Blog Entry

On baseball's payrolls, parity

Posted on: May 18, 2011 2:11 pm
By Matt Snyder

One of the biggest hot-button subjects in baseball for the better part of the past 15 years -- other than PEDs, of course -- has been the disparity between the so-called large market teams and the so-called small market teams. In a sport void of a salary cap, how can teams from smaller cities be expected to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox?, we've been hearing for far too long.

Then, since it's somehow become cool to hate on baseball, the NFL fans (and sometimes other sports) like to talk about how much more parity there is in "their" sport and how it's the same teams every year in baseball.

The problem is that almost all of this is complete and utter fallacy.

Sure there are payroll disparities, but the rest is complete nonsense. Let's take a look at some of the contradictions to the common cries:

- Since the Yankees' last dynasty ended, here are the World Series winners in order: Diamondbacks, Angels, Marlins, Red Sox, White Sox, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Yankees, Giants.

Hmmm ... I only see one name in there twice. How does the NFL -- the bastion of all that is fair in this world, after all -- look in the same time period? Patriots, Bucs, Patriots, Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Giants, Steelers, Saints, Packers. Wow, what diversity.

- You don't have to spend money to win in baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays consistently have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball and still win games. This past season, they saw significant losses due to money, but are still sitting in first place and look to be strong enough for the long-haul. Last year's World Series teams -- the Rangers and Giants -- were mid-level spenders. The Braves are a mid-level spender and always in contention. Meanwhile, the Mets and Cubs are pretty good at flushing money down the toilet. These are just a few examples. There are more on both sides of the spectrum.

- Look at this season's current standings. Only three teams in all of baseball are more than seven games out of first place (Twins, White Sox, Astros). Oh, and the Twins (ninth) and White Sox (fifth) are top-10 payroll teams. At the top of the standings, the Rays (29th), Indians (26th) and A's (20th) have at least a share of first place. The Reds (18th) and Rockies (14th) aren't exactly huge markets either. That means that in the current standings, only the Phillies (second) are in first place as a large-market team. The Rangers (13th) are tied with the A's in the AL West. The Marlins are another small-market team knocking at the door in a tough division. Will all this hold up? It very well might, as we're quickly approaching the 1/3 mark of the season.

Just so we're clear, if you said the top-10 payrolls are large market, next 10 are middle and last 10 are small, here they are:

Large: Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Cubs, Mets, Giants, Twins, Tigers
Middle: Cardinals, Dodgers, Rangers, Rockies, Braves, Mariners, Brewers, Orioles, Reds, Astros
Small: A's, Nationals, Blue Jays, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Indians, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Royals

(see USA Today for the full list)

Obviously, it's far too rudimentary to define teams in this manner, but I'm frankly tired of hearing about how the Twins are a small market -- not to mention the Cardinals, Brewers or Reds. They aren't small. Enough with that talk. The Rays are small market. The Royals are. Oh, and the Braves are constantly accused of being a large-market teams by fans on message boards, too. That isn't true either.

- Middle-to-small market teams spend poorly, too. The Orioles, for example, have blown a ridiculous amount of money on their bullpen the past decade. gives a great glimpse at the issue -- noting that the blown 6-run lead Monday against the Red Sox was done so by $16.5 million worth of relievers. You can't make mistakes like that when competing against the big-spending Yankees and Red Sox and the smart-spending Rays (and now Jays, it appears). There are bad contracts like this on many small-market teams. Here are the examples, one from each of the eight lowest payrolls, aside from the Rays (since they don't really have one): Jason Kendall, Lyle Overbay, Ryan Ludwick, Travis Hafner (sorry, he's not worth $13 million), Joe Saunders, Javier Vazquez and Juan Rivera. The bottom line is that the best front offices work well within their resources and put a winning team on the field. The worst ones lose games, regardless of payroll.

This wasn't meant to be an all-encompassing look at every issue nor was it meant to say baseball is perfect. It wasn't meant to say baseball is better than football, either. I hate it when NFL people talk about how superior their favorite sport is to others, so I won't be a hypocrite (plus, I quite like the NFL and hope to watch it this fall).

It's just some food for thought to dispute lots of things I see on the message boards on a slow Wednesday as we wait to see how many Godforesaken rainouts we'll have tonight.

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 10, 2011 12:10 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: December 6, 2011 10:05 am

On baseball's payrolls, parity

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Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: May 20, 2011 1:18 am

On baseball's payrolls, parity

Since '95 only 3 teams haven't won a division title in the NFL, and one of them started in 2002.  In baseball, there are 8 teams.

Since '95 every team but one has been to the playoffs (The Texans who only started in 2002).  MLB has 4 teams that haven't made it in that stretch(And some of them have been significantly longer)
So maybe the solution isn't to put in a salary cap, but actually to add two teams, realign to the 16 team league, 4 team division setup, and add 2 more playoff spots, and another round where the top two don't have to play.

You're talking about a league where it's possible to have more wins than another team, and not make the playoffs, and it happens a lot more often than it does in the NFL.

Since: May 15, 2011
Posted on: May 19, 2011 10:17 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity

Enough with the crying about who has the highest payroll.  

If I have the money, and I spend it, what does it matter to you?  If I pay everybody from the clubhouse guy to the man taking tickets, why should you care.  Because you are a small market and can't afford it?  You have 5,000 people in the seats.  Or maybe you're Baltimore fan and there are 10 Red Sox fans in your yard for every one of you.
I have the money, I buy $1,000,000 home and you're pissed about it.  You want a bigger share of the pie. Liberalism is alive.

To hell with level playing fields.  Nothing about life has every been level

Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: May 19, 2011 9:16 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity

Wow!  I don't think I've read a more misguided column about the parity in baseball in quite a long time.  Let's take you to school, Mr. Snyder, and see if you can learn anything.

Since the beginning of the post-1994 strike era, ten different clubs won the 16 World Series played. Only once has the winning club had an Opening Day payroll below the league average-- the 2003 Marlins.  Four times the team with the highest OD salary has won it all.  Eight times the World Series winner has been in the top 5 on Opening Day.  11 of the last 16 winners have been in the top 10 on Opening Day.

'95 Braves -- 3rd highest Opening Day payroll    &nbs
p;     &nb
sp;      '03 Marlins -- 25th highest Opening Day payroll
'96 Yankees -- Highest Opening Day payroll                   '04 Red Sox -- 2nd highest Opening Day payroll
'97 Marlins -- 7th highest Opening Day payroll                '05 White Sox -- 13th highest Opening Day payroll
'98 Yankees -- 2nd highest Opening Day payroll             '06 Cardinals -- 11th highest Opening Day payroll
'99 Yankees -- Highest Opening Day payroll                   '07 Red Sox -- 2nd highest Opening Day payroll
'00 Yankees -- Highest Opening Day payroll                   '08 Phillies -- 12th highest Opening Day payroll
'01 Diamondbacks -- 8th highest Opening Day payroll     '09 Yankees -- Highest Opening Day payroll
'02 Angels -- 15th highest Opening Day payroll               '10 Giants -- 9th highest Opening Day payroll

Clearly, you have confused the concept of "parity" where the majority of teams competing can expect to contend for the title in their sport and how it relates to the size of a team's market.  Market size is irrelevant.  What is most important in the grand scheme of things is the size of the team's payroll.  If you are one of the teams with a payroll in the top ten on Opening Day, nearly 70% of the time a member of the top-ten-club will win it all.

If you include the World Series runner up in the equation, the numbers get uglier for the lower payroll clubs.  Of the last 32 teams to play in the World Series, 6 have had the highest Opening Day salaries, 13 have been in the top five on Opening Day, and 20 teams could be found in the top ten on Opening Day.  Only four teams from the bottom half of MLB team salaries have even made the WS in the last 16 years and three of the four have lost.  And as if we needed more numbers, of the teams outside the top 10 that made the World Series one year, NONE returned to the playoffs the following year.  They caught the proverbial lightning in a bottle but couldn't hold it beyond the previous October.

'95 Indians -- 9th highest Opening Day payroll    &nbs
p;   '03 Yankees -- Highest Opening Day payroll
'96 Braves -- 3rd highest Opening Day payroll         '04 Cardinals -- 9th highest Opening Day payroll
'97 Indians -- 4th highest Opening Day payroll        '05 Astros -- 12th highest Opening Day payroll
'98 Padres -- 14th highest Opening Day payroll       '06 Tigers -- 14th highest Opening Day payroll
'99 Braves -- 3rd highest Opening Day payroll         '07 Rockies -- 25th highest Opening Day payroll
'00 Mets -- 6th highest Opening Day payroll            '08 Rays -- 29th highest Opening Day payroll
'01 Yankees -- Highest Opening Day payroll            '09 Phillies -- 7th highest Opening Day payroll
'02 Giants -- 10th highest Opening Day payroll        '10 Rangers -- 27th highest Opening Day payroll

Face it-- if your Opening Day payroll is in the bottom half of MLB, you have no better than a 1 in 8 chance of even making the World Series and your chances of winning it all are no better than a 1 in 16 chance.

Since: May 15, 2011
Posted on: May 19, 2011 8:31 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity


What's 021?  Your IQ.  Dude, you are all over the place.  Warmer weather, free agents.  Detroit and Cleveland get screwed.   Greedy bastards....Build a  You say a lot of nothing.

Let me give you an analogy.....  

If I own a massage parlor with a dozen girls working for me and I make a lot of cash because my place of business is in Miami (it's warm, everybody wants to go there, right?), and of course, my girls are hot.  People are always coming, spending money because they want to enjoy the product I supply.  

Now, you own a massage parlor but unfortunately it is in Rahway, NJ .  You have two skanky ladies.  One is your mother and the other your wife (your sister moved to Florida and works for me).  Unfortunately, you can't make the kind of money necessary to expand your operation and get the better looking girls. And besides, who wants to go to Rahway, NJ.  

That's too bad.....why don't you move to Miami with your sister and me?

If my team can generate revenue and yours can't, you want a level playing field.  F-that. F...salary caps. There's revenue sharing. 

Since: Aug 22, 2006
Posted on: May 19, 2011 7:27 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity

Why don't you ask the fans of Kansas City and Pittsburgh if the payroll differences are a big deal?  This is a moronic column...meh!

Since: Jun 29, 2007
Posted on: May 19, 2011 7:24 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity

A bit emotional, but you're right Chico.

This column is utterly ridiculous. He uses the Orioles bullpen example....what he fails to mention is that NONE OF THE BIG MARKET NAMES WILL SIGN WITH BALTIMORE/MILWAUKEE/NATIONALS/PIRAT

ES/ the bottom ~15 teams fight for scarce resources who are NOT TOP TALENT.

Utterly embarrassing and myopic column.

Since: May 18, 2011
Posted on: May 19, 2011 6:48 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity

What a bunch of crap?  Anyone who thinks that having a higher payroll does not increase your chances of winning you need your head checked.  Nice argument jackass with the World Series and Super Bowl champs.  How about the same teams in the playoffs year after year in baseball.  Don't forget to mention that MOST big time free agents run for warmer weather or New York and Chicago.  Cities like Detroit and Cleveland get screwed every year.  If you put a cap on baseball it forces some of these greedy bastards to sign with teams like Detroit and Cleveland.  Give me $500,000 to build a house and you get $100,000 and tell me who has the better home.  I HATE ALL YOU D-Bags from Boston and New York. 

Since: Sep 25, 2006
Posted on: May 19, 2011 6:04 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity

The Twins are a small market team; the difference between them and the low-spenders is that the Twins front office spends money wisely, and the franchise has a fairly small yet loyal fan base (the opposite of the Yankees and their massive and brain-damaged "fan" base).

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