farm can not be relied on as easily as say KC or the Nationals. That's why they must look outside of their system for quality players.

DMT said...

I can't stand this widespread notion that the Yankees are entitled to win the AL East and should be able to do whatever is necessary to achieve that goal.

-----
You seriously need to relax. Nobody is entitling the Yankees to anything. Only predicting the Yankees WS chances. "should be able to do whatever is necessary to achieve their goal" - What are they doing that is illegal may I ask? Is there a salary cap in place that I haven't heard of? You guys need to stop acting like the Yankees have this pact with the devil that lets them spend what they're "entitled" to spend..

Nick N. said...

That is exactly what gets me. So basically you're blaming the Yankees for being in the spot they're in because some crazy baseball guy decided the Bronx was a good place to start up a team(back in the 1900's).

New York has football, basketball and hockey teams, and none of them enjoy the same competitive advantage that the Yankees/Mets do. The fact that New York is a gigantic city shouldn't result in unfair benefits for their teams. In most sports, it doesn't.

You really think I didn't know that? My point was that if the Yankees continue to have winning records their farm can not be relied on as easily as say KC or the Nationals. That's why they must look outside of their system for quality players.

This isn't the NBA draft. Plenty of quality players can be found outside of the top half of the first round (particularly when you have the money to go over slot, as NY does). Furthermore, the Yankees are welcome to look outside their organization for talent, but does that mean they have to be able to buy the top free agents on the market every year by offering contracts most other teams couldn't hope to match?

You seriously need to relax. Nobody is entitling the Yankees to anything. Only predicting the Yankees WS chances. "should be able to do whatever is necessary to achieve their goal" - What are they doing that is illegal may I ask? Is there a salary cap in place that I haven't heard of? You guys need to stop acting like the Yankees have this pact with the devil that lets them spend what they're "entitled" to spend..

I'm not accusing the Yankees of any wrongdoing. I'm pointing out a huge flaw in the way Major League Baseball operates and using the Yankees as an example to illustrate that point.

The problem here is not that the Yankees spend freely and accumulate all the top free agent talent. It's that MLB allows them to do it.

DMT said...

Anyway, unless you have connections directly to Mr. Selig than what are the point of these blogs. There's already hundreds of them out there. All it does is anger Yankee fans and divide us as fans of the game even more. Nobody will ever convince me into being anything other than a Yankee fan no matter how much hatred there is.

DMT said...

I'm not accusing the Yankees of any wrongdoing. I'm pointing out a huge flaw in the way Major League Baseball operates and using the Yankees as an example to illustrate that point.

--------
No, the only example you're using is the Yankees just like everyone else. Boston won 2 WS in the past 5 years, I don't hear people crying about their Payroll.

Matt P said...

Goddammit ESPN. I loved this blog because the vast majority of people commenting on articles weren't retarded Yankee fans. I think you should put in a zip code verification so we can get back to the status quo. Great article though.

Broker said...

I gotta admit I get a kick out of people really opinionated and for that matter indignant about silly stuff like baseball. That said there just happen to be a couple of things I would like to mention.
1. The Steinbrenner family has no where near the wealth that Polhads have. However you must keep in mind that the Yankees pay for themselves plus a nice profit. The Yankees have radio and TV revenues that are enormous. I suspect a reader can tell us just how much. BTW I seem to remember when the Twins tried to do something similar everyone said they were just being greedy.
2. Over the last baseball season the Twins did quite well. In fact they had the 3rd highest batting AVG in baseball as well as the 5th most runs, the 3rd most hits, the 6th most triples and so on. I glossed over the fact they hardly had any doubles but maybe I misread the chart. It was on yahoo. The Yankees did a little better mainly with home runs otherwise they were maybe #1 where we were #3.
3. Our pitching wasn't nearly as good over the course of the season but was coming on strong after somehow getting by or around a lot of misfortune.
4. On paper the Yanks are definitely a better team but not that much better. Certainly not $140,000,000 better. In a 5 game series the Twins should have come a lot closer than they did.
5. The Twins outhit them .257 to .225 or 29 to 23 hits. We had a better OBP. I won't ramble on and on or for that matter won't mention the pitching but frankly our guys simply didn't show up.
6. I would sorta be OK with 3-2 and maybe even 3-1 but 3 zip with the way they did over the year is just not good enough.
7. I really don't mind the unlevel playing field. I'm old enough to remember a lot of years when the Yankees sucked. In fact I don't think they have won much lately. Was it 7 or 8 years ago that they won a series? Besides I enjoy rooting against the "Evil Empire"
8. The Twins pay for themselves too and we have gotten a lot more bang for the buck than New York.
9. Frankly, I would rather have the Polhads donate money to a number of local charities than get into a spending contest with the Steinbrenners. Another 100 home runs at the cost of 140,000,000 doesn't make much sense to me. BTW that would put us about even for home runs.
10. OK, I'm done

Anonymous said...

Nick- I did as you asked and read through your blog and all comments. Being a Yankee fan, I used to hear your argument all the time at the beginning of the decade. It's old. I have the strangest feeling that you are just extremely upset after seeing your Twins lose 3 straight after looking so promising the last few weeks of the season. Understandable. You mentioned some trend in which all of the high payroll teams are consistently better than the low payroll teams. Since you singled out the Yankees as your prime example, I will too. As you know, the Yankees haven't won a world series since 2000. That would be 8 seasons in which they have been discarded by better teams in the playoffs. Payroll wise, the Yankees didn't start having a ridiculous "advantage" until after they started coming up short year after year. I'm not gonna start throwing numbers out there, don't really feel like it. But I will say that in 1998, that Yankees team was/is regarded as one of the best teams of all time, based on their regular season standings and postseason performance. They had the second highest payroll that year, right behind the Orioles, who finished 4th in the division with a losing record. From 1996-2000, the Yankees won, and they won because they had great, well rounded teams with great chemistry. They didn't win because of an inflated payroll. I've been a Yankee fan since 1993 and the trend I am seeing and the trend you are seeing are not the same.

Nick N. said...

Anyway, unless you have connections directly to Mr. Selig than what are the point of these blogs. There's already hundreds of them out there. All it does is anger Yankee fans and divide us as fans of the game even more. Nobody will ever convince me into being anything other than a Yankee fan no matter how much hatred there is.

When I write that the Twins shouldn't sign a player, I don't do so with the idea that the Twins front office will read it and heed my advice. I write these things to open a conversation, and the conversation about baseball's uneven playing field is one that needs to be had.

No, the only example you're using is the Yankees just like everyone else. Boston won 2 WS in the past 5 years, I don't hear people crying about their Payroll.

I used the Yankees as an example because they just swept the Twins out of the playoffs. My feelings on this issue apply to the Mets, the Red Sox, the Dodgers and any other big-market team whose payroll towers over the majority of other teams in the league.

Nick- I did as you asked and read through your blog and all comments. Being a Yankee fan, I used to hear your argument all the time at the beginning of the decade. It's old. I have the strangest feeling that you are just extremely upset after seeing your Twins lose 3 straight after looking so promising the last few weeks of the season.

I respect your take, but it's just not correct. I considered the Twins' season a success after they won the division and had no illusions of them getting past the Yankees. It was a frustrating series, but the results were expected. I just figured it was an appropriate time to bring up this topic, which has bothered me for some time, and not just because it's unfair to the Twins but because it is unfair for all low-revenue teams who can't spend anywhere close to the level of teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.

The rest of your comment is seemingly an attempt to prove that the Yankees' unlimited cash doesn't actually give them a meaningful advantage, but with all due respect, that's hogwash. A correlative analysis is not necessary here; this is common sense. The Yankees can use their financial advantage to sign marquis free agents, retain any players they want to, draft players whose contract demands push them out of other teams' price ranges, and outbid other teams on international talent.

Whether not the Yankees have been putting their deep funds to good use and turning their financial advantage into division titles and World Series championships is another matter, but there is absolutely zero doubt that having a payroll that is more then three times larger than the average team provides with with a sizable inherent advantage. And that just is not fair. Period.

alex w said...

I can't agree more with Matt P. Maybe being connected to ESPN is not going to be a benefit for this blog (unless you are making money on ad revenue), because if I wanted to read stupid pissing contests between overly sensitive fans, I could go to many other places...perhaps this will be a one time occurrence.

As for the discussion...
1) I think forcing all new players go through the same annual draft is a no-brainer. This doesn't solve the problem you point out, but no-brainers rarely do.
2) Bringing up individual exceptions to the point that money underlies success misses the point. Sure the Yankees don't win every year, sure the Marlins have one WS with a small payroll and of course the biggest point, all the money the Mets have thrown at players hasn't brought them a WS title.

Outside of those individual examples, it is difficult not to notice that those teams that make the playoffs tend to be the higher spending teams. Which really shouldn't be all that controversial a claim, since of course the amount of money a teams spends has a big effect on how successful they are, to deny it would be to deny a basic underpinning of a capitalist system, that on average things are worth what you pay for them. If spending more money wasn't likely to yield good results, people probably wouldn't do it (on average).

3) In general I think there are two things for the league and fans to consider:
i) What is best for the league…what will maximize baseballs popularity and revenue? I don’t think things are improved by making it a perfectly flat playing field where random chance seems to dictate the eventual winners and losers (I know this is unrealistic, but how far should we stay away from this). For instance, I am not sure the NFL is improved by the apparent ability of mediocre teams to make the playoffs, because there is so much equality.
ii) How much of their revenue to teams owe to the existence of other teams? If every team besides the Cubs were to fold, then the Cubs could win the World Series every year (by default), but I doubt they would attract many fans. Perhaps baseball should explore how much the team / league should collect for the TV / radio rights for games (for instance, I believe most if not all TV rights for baseball games belong to the individual teams, while in the NFL they belong to the league and in College Football they belong to the conference and the NCAAA, besides Notre Dame who weaseled out of that on a technicality, namely that they aren’t in a conference).

4) For the sake of playing the devils advocate, it seems Nick that you are complaining that the current situation should be changed, so that fans in smaller/cheaper markets who want to cheer for a winner can. But you could route for a winner (not a local one) and if you wanted to route for a local one, you could move to someplace that has an expensive team to route for. I know it would be nice to have that while living in Minnesota, but, hey I wish I could live in MN, route for the Twins and gophers (hockey, that is) and enjoy the generally nice demeanor of the population, but I can’t handle the winters or the summers, so I had to make a choice. I moved to the west coast, where I don’t care about the teams and the people aren’t as friendly.

5) One thing I love (loved?) about New York and New Yorkers in particular is that they don’t care about what the rest of the country thinks about them. I lived in the Midwest and people complained about how the people on the coasts looked down on them, I live on the west coast where people are always justifying themselves by claming the east coast is too hostile or formal and my friends on Boston complain about NY, but the people in NY don’t seem to care what the rest of the country is doing or thinks about them, so I can only conclude that the Yankee fans here are probably not from NY, because no self respecting NYer would waste their time on a podunk blog from the flyover portion of the country.

alex w said...

I apologize, that last comment was way too long.

Anonymous said...

I am saying that since the Yankees have had a sizeable payroll advantage over all of baseball, they have not won a world series, and have been continually knocked out by teams that are far inferior to them (by your standards, not mine). Sure, the Yankees have probably looked like the best team on paper every year since 2001, but clearly they haven't had what it takes. This is why they still play the games. I'm not denying that there is a (monetary) advantage, but you seem to be exaggerating the size of this advantage and the effects that it has had. There are two sides to this coin, whether you want to agree or not. Your argument is not common sense, it is entirely subjective. I can't predict the future, and I don't know what the Yankees will do this year, next year, and so on. But based on what I know right now, I stand by my argument.

Nick N. said...

I am saying that since the Yankees have had a sizeable payroll advantage over all of baseball, they have not won a world series, and have been continually knocked out by teams that are far inferior to them (by your standards, not mine).

That is far more of an indictment of the way the Yankees have been run than any sort of evidence against the basic truth that their dramatic payroll edge provides them with a distinct advantage.

Anonymous said...

The beauty of baseball is that the very best teams (regardless of payroll) end up playing .630 ball, and they end up playing a bunch of .530 - .600 teams in the playoffs. Unlike the NBA or the NFL, the best teams don't make it to the championship series every year simply because their advantage of the other teams in the playoffs is marginal, and baseball is a game of funny bounces.

Yankees / Twins was hardly a walkover, and it ultimately came down to the Twins making Little League baserunning mistakes and their $11 million closer spitting the bit. Yes, the Yankees had a better team top to bottom and a larger margin for error, but just by the nature of baseball the lesser team had a legitimate chance to win.

In the big picture, MLB wants NY, Boston, LA, etc. to have the very best teams. Successful teams in the largest, most affluent markets = maximum ticketing, concessions, merchandising, TV, and radio revenue + greater global branding opportunities. Common business sense says you probably want 20 million happy fans in New York than 1 million in Kansas City.

But for those niche markets, devise the "AL Central" and "NL Central" where you let a less talented team with a worse record into the playoffs every year. That way, every fan can dream every spring.

But make sure you institute a "Wild Card" so that you get an extra large market team into the playoffs every year while giving niche market teams another hope to grab onto.

The only way to guarantee that this works and to maximize MLB revenues is to make sure you DON'T have a salary cap. What's wrong with that?

Anonymous said...

That is far more of an indictment of the way the Yankees have been run than any sort of evidence against the basic truth that their dramatic payroll edge provides them with a distinct advantage.
-------------------

Once again, this is your opinion, not basic truth. The Yankees had a more distinct advantage when they had a better TEAM, from 1996-2000. I think 3 championships in 4 years provides sufficient evidence for that. So where's the evidence for this huge advantage since then? You're so sure there is one, so please explain. Regarding how the Yankees have been "run" the last 7-8 years, I think I can probably use your words to describe this. "the Yankees are able to retain any player they want to/the Yankees are able to flex their financial muscles by plucking prospects whose signing bonus demands put lower-payroll teams out of the picture and by throwing heaps of cash at all the top international talent." So essentially, that is what has given the Yankees a huge advantage over all of baseball, but it's also the problem with how they're ran. Hmmm...

Nick N. said...

So essentially, that is what has given the Yankees a huge advantage over all of baseball, but it's also the problem with how they're ran. Hmmm...

That's not the problem with how they're run. Having money doesn't guarantee that it is going to be spent well. The Yankees have misfired on several contracts over the past several years, but that doesn't mean being able to sign those top free agents -- and then not be financially crippled when the contracts don't work out -- isn't a big advantage.

Bill Lindeke said...

Nick... I'm a long-time reader of your blog. I fail to understand why people aren't getting your rather obvious point. I suppose the ideology of fandom is that owners are philanthropists, paying players out of personal or civic pride.

The fact is that, unlike other pro sports, baseball has a very imbalanced financial landscape. The reason Yankees fans are so annoying is that they (willfully) blind themselves to this fact.

We all see what we want to see, but the massive payroll discrepancies in baseball are a crying shame. The vast majority of teams have no real shot at winning in the playoffs most years. The fact that baseball still manages to keep a semblance of competitiveness is a testament to the inherent strength and beauty of the game.

(Incidentally. the same argument about inequality would hold true for the Mets or Cubs even though they're consistently mediocre. If all the big-market teams had decent management, baseball's uneven playing field would be truly intolerable, condemning Pittsburgh, K.C., Baltimore, and the rest to lifetimes of baseball purgatory.)

Anonymous said...

Yankees fans aren't blind to the financial imbalance. We just don't see it as a problem.

Do the Yankees have a better chance of winning year after year because of their payroll? Absolutely. But why exactly is that a bad thing?

From a business and philosophical standpoint, shouldn't society prefer that the team with 20 million fans win most of the time and the team with 1 million fans win some of the time than the other way around?

Anonymous said...

Hey, good thing Bill Lindeke is here to set the record straight. You really nailed it, dude. The thing that's annoying here isn't the Yankees inflated payroll, it's that you people look at it and exaggerate/inflate the effects that it has on baseball. The Yankees haven't come close to winning a world series for 7 years, yet you still single them out and complain. I'm sorry that you are (obviously) bitter after a few rather dissapointing losses. I'm also sorry that your Twins don't know how to run the bases. Regardless of whatever spin you try to put on it, those baserunning fundamentals aren't bought for millions of dollars. They are professional baseball players, and are expected to play the game with an intelligence level greater than that of a 16 year old kid. The only advantages the Yankees had in the division series were a fatigued Twins team in game 1, and the ability to play fundamental baseball. There is no "obvious point" here, just a handful of disgruntled Twins fans that are digging up an old issue that was abandoned when it was realized that the Yankees' huge spending was hurting them more than anything else. I see plenty of competitiveness out there, and it's fairly common to see small market teams do well. People will keep their mouths shut when the Yankees lose, but when they win, it's always a "damn shame". Suck it up, people.

Leslie said...

Does baseball need salary cap? Absoultely, but let's not talk about how the disaparity of salaries played a role in the Twins' awful postseason performance. The Twins screw themselves by playing awful fundamental baseball in this series.

DMT said...

Does baseball need salary cap? Absoultely, but let's not talk about how the disaparity of salaries played a role in the Twins' awful postseason performance. The Twins screw themselves by playing awful fundamental baseball in this series.

--------------

Sure you can institute a salary cap, but remember there has to be a floor too. And considering how many teams have a payroll well over $100 million, that would mean teams like the Twins, Marlins, Nationals etc. would HAVE to increase their payrolls dramatically. Remember...that's money your team supposedly 'doesn't' have..

Nick N. said...

The only advantages the Yankees had in the division series were a fatigued Twins team in game 1, and the ability to play fundamental baseball.

And a lineup filled with 20+ HR, 850+ OPS hitters. And a dominant top two starting pitchers that they bought for $250M this offseason. The Twins' first two starters in that series had about two years of experience combined and made less than a million dollars between them this season.

Seriously, I'm open to listening to the other side of this argument, but you're not going to make any progress by completely ignoring blatantly obvious facts.

This comment section has been a bit maddening at times, but I do appreciate everyone's input. I'll have a follow-up on this post tomorrow, so check back if you'd like to continue the debate.

DMT said...

Seriously, I'm open to listening to the other side of this argument, but you're not going to make any progress by completely ignoring blatantly obvious facts.

------

Here's another "fact" for you. How about you take a look at the ages of these players in question. The Yankees have a number of guys with proven track records that acquired these large contracts because of their past successes. Especially the 4 remaining Yankees from the '96-'00 dynasty. Jeter(age:35; $21 million), Posada(38; $13 million), M. Rivera(39; $15 million), Pettitte(37; made $15 million last yr, $5.5 this yr). These guys make make up 1/4 of the Yankees payroll because George believed they earned it. I bet if Mauer stays on the Twins for 10-15 years he'd be making that same amount of money as well. They've got quite a few veterans on their team that are on their way out in a few years. Look for a younger team to emerge, something they've been doing a lot better is producing great young talent. Then hopefully you tools will stop this payroll whining.

Anonymous said...

"And a lineup filled with 20+ HR, 850+ OPS hitters. And a dominant top two starting pitchers that they bought for $250M this offseason."
----------

But that's not why they lost. The Twins' starting pitching in games 2 and 3 matched that of the Yankees. Twins pitchers pretty much shut down that Yankee lineup. Good pitching beats good hitting, and the Twins had good pitching in those games. They failed to capitalize after putting themselves in position to win not because the Yankee players make a lot of money, but because they failed to play fundamental baseball. It also didn't help that one of the best closers in all of baseball, Joe Nathan(under a $47MM contract) couldn't seal the deal. The Yankees didn't get in the way of the Twins winning, the Twins did.

Fran said...

The Yankees didn't get in the way of the Twins winning, the Twins did.

Actually, the reason the Yankees won was because A-Fraud finally had a good postseason series. The rest of the Yankees hit .198 as a team.

What hurts the most to me as a Twins fan is the Yanks, bloated payroll and all, didn't beat the Twins. They were ripe for the picking despite their advantages and the Twins couldn't take advantage. They beat themselves.

Anonymous said...

The "not intimidated" stance would be better if even in 2006 (the best Twins team this decade) they didn't go only 3-3 vs. the Yanks including getting blown out in 2 of the 3 games at Yankee stadium in September (when the Twins were at the tail end of a historic run of great baseball).

It's payroll. It's talent. It's a bad match-up in terms of styles. And it's also in their heads. Rays & Angels have smaller payrolls but have fared much better vs. Yanks in recent years.

Go Twins!

DMT said...

Actually, the reason the Yankees won was because A-Fraud finally had a good postseason series. The rest of the Yankees hit .198 as a team.

What hurts the most to me as a Twins fan is the Yanks, bloated payroll and all, didn't beat the Twins. They were ripe for the picking despite their advantages and the Twins couldn't take advantage. They beat themselves.

-----

You have to remember these are short series, making it even harder to see teams come together and have everything working at the same time. That's what got me about the whole A-Rod postseason thing. These series don't necessarily show a teams capabilities, that's why it's important to take advantage of mistakes. Something the Yankees did very well.

Jason said...

last I checked, the m-dome held over 60,000 but average attendance is 25,000. I guess you should blame the fans for not coming to the park to support their team. Lousy fans you have.

To anonomous,

If you checked your facts correctly, you would have calculated that of the 19 million people in the NY metro district only .19% of them attend each Yankee game (and yes I am aware that you have the Mets to, take them out and the numbers are still noticable different), while here in Minnesota roughly .7% of the metro district (3 million people) attend a Twins game.

Check your facts before you come over here and run your mouth. No one is whining about the Twins losing, we are basically saying that there is an inherant unfair economic structure in baseball that is killing americas former pastime.

Anonymous said...

As a lifelong Twins fan who used to hate the Yankees, I have to admit I've changed my thinking. Twins ownership puts most of their revenue in their pockets and crys "small market"! Yankee ownership puts most of their revenue into their team because winning is the only thing that matters. To the Pohlad's, making money is far more important than winning. I used to be a staunch defender of the Pohlads. I can't bring myself to do it anymore.

Anonymous said...

Nick, your blog is spot on. The Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and other big spenders have an undeniable, undebateable enormous competitive advantage. I have seen alot of arguments on this subject but it really comes down to one thing, stick a cap on MLB and the Yanks become obscure, they never would have been able to sign ONE big namer in the off season. Forcing the better players to sign else where and level this playing field. It does not matter that the Twins owner is super rich, he isnt gonna dump his own money into a market with out returns, that is just god-awful stupid and a sure fire path to bankruptcy. And does a 30 million dollar dispersement to a team mean anything? Not when the big namers command 180 MIL! Luxury tax isnt working. I leave with this question. What happens if you cap the MLB Teams Salaries at 120 Million?

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog through Twinkie Town.

I do agree with your post regarding the spending in baseball, and that was evident this year however, when push comes to shove, the baseball gods have been nice to small and big market teams as both are tied at five since 2000 in world series victories. In this equation, I consider the White Sox and Phillies small market clubs for the purpose that the teams have built home grown stars.

In the 1990's it was no different as the teams, that built their World Series winning ballclubs, did so with homegrown players. The only true exceptions were the Minnesota Twins who had Chili Davis sign for two years for the 1991 season at the urging of Kirby Puckett and Jack Morris who signed for the 1991 season and went down in baseball history as pitching that incredible game 7; the Atlanta Braves who signed Greg Maddox though that signing is understandable because the Cubs haven't won the World Series since 1908; and the 1997 Florida Marlins. Except for the Marlins, all teams mentioned had homegrown players

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