I mentioned here that I’m already hearing comments about the Yankees “buying” (or, at least, trying to “buy”) a World Series title. And if you look at it objectively, just from the point of view of total payroll and revenues, then you should be able to understand why some people feel that way. Of course, understanding is not the same thing as agreeing. The reality is that it takes more than just money to win the World Series. Yes, a high payroll team like the Yankees can afford to sign the Sabathias and the Teixeiras. But that doesn’t mean that those expensive players will be the right pieces to the puzzle. Randy Johnson had a much lower postseason ERA when he signed with the Yankees than CC Sabathia did when he came to New York, but so far this postseason, CC has performed far better than the Big Unit did in his postseason starts in pinstripes. An expensive puzzle is just junk if the pieces don’t fit together, but
an inexpensive puzzle can be a work of art when all of the pieces fit
I’ve been thinking about this a bit more, and I’ve done a bit of research. Take a look at the World Series winners since the Yankees last won, and their total payrolls for those years*:
2001 Diamondbacks – 8th highest payroll
2002 Angels – 15th highest payroll
2003 Marlins – 6th lowest payroll (only the Indians, Padres, Brewers, Royals, and Rays had a lower payroll)**
2005 White Sox – 13th highest payroll
2006 Cardinals – 11th highest payroll
2008 Phillies – 12th highest payroll
Look at that list…only one of those teams was in the top ten for highest payrolls in the year that they won the World Series. By contrast, the 2004 and 2007 Red Sox had the 2nd highest payrolls behind the Yankees.
The Yankees have had MLB’s highest payroll every season except one since their mid-90’s “dynasty” began in 1996. The only season they didn’t have the highest payroll was, ironically, in 1998 when they had one of their best seasons ever. (The Baltimore Orioles had MLB’s highest payroll in 1998…and finished 4th in the AL East, 35 games out of first place.)
What does this prove? Money (i.e., one of the top payrolls in MLB) can help a team to sign the players it may need to be successful, but it doesn’t necessarily help to “buy” a World Series title. Winning takes more than money…that’s a fact that the Yankees have certainly proven for the last 8 years. It takes:
- good players (some of whom do make the most money, and some of whom do not)
- team chemistry (some people roll their eyes at that…I think those people are fools)
- and often, a little bit of luck
By the way, it should be noted that the 1997 Florida Marlins — whom many people (including me) have used as an example of a team that “bought” its World Series title — had the 7th highest total payroll in 1997. The Marlins did bring in a lot of players from outside the organization (free agency, trades, whatever) for the sole purpose of winning a World Series, and then gutted the team over the next two seasons because they could no longer afford to keep their best players. But even they did not have the highest payroll in baseball that season…nor were they even ranked in the top 5 as far as total team payrolls were concerned in 1997.
Does having lots of revenue and a high payroll help a team to be successful? It can. Does it guarantee that a team will win this:
Nope. There are no guarantees. Even a commanding lead in a LCS doesn’t guarantee that a team will get to the World Series, much less win it. Just ask the 2004 Yankees.
* Source: USA Today Baseball Salaries Database
** Note: one other source — baseballchronolgy.com — ranked the 2003 Marlins as having the 5th lowest payroll; the Indians were ranked higher.
While I was in Baltimore watching the Yankees get their hineys handed to them, the Nationals played the Diamondbacks in Arizona. After my friend and I left the Yankees game, we went to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner, where I kept checking my score of the Nats game on my cell phone. I didn’t order dessert…seeing that the Nats won, 2-1, was my dessert!
The Nationals scoring came from two solo home runs, off the bats of Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman. Starter John Lannan pitched a pretty good game, allowing just 3 hits and no runs with 2 strikeouts in 6 innings of work. Unfortunately, he also surrendered 6 walks. Six Nationals relievers combined to finish the game and secure the win. There was a bit of drama in the 9th inning, when Kip Wells walked 2 batters and gave up a double to another, enabling the D’backs to score their only run. And then Joel Suckrahan then entered the game.
When I saw his name come up on my phone, I figured that he’d do what he does best…blow saves. Imagine my surprise when I checked the score one final time and saw that he got the save by striking out the last batter! Who needed apple cobbler, a hot fudge brownie, or a hot fudge sundae for dessert? The Nationals’ third win a row was sweet enough!
Unfortunately, the result of today’s Nationals/Diamondbacks game wasn’t so tasty. After falling behind 1-0 in the 2nd inning, the Nats took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 3rd inning…then a 4-3 lead in the top of the 5th…and then a 6-5 lead at the top of the 6th, before things fell apart in the bottom of the 6th when the D’backs took a 9-6 lead and never looked back. Being at this game must have been like being at a tennis match, with the leads bouncing back and forth so many times. Starter Scott Olsen struggled today, and ended up leaving the game in the 5th inning after getting hit on the left ankle by a line drive off the bat of Ryan Roberts. Olsen was replaced by Garrett Mock, who later was, unfortunately, replaced
Logan Loser Kensing, who proceeded to give up 4 runs and the lead. Kensing has been with the team for less than two weeks and already has 2 blown saves. Julian Tavarez pitched the 8th and 9th innings and gave up the Diamondbacks’ final run, for a final score of 10-8.
When a team scores 8 runs, including 2 home runs by its right fielder (Adam Dunn) and and left fielder (Josh Willingham), it should win the game. But the Nationals bullpen once again did the team in, and an error by shortstop Álex Cintrón lead to a Diamondbacks run. It’s incredibly frustrating!
Four wins, two losses and one “tie” — that’s the Nationals’ record this month, after defeating the Diamondbacks tonight, 5-4. What’s going on here? The Washington Nationals are actually trying to play like a major league team now! The Nats are 8-8 since starting the season 1-10. Had it not been for the miserable bullpen, we might actually have 3 or 4 additional wins.
Mind you, Joel
Suckrahan Hanrahan did his best to blow the lead when he gave up a run in the 7th. But he only gave up that one run, and Julian Tavarez and Kip Wells kept the D’backs scoreless to preserve the win. The save for Wells was the first of his career.
Good job, fellas…keep up the good work!