Monday, October 6, 2014

What Does Money Actually Buy?

Everybody knows that money doesn’t buy happiness, although for short periods of time, it can rent it, but that’s a story for another day. It is generally understood by all but the most superficial among us that the best things in life, the most enduring things don’t require money... friendship, loyalty, courage, etc..etc. However, in sports the opposite seems to be true. If your team wants to compete they better be willing to spend some serious money, right?

We are a week into the baseball postseason, and I am thrilled. I attended my very first playoff game the other night and along with 44,044 others saw my Nationals lose 3-2 to the San Francisco Giants. Despite the loss, it was a glorious thing to behold. I had a sore throat for two days! Last night I watched the Kansas City Royals finish off a sweep of the heavily favored Anaheim Angels, possessors of the best record in baseball, and it got me to thinking. Does money equal success in Major League baseball?

There are 30 teams in the Major Leagues. The two worst teams in baseball this year were the Texas Rangers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rangers payroll was the 8th richest in baseball, the Diamondbacks, the 11th richest. In fairness, the lowest payroll in baseball belongs to the Houston Astros, the third worst team in the league. But, what about teams that have made the playoffs?

Those Kansas City Royals who just swept the mighty Angels out of the playoffs did so with only the 19th highest payroll in the league. The Angels, by contrast checked in with a whopping $155,700,000 payroll, good for 6th highest. Of the ten teams that made the postseason, five of them are among the top ten payrolls in the game, while the other five are ranked anywhere from 13th to 27th. So, I suppose that the results are inconclusive. But wouldn’t it be great if the World Series ended up pitting the highest payroll in the game against the 19th highest payroll? For those of you keeping score at home, that would be the Los Angeles Dodgers with their $235,000,000 worth of talent against the Kansas City Royals who have managed to get by spending only $92,000,000.
Of course, everything is relative. It’s hard to consider any franchise rich enough to lavish 92 million dollars on a bunch of guys to play baseball as a “little guy.” Player salaries long ago entered the realm of things for which there can be no rational explanation. But having said that, unless my Nationals can storm back from a 0-2 deficit to beat the Giants, I’ll be pulling for the Royals the rest of the way.