By Patrick Plunkett WPAathletics.com STAFF Writer
The Purchasing of a Past Time
With only hours left until the first pitch of the fall classic baseball fans may recall the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees’ journeys to reach the biggest stage of the baseball season. Many Pirate fans will bring to mind memories from the season that never had a chance and watch two quality teams faceoff with big named players scattered around the diamond, in the outfield, behind the plate, and on the bump to decide who will be world champions.
The first impulse reaction of a football dominated town who is used to the Steelers reloading with capable draft picks can contain thoughts of the teams grooming their talented prospects much like competitive teams around the NFL. Other than a handful of players from each 25 man roster, the lineups are composed of free agents or trades. Rosters of the same nature made up the rest of the 2009 playoff teams such as the Rockies, Dodgers, Red Sox, Twins, Angels, and Cardinals. So are trips to World Series a reflection of deep organization that has been building championship caliber team by utilizing their farm systems and draft picks, or are championships simply bought?
Go ahead Yankees and Phillies fans. Argue that Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter have been the foundation of Yankee success for years. Not to mention that Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, and Jimmy Rollins are homegrown too. Their combined salaries are nearing 100 million dollars making these eight players’ salaries more expensive than 63 percent of Major League Baseball rosters. The only reason these teams can keep these all stars is their ability pay them.
Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, A.J. Burnett, Nick Swisher Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Pedro Martinez, Brad Lidge, Raul Ibanez were bargain signings as well. As a whole their average salary was around 13 million in 2009. Thirteen million was more than half of the Pirates’ 2009 roster salary. Alex Rodriguez’s contract alone is eight million more than the Buccos’ entire payroll.
The big market teams depend on free agency and arbitration to construct winning rosters at the expense of over paying talent and fleecing small market teams. Yes, the Pirates are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to payroll and wins, but Robert Nutting is not the solution and neither is an uncapped league with revenue sharing and a luxury tax to try and regulate spending.
Major League Baseball allows the markets and payrolls in each city to dictate predictable outcomes for the playoff picture every year. There is a team or two each year that make a push from a small market, but the only two teams to show consistent promise to contend for a playoff berth are the St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins since 2005.
There is a direct correlation with team success and the market in which they come from. By splitting the markets evenly that have two teams, five out of the top six markets sent teams to the playoffs this year leaving three spots for 80 percent of baseball. Those five teams fall into the top 11 in payroll for the 2009 season as well. The Cardinals, Twins, and Rockies were the only other teams to make the 2009 playoffs without spending 100 million.
Each team prepares countless hours on the diamond in spring training to work towards being champions of America’s passed past time. No one awards the team with highest salary titles, and the players do have to earn it. However, purchasing these players and putting them on the same lineup card significantly increases the franchise’s chances to win. Teams like the Yankees and Phillies will thrive without a salary cap while many franchises and fans will suffer. Undeniably, the Pirates lack the blueprint and pockets for success, but it is hard to fault big market teams from trying to put a quality product on the field. In today’s game it is hard to do so without spending the money. Paper champions are not always the winner, but for now in baseball paper makes the champions.