When Major League Baseball proposed some changes to teams payroll structure by lowering the luxury tax ceiling about 30 million and raising what the minimum payroll could be to 100 million, there were many complaints, that this was not enough to save a broken system. This was particularly true, here in Pittsburgh, where the “unfairness” of the system has kept the Pirates from competing. The only thing that has kept the Pirates from competing is an owner, who has refused to spend money, and some horrible decisions by the Neal Huntington regime. It is amazing, how everyone is for free enterprise, and the American way, until there is this perceived unfairness of the situation. In this case, the large market teams have an unfair advantage, because they have much more revenues, and therefore can spend more money. The salary cap has always been presented as the solution to the problem, since the other three professional leagues have one. Salary caps are basically an abomination, that causes teams to make hard decisions on getting rid of good to great players, to stay under the cap. Fans are always complaining, about how free agency causes players to move around, and not stay on one team. The salary cap forces them to move on, when they may have many more productive years for that team. There is no proof that this helps improve competition. In the other three sports, the teams that make bad decisions, continue to be bad, and the teams that are better at evaluating, and developing talent continue to play well. So let’s take a look at the current payrolls of all the Major League teams, and, at least according to Fangraphs, their chances of making the playoffs. These are the payrolls when they started the season.
Los Angeles Dodgers 267 mil. 100%
Chicago White Sox 141 mil. 100%
Milwaukee Brewers 98 mil. 99.5%
San Francisco Giants 160 mil. 99.0%
Houston Astros 192 mil. 94.3%
Tampa Bay Rays 70 mil. 94.2%
New York Yankees 204 mil. 81.1%
Atlanta Braves 148 mil. 73.5%
Boston Red Sox 182 mil. 72.4%
Cincinnati Reds 126 mil. 44.9%
San Diego Padres 176 mil. 41.5%
Oakland A’s 89 mil. 37.7%
Philadelphia Phillies 184 mil. 22.5%
The rest of the teams have a less than 20% chance of making the playoffs. Here they are in descending order to make the playoffs, with the last 12 having no chance of making the playoffs. Toronto Blue Jays 151 mil. New York Mets 198 mil. St. Louis Cardinals 169 mil. Seattle Mariners 81.4 mil. Los Angeles Angels 181 mil. Baltimore Orioles 57.4 mil. Texas Rangers 95 mil. Cleveland Indians 47.9 mil. Detroit Tigers 85 mil. Kansas City Royals 85 mil. Minnesota Twins 117 mil. Miami Marlins 58 mil. Washington Nationals 149 mil. Chicago Cubs 141 mil. Arizona Diamondbacks 90 mil. Colorado Rockies 114 mil. Then there is our beloved Pittsburgh Pirates, with the second smallest payroll at 55 million dollars, with 11 million of that going to one, Gregory Polanco. I will say one thing for the Pirates, they are making him earn the money, by playing him as much as possible, which can be the only reason, he is getting so much playing time.
Of the 13 teams that are still fighting for a playoff spot, according to Fangraphs, 3 of the teams are in the bottom half of payroll expenditures. Six teams that have little of no chance of making the playoffs are in the top 15 in total payroll. The Phillies who are fifth in payroll, most likely will not make the playoffs. The Mets, 3rd in payroll, are fading fast, with their chances rated at about 10%. There are lots of things that baseball needs to fix, pace of play being the no. 1, but the way players are paid, is not one of them. Teams spending money is not a guarantee for success, not even close. Everyone deserves to make what the market will bear. Baseball does a good job of spreading the wealth around to the small market teams. When good baseball decisions are made, and players are properly developed, a baseball team will thrive, and contend for championships. One of the final arguments for making change in the economic structure of baseball is, yes, small market teams have great regular seasons, and will make the playoffs, but they will never win a World Series. Looking back over the World Series of this century, the small market teams have had their moments, but there is no question, the big boys win most of the World Series titles. Some of that, may be due to the fact, that the smaller market teams are reluctant to spend the money on late season rentals, that can make a big difference in a short series. Even giving some credence to the World Series argument, it is not enough to change a system, that works quite nicely, in the long run, and gets players the money they deserve, with the exception of Gregory Polanco, of course.