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.
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.
Matthew 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.