It’s difficult for a low-payroll team to be good

Despite what people think, baseball has not entered an age of parity and the gap between rich teams and poor teams has widened, writes Adam Felder (Atlantic, Sept. 5).

“Simply put, only good teams tend to make the playoffs, and it’s very difficult for a low-payroll team to be good,” explains Felder, using data comparing payroll to winning percentages during the last 25 years. So, “While it’s true that money doesn’t buy championship rings, money does at least get your team into the jewelry store.”

According to Felder, since 1990, only 2 teams in the lower third of MLB payroll won a World Series (1990 Reds, 2003 Marlins), while 15 teams in the top third won a ring during the same time span.


payroll


The Mets started this season with an $89 million payroll, ranking 22nd overall in MLB (Deadspin, March 2014). They now sit around $84 million, dropping them to 23rd overall (USA Today, Sept. 5).

According to columnist Andy Martino, Sandy Alderson’s friends and colleagues say he expected to, eventually, operate with a slightly higher payroll than he’s had (Newsday, May 28). Howard Megdal had been reporting on a similar theme in Capital New York since 2012.



miniMCavatarMatthew Cerrone: Again, for me (as one fan), it’s not so much about the overall number as it is about doing everything possible to win now, but also balance that with what’s best for long-term, sustainable success. Yes, the Mets payroll for their current 25 guys is around $80 million. However, in a few years, when guys start being eligible for arbitration, Alderson will have to spend more than $80 million on just eight players (Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Jeurys Familia, Travis d’Arnaud, David Wright, Jon Niese and Curtis Granderson), assuming they’re all still on the team – and this doesn’t include inflation, Daniel Murphy (who would need to have been signed to a contract extension) other rookies and players acquired in trade or free agency. The point is, if the Mets are going to be a consistently successful team over the next five years, like it or not, payroll will have to increase.

The big-market Chicago Cubs, by the way, are in almost the exact-same boat, having gone from a $146 million payroll in 2010 to $80 or so million today, all while they lose, but promote and evaluate inexpensive, home-grown players.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this is why I don’t care too much about payroll numbers, spending, etc., because I know it’s not the end-all, be-all to any team’s story. That said, the above data points out that it certainly increases a team’s chance to be competitive (when it’s time to be competitive) and it certainly increases their chance at being entertaining – and that can’t be ignored once the evaluating of in-house talent is complete. I also don’t like when people use payroll as an easy scapegoat for more complicated, poor decisions, all without giving much thought to what it means to future success and why.

I think Alderson’s overall approach adheres to this, considering there are only so many roster spots. I mean, you can’t get Lucas Duda to hit 30 home runs in 500 at bats at first base if Kendry Morales is signed to play the position instead. There are no highlight reel catches by Juan Lagares if Michael Bourn is clogging the line in center field. At the same time, pretty much anyone would be better than Ruben Tejada and what the Mets got out of the outfield during other minor league auditions the last few years, but I don’t deny that rebuilding a franchise is a delicate balance.

In short, payroll matters, but it’s not all that matters, which is how it is often treated by some fans and media. For me, it’s about getting better and winning. I truly believe Alderson spent his first few years rebuilding this business for the Wilpons. It’s been five years, though, that work is hopefully complete. It’s time to turn the corner, it’s time to be more entertaining and it’s time to start supporting the home-grown talent by acquiring outside players, even if it means having to overpay a bit to get them.




186 comments
Jay Cross
Jay Cross

Matt, I don't think payroll is the only thing that matters, or even that a low payroll dooms a team to fail. What concerns me is WHY the payroll is low.

A team wins games by having everyone devote 100% of themselves to a common goal, but with an ownership group unable to spend, it feels like the organization is constantly swimming upstream against a current the people at the very top have themselves created. 

William John Dwyer
William John Dwyer

While all of these teams are considered bottom payroll teams. KC raised their payroll to $92M this season...hey would ya look at that...they winning their Division so far. Oh Oakland raised theirs by $23M and is leading the WC. As for Pittsburg? They raised their payroll last season (by $18M)...hey they were competitive too! Tampa isn't very good this year for a variety of reasons and is shedding payroll. BUT back in 2010, when they won the AL East? Yep...they raised their payroll before the season and went on a multi-year tear in arguably the most competitive division.

William John Dwyer
William John Dwyer

read the article. It claims that only teams with high payrolls not only tend to make the playoffs but win the WS. The ONLY 2 exceptions are the '90 Reds and '03 Marlins. That's 15 teams winning the WS since 1990 all with high payrolls to 2.

Blanca Recinos
Blanca Recinos

Move Wright's inflated contract now before he gets older. This isn't about this year. He has never been a big spot pressure player. He is not clutch.

Would you believe he has ZERO HRs and 7 doubles this year with RISP!! That's with 515 AB,s and the League Leader in hits batting in front of him !!

George Komninakis
George Komninakis

Just curious---who orders the batters to take the first pitch--the manager or the hitting coaches?

matmil
matmil

Okay so Alderson can do nothing because the Wilpons are pouting that nobody comes to their shiny new stadium. So Sandy baby try this get a manager to get you to 500. Then you make things interesting. Maybe enough to get a few more people to buy tickets. It's worth a try and this sure isn't working out.

anthony G. Decesare
anthony G. Decesare

Because the mets are so cheap, I could even see them having a Abreu/Ey platoon in LF and Herrera at SS, trade Colon and Neise for prospects, let Harvey and Syndergard pitching in their place as well as Murphy play out his walk year and us getting a 1st round draft pick after the 2015 season because of the career year he will have on the walk year of his contract.

buddyryan
buddyryan

Mets need 3-4 bats. There are no bats in the minors that will make any significant contributions the start of 2015. If the Wilpons don't give Sandy more money, 2015 is another lost season.

jaypoz
jaypoz

I love the pitching, starters and the bullpen ,love some position players ,like the rest of the team . what I think the problem is the manager , fire Collins hire wally ! and get tomas and one more big bat .I wouldn't traded anyone , spend some money . but I have to say once again FIRE Collins , he cant get the best out of our players and makes some messed up line ups , every time a player gets hot there not in the line up the next day . wally would bring out the best of our players ! what do you guys think of that ??? just curious

Robby Johnson
Robby Johnson

I love how Cerrone almost tries to throw it in our faces before we can even comment with…

"The big-market Chicago Cubs, by the way, are in almost the exact-same boat, having gone from a $146 million payroll in 2010 to $80 or so million today, all while they lose, but promote and evaluate inexpensive, home-grown players."

That so Matt?  Well the big-market New York Mets, BY THE WAY, are in a lot worse shape overall than the lowly Chicago Cubs because their GM can't hold the jock of Theo Epstein.  Yeah, Alderson has made some savvy moves to get this team some quality young pitching.  But has anyone really taken the time to look at what the Cubs are about to put on the field in 2015-2016?  It's insane.  They have more top of the line hitting prospects than they do positions.

Do the Cubs have pitching?  Not much as of right now, but that won't be an issue in a year or so when Theo deals probably just 1 or 2 of his prospects to bolster his rotation.  Not to mention the veteran guys who would love to join a team filled with high-powered young sluggers.  The Cubs will be winning games long before the Mets.

Max Denby
Max Denby

What is so frustrating is that the Mets waste 85m a year on a terrible team, when they could add 30m say, and field a very competitive team around 115m, and make considerably more in revenue.  

theglider
theglider

Fans want this team to acquire prospects. Isn't that what small market teams do?

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

"Long term sustainable success."  It almost takes on an Orwellian feel when they Mets spout this nonsense, like "peace through endless war."  The Mets will never win operating under the current budgetary constraints.  They probably need to upgrade payroll by 20-25% just to have a shot at being mediocre.  Things are reaching critical mass with the fan base.  Given the Wilpons complete unwillingness to add salary, one can only hope they're seriously considering dumping the team. 

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

What isn't lost of many baseball fans is that the cybergenius of Billy Beane result in his team imploding in the most spectacular fashion again this year.  The Cespedes trade to this point looks like a massive disaster.  I'ld like to know what formula he used to guarantee that his "best team in baseball"  could somehow regress to the point where they might be out - again - in the first round of the playoffs.  Why people love this guy is an absolute mystery to me. 

Bob Burket
Bob Burket

Its not difficult to be a winner with low payroll.  ITS IMPOSSIBLE.  Yeah you can list all the bad large money contracts out there but if you don't spend,  YOU WILL NOT WIN. Its a crap shoot. In recent years the Mets have crapped.  Not everybody can be the Oakland A's.

Karl Leopold
Karl Leopold

spending big $$ on FA signings is not the way to go - see (our track record)  I think we are still paying Bobby Bonilla

Karl Leopold
Karl Leopold

2012                                                                   

Josh Hamilton                    5              $123,000,000      bad

B.J. Upton                           5              $75,250,000        bad

Nick Swisher                      4              $56,000,000        bad

Michael Bourn                   4              $48,000,000        eh

Angel Pagan                       4              $40,000,000        ok

Shane Victorino                                3              $39,000,000        eh

Torii Hunter                        2              $26,000,000        eh

Cody Ross                           3              $26,000,000        bad

Adam LaRoche                  2              $24,000,000        ok

2013                                                                      

Robinson Cano                  10           $240,000,000     

Jacoby Ellsbury                  7              $153,000,000     

Shin-Soo Choo                  7              $130,000,000     

Brian McCann                    5              $85,000,000       

Curtis Granderson           4              $60,000,000       

Jhonny Peralta                  4              $53,000,000       

Carlos Beltran                    3              $45,000,000       

Mike Napoli                        2              $32,000,000       

Omar Infante                     4              $30,000,000       

Carlos Ruiz                          3              $26,000,000       

Karl Leopold
Karl Leopold

2011 FA Signings 

2011                                                                     

Albert Pujols                      10           $250,000,000      bad

Prince Fielder                    9              $214,000,000      bad

Jose Reyes                          6              $106,000,000      ok

Jimmy Rollins                     3              $38,000,000        ok

Aramis Ramirez                 3              $36,000,000        bad

Michael Cuddyer              3              $31,500,000        ok

Carlos Beltran                    2              $26,000,000        good

Josh Willingham                3              $21,000,000        bad

Karl Leopold
Karl Leopold

I can see Murphy having the same issue as Steven Drew trying to sign a multi year deal

Karl Leopold
Karl Leopold

3 or 4 bats? LF is the only spot available and the only LE available worth signing is Melkey and he is going to be in the Choo area of a contact, 7 years and 130M so you can forget about him

anthony G. Decesare
anthony G. Decesare

If wally is so great, why haven't other teams hired him as their manager? Just curious...

matmil
matmil

Yeah but how do you feel about Collins?

mags328
mags328

@Robby Johnson Also, the Cubs aren't even good. Maybe they will be soon. But I am not sure how using them as an example to compare us to helps the case. They also aren't owned by the Wilpons, so they are less likely to screw up the process.

Tarheel11
Tarheel11

@Robby Johnson I've been saying the exact same thing. The Cubs are loaded baseball wise and now their crap deal with WGN runs out after this year and they are estimating to sign up to one of theses regional sports networks and receive in excess of 200M annually for those rights. Theo is then going to be load with money too. Look out! 

Tarheel11
Tarheel11

@Max Denby Because they can't. It's real simple. Sandy is already setting up the offseason with his comments about looking in house first for next year. Talking up Flores, Reynolds and MDD. 

They can't make it any clearer than Sandy blatantly coming out and saying that if they got an increase in attendance they would THEN be able to increase payroll. How can it get more blatant than that? They don't have the money to increase the payroll and are simply waiting and hoping that their young kids can drive attendance up (therefore revenue) that will then give them some money to spend. 

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

@theglider Dear god no.  We've had it with suspects.  Either acquire legitimate major leaguers to bring some legitimacy to this mess or sell the team.  Of course, the Mets shouldn't be lumped in with small market teams for obvious reasons.  They might also not want to follow the lead of small market teams who never seem to win much of anything.  

nncyel
nncyel

@Macacawitz Those two expressions are in no way alike. And a 20-25% increase would have them in company of the Orioles, Braves and Cardinals. Are those teams mediocre? The Orioles have been, but have a good shot at winning it all this year. While the Braves and Cardinals are indeed franchises that define the term "long term sustaninable success." I think most Mets fans would sign up any day to be like the Braves or Cardinals.

Karl Leopold
Karl Leopold

@Bob Burket recent years? - tell me the last long term good (not great) FA signing the Mets had

saxon
saxon

@Karl Leopold 

Yes we are...

I'm waiting for 2013... and David Wright and Curtis

George Komninakis
George Komninakis

@Karl Leopold ----i am not convinced the Mets need new players as much as the players they have simply need developing and a new manager who will put them in positions to succeed!

matmil
matmil

Which came first the chicken or the egg? Is he saying that improving the team doesn't mean more revenue?

Max Denby
Max Denby

@Tarheel11 @Max Denby Yet the Wilpons are spearheading a multi-billion dollar development around Citi.  They could gather the extra 30m if they wanted to.  And if Sandy pushed them to do so. 

1harris1
1harris1

Hopefully the players union will start complaining about what the Wilpons have been doing. Perhaps a new commissioner won't be as forgiving as Selig has been.

nncyel
nncyel

@Macacawitz @theglider Someone like Curtis Granderson perhaps? Averaged a WAR of over 4 in 8 seasons with the Tigers and Yanks.  Would you have called him legitimate before the Mets signed him? I would. Mets signed him. Hasn't worked out. Oh, if it was only so easy.

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

@nncyel @Macacawitz Of course they are.  They're completely absurd statements.  The Mets have never in their history enjoyed "long term sustainable success."   They are one shot wonders and have been so for their entire history. The Orioles struck gold with the Cruz signing and the Braves have been very ordinary.  The Cards have benefited greatly from a complete implosion by Milwaukee.  I sort of see your point, but getting to that payroll level in no way guarantees the Mets will be successful in the short term, much less over a sustained period of time. 

jaydhn
jaydhn

@Karl Leopold beltran was probably the last good FA signing although Glavine's deal wasn't horrible.

Tarheel11
Tarheel11

Two separate entities with two sets of investors, debts, etc. they have proven in the past they won't do that. To the extreme of having to borrow 25m from MLB just to pay operating costs. Unfortunately I don't see anything changing without a large capital infusion and where 's that going to come from? New ownership? Just don't see the Wilpons reaching that point unless forced to

mags328
mags328

@nncyel @Macacawitz @theglider Many of us recognized him as a past his prime, declining player in his early 30's. Not even a CF anymore. His BA and OB% has been terrible the past few years and most of his power numbers come from the tailor made ballpark he was in.


Who didn't see this coming? Maybe not a season this bad, but to think this guy would be a legit cleanup hitter? Who thought that would work? 

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

@nncyel @Macacawitz @theglider So in other words sign no one because Granderson didn't pan out.  Instead of soldiering on, the Wilpons will hang this over the heads of the fans. Many of us are sick of this nonsense.  If ownership isn't comfortable playing by the rules at this level, get the heck out of the game.  Many of us are sick and tired of their failed half-measures and interminable excuse making.  Granderson's contract is pedestrian by MLB standards.  This is hardly the kind of deal that should set an organization back.  

nncyel
nncyel

@Macacawitz Oh, as applied to the Mets - yes I agree with you. They have never had long-term success. But the expression itself is not an oxymoron. I think the Mets are trying to build a farm system that could be the basis for long-term success. Could be all smoke and mirrors but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for a couple more years as we start to see some of these young players develop.

Karl Leopold
Karl Leopold

@jaydhn @Karl Leopold that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away......


My point is if you lump all of the Mets Multi-Year contract FA signings my guess is at least 80% would be bad and maybe 20% would be ok/good.  

nncyel
nncyel

@Macacawitz @nncyel @theglider No, you said the team needs to acquire legitimate players as if they hadn't tried that, when they clearly had tried that with Granderson. Who else should they have picked up as a FA last year? Most of the FAs on the market last winter have not had great seasons. 


The only player I can criticize them for not getting is Peralta. And I'm guessing there was simply no way he would've picked the Mets over the Cardinals.

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

@nncyel @Macacawitz The sentence is not an oxymoron, but in context the spirit of the message is.  You're telling me your going to do something you've never shown any interest in doing before.  Have they really rebuilt this farm system over the last 4 years?  There are some quality arms coming up, but it's bereft of position players ready to step in, and we won't even touch the abject stupidity of having your AAA  team spend years in a arguably the worst environment for player development.  There are still way too many contradictions to take anything they say seriously. 

zingzangzo
zingzangzo

Nelson Cruz would have been a nice spark to get those lousy one run games turned around for wins,