For instance, just two of the eight playoff teams spent more than $110 million on payroll this season (Yankees and Phillies). Four teams spent between $85 and $105 million (Cardinals, Rangers, Brewers and Tigers), while two teams spent less than $55 million (Rays and D-Backs). Yes, yes, I know, the Phillies and Yankees win consistently (of late). However, the Yankees are a weird case because they’ve always spent top dollar – they’ve done when losing and they’ve done it when winning. In fact, they were a top spending team for nearly 15 years before winning a World Series in 1996, yet made the playoffs only once in that time. It wasn’t until they began developing a farm system, promoted and succeeded with home grown talent, and then had to re-sign that talent to keep it from hitting the open market did their payroll skyrocket.
The Phillies are a more modern and typical case, in that they changed philosophies and started developing better, young players through much of the early part of last decade. They had the 13th highest payroll in baseball in 2007, when they first outran the Mets for the NL East title. In 2008 they had the 12th highest payroll when they won the World Series. It wasn’t until their home grown players began facing free agency – after they won a ring – that they’re payroll skyrocketed, which was made possible by the increase in revenue from having won, sold tickets and getting to the post season.
In other words, in almost every case, be it the Yankees, Red Sox, D-Backs in 2001 (who started their growth and spending in 1998), be it the Phillies, and so on: first came the foundation, then came the winning, then came the revenue, then came the spending, and then came the consistent success.
Right now, it looks to me like Sandy Alderson is doing his best to build a foundation, all while trying to keep life entertaining in Citi Field, because, like you said, Larry, this is New York and there are tickets to sell. In other words, he’s doing what the Yankees did in the early 90s, and he’s doing what the Phillies and Red Sox did in the early 2000s (before they started winning), which is acquiring young talent in trades and through the draft; keeping that talent; promoting them and signing affordable, high-ceiling free agents who will not bog down future payrolls; so, when the new, young talent finally flourishes, and the Mets win, and those guys need to be retained (you know, so the team can sustain winning), Alderson will have the money to keep them and then fill in with other key free agents. It’s a tough trick to turn and it takes time, but it’s the right way to go about things.
For what it’s worth, here are teams from 2011 that spent more than $90 million:
To read more on payroll in baseball, and what each team spends per win, check out this post from Ben Berkon on his blog The Beanball.