The Price of Winning

In a great big goody bag of an article, Peter Bernstein at ESPN the Magazine looks at the most and least cost-effective teams of the past ten years and figures out just how much spending correlates with winning. A passage to keep in mind as you prepare to shift from winter Yankee outrage to spring Yankee outrage:

We also looked at the connection between opening day payroll and making the playoffs. The results were similar—spending helps, but it’s no guarantee of reaching the postseason. In fact, the link between payroll and playoffs has gotten weaker over time . . . Of the 16 teams that made the playoffs in 1998 and 1999, 14 were in the top third of payrolls. In other words, 70 percent of the high spenders made the playoffs in those years while virtually none of the lower two-thirds of spenders went anywhere. But that was then. Since the start of this decade only 40% of top third of spenders have made the playoffs since the start of this decade. In fact, the top payroll teams in 2008 (Yankees, Mets, and Tigers) all failed to reach the post-season.

Yes, there is an advantage to spending more money, but buying a playoff slot — let alone a championship — is an inexact science. Given how big a part luck plays in baseball — CC and Tex could crash their golf carts into each other with each breaking their femurs this spring — I think it’s silly to say that the system is truly broken, even if it isn’t ideal.


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Chris H.
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Chris H.
Maybe, but isn’t saying something like “Since the start of this decade only 40% of top third of spenders have made the playoffs since the start of this decade. In fact, the top payroll teams in 2008 (Yankees, Mets, and Tigers) all failed to reach the post-season” kind of like looking at a pitcher’s W-L record?  Coincidence does not prove causality. Look, I don’t think a salary cap will fix anything; as others have pointed out, it really works out to be a wealth transfer to owners.  And as a fan, I love both the hot stove season and the… Read more »
pete
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pete

I pretty much agree, Chris…I think “not ideal” is pretty kind, but I don’t want a salary cap for a bunch of reasons. I also can’t come up with a better system.

My biggest problem with revenue sharing is that teams end up getting penalized for maxing out their market’s potential. For years, the Indians actually paid into the revenue sharing pool because they sold out every game, while the Marlins continue to draw from the pool and completely waste a huge market in Miami.

Chris H.
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Chris H.
Which is why revenue sharing shouldn’t be based purely on, er, revenue. I think you need to look at things in context.  The Marlins are a great example: they’re in the 16th-largest media market in the country (by comparison, the Royals are in the 31st; the Brewers, 34th).  There’s no excuse for what they’ve done. Perhaps tie things to attendance.  If you’re not putting fannies in the seats, then you’re doing it wrong.  You shouldn’t get to whine for a new stadium if you can’t fill the existing one, and you shouldn’t get revenue assistance if you can’t maximize what… Read more »
Grant
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Grant

Before I even clicked the link I knew in my heart that the Orioles would be dead last. I just knew it.

Ugh.

Jesse
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Jesse
Craig— This is a terrible article.  His conversion of $100M in 1998 to 126M in 2008 is so off that it isn’t worth looking at his numbers. The market share of a club with a payroll of 100M in 2008 would have been 8.11% of MLB’s combined payroll (about 1233M).  His calculation of 126M would be about 4.71% of MLB payroll (about 2671). To use an actual team, I will adjust the 1998 Baltimore Orioles (highest payroll in MLB) to 2008 by his conversion: 1998 BAL (72M), 90.7M in 2008, would be 3.40% (actual 1998 share was 5.84%). To reverese,… Read more »
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