Blog Entry

On baseball's payrolls, parity

Posted on: May 18, 2011 2:11 pm
By Matt Snyder

One of the biggest hot-button subjects in baseball for the better part of the past 15 years -- other than PEDs, of course -- has been the disparity between the so-called large market teams and the so-called small market teams. In a sport void of a salary cap, how can teams from smaller cities be expected to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox?, we've been hearing for far too long.

Then, since it's somehow become cool to hate on baseball, the NFL fans (and sometimes other sports) like to talk about how much more parity there is in "their" sport and how it's the same teams every year in baseball.

The problem is that almost all of this is complete and utter fallacy.

Sure there are payroll disparities, but the rest is complete nonsense. Let's take a look at some of the contradictions to the common cries:

- Since the Yankees' last dynasty ended, here are the World Series winners in order: Diamondbacks, Angels, Marlins, Red Sox, White Sox, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Yankees, Giants.

Hmmm ... I only see one name in there twice. How does the NFL -- the bastion of all that is fair in this world, after all -- look in the same time period? Patriots, Bucs, Patriots, Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Giants, Steelers, Saints, Packers. Wow, what diversity.

- You don't have to spend money to win in baseball. The Tampa Bay Rays consistently have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball and still win games. This past season, they saw significant losses due to money, but are still sitting in first place and look to be strong enough for the long-haul. Last year's World Series teams -- the Rangers and Giants -- were mid-level spenders. The Braves are a mid-level spender and always in contention. Meanwhile, the Mets and Cubs are pretty good at flushing money down the toilet. These are just a few examples. There are more on both sides of the spectrum.

- Look at this season's current standings. Only three teams in all of baseball are more than seven games out of first place (Twins, White Sox, Astros). Oh, and the Twins (ninth) and White Sox (fifth) are top-10 payroll teams. At the top of the standings, the Rays (29th), Indians (26th) and A's (20th) have at least a share of first place. The Reds (18th) and Rockies (14th) aren't exactly huge markets either. That means that in the current standings, only the Phillies (second) are in first place as a large-market team. The Rangers (13th) are tied with the A's in the AL West. The Marlins are another small-market team knocking at the door in a tough division. Will all this hold up? It very well might, as we're quickly approaching the 1/3 mark of the season.

Just so we're clear, if you said the top-10 payrolls are large market, next 10 are middle and last 10 are small, here they are:

Large: Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, Cubs, Mets, Giants, Twins, Tigers
Middle: Cardinals, Dodgers, Rangers, Rockies, Braves, Mariners, Brewers, Orioles, Reds, Astros
Small: A's, Nationals, Blue Jays, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Indians, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Royals

(see USA Today for the full list)

Obviously, it's far too rudimentary to define teams in this manner, but I'm frankly tired of hearing about how the Twins are a small market -- not to mention the Cardinals, Brewers or Reds. They aren't small. Enough with that talk. The Rays are small market. The Royals are. Oh, and the Braves are constantly accused of being a large-market teams by fans on message boards, too. That isn't true either.

- Middle-to-small market teams spend poorly, too. The Orioles, for example, have blown a ridiculous amount of money on their bullpen the past decade. gives a great glimpse at the issue -- noting that the blown 6-run lead Monday against the Red Sox was done so by $16.5 million worth of relievers. You can't make mistakes like that when competing against the big-spending Yankees and Red Sox and the smart-spending Rays (and now Jays, it appears). There are bad contracts like this on many small-market teams. Here are the examples, one from each of the eight lowest payrolls, aside from the Rays (since they don't really have one): Jason Kendall, Lyle Overbay, Ryan Ludwick, Travis Hafner (sorry, he's not worth $13 million), Joe Saunders, Javier Vazquez and Juan Rivera. The bottom line is that the best front offices work well within their resources and put a winning team on the field. The worst ones lose games, regardless of payroll.

This wasn't meant to be an all-encompassing look at every issue nor was it meant to say baseball is perfect. It wasn't meant to say baseball is better than football, either. I hate it when NFL people talk about how superior their favorite sport is to others, so I won't be a hypocrite (plus, I quite like the NFL and hope to watch it this fall).

It's just some food for thought to dispute lots of things I see on the message boards on a slow Wednesday as we wait to see how many Godforesaken rainouts we'll have tonight.

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Since: Jan 24, 2010
Posted on: May 19, 2011 2:28 am

On baseball's payrolls, parity

Umm okay well the Rays and Indians are leading their divisions, I don't get what this guy is trying to say that parity is visible here? There's more parity in the NBA than a dead horse.

Since: Sep 28, 2010
Posted on: May 19, 2011 2:05 am

On baseball's payrolls, parity

Your research is problematic and not valid. The research you did provide actually works against you. In the last ten years, there has only been one team (Marlins) to win the world series that had a team salary lower than the league average. There exists a strong positive correlation between team salary and winning percentage: the higher the salary, the higher the winning percentage. There will always be exceptional cases each year. Some teams with high payrolls will tank this year (Cubs and Mets), and other teams with low salaries will lead their division (Indians and Rays).

Since: Apr 28, 2009
Posted on: May 19, 2011 2:00 am

On baseball's payrolls, parity

Matt Snyder, you are quite likely a fine fellow, but writing this kind of Yankees-apologist nonsense makes you look like a imbecile.

A big-time Yankees fan--with the marvellous sobriquette, Ogre--said it best.  "The Yankees have ruined baseball and must be destroyed."  Reality, in fact, lies somewhere between Ogre's and your opinions.

As opinions are like fannies (everybody's got one), I'll offer mine.  In my view, Ogre is quilty of only the mildest of hyperbole, while you, sir, are a complete asshole. 

Since: Apr 25, 2008
Posted on: May 19, 2011 12:19 am

On baseball's payrolls, parity

This article must be written with a COMPLETE lack of knowledge of ANYTHING baseball. 

Not only that, but also a lack of logic.  Disparity is not ONLY measured by WS winners! 

How about division winners?  The other comments made here already make so many great points. 

I'm glad you mentioned the AL East.  How many teams have won the AL East other then the Bo Sox or Yankees in the last 15 Years?  One team.... two times.... THATS IT!  OOOOH MAN! What disparity in baseball everyone!  You are a ridiculous joke of a writer, and I sincerely hope that you, from now on, only stick to fact reporting, because your opinions only make us all a little dumber.

There are two things baseball sorely needs or it WILL die...

A salary cap and another wild card spot.

Since: Dec 13, 2006
Posted on: May 18, 2011 11:52 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity

What a ridiculous article.

I suppose his next article will be, "Why George W. Bush was a great president."

Since: May 15, 2011
Posted on: May 18, 2011 9:32 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity

The Red Sox will win 90 games and maybe they will win the AL East.  That means that they will lose 72.  This maybe is an over simplified equation, but it makes sense.  Sort of like an NFL team going 9-7.  In the last 10 years of the MLB, there have been 9 different World Series winners. That's pretty good. What ever way you look at it, that's parity.  Spending big dollars, doesn't guarantee anthing. 

Since: May 18, 2011
Posted on: May 18, 2011 7:29 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity

Matt Snyder that argument was weak.  Yes you are right small market teams miss on free agent signings too.  You forgot to mention that if a small market team misses once they are screwed. While a large market team can miss 2 or 3 times and still be good.  Look at Dice-K, Lackey, Crawford, Bucholz and even JD Drew on the Red Sox.  They are all making a lot of money( combined to make more than half the teams in the league),  and they are over .500 and WILL be a playoff team.  How do they do it? Is Francona that good? No wait they buy 10 players and oh well only half of them need to pan out to contend.  Real Baseball is different than fantasy baseball but if we are in an auction league and a few teams get to spend $300 and the rest of the league gets $100, guess who finishes on top MOST of the time.  Things happen and a long shot gets there but MOST of the time its the money that wins ( ever go to the race track).  This is America and money wins everytime, everywhere.  There are 8 playoff teams in baseball and you can guess 6 of the 8 on opening day.  Thats not parity, its a horrible way to run a league (Selig is a joke).  You look at the argument as small market vs large market, but fail to realize that there are more small market teams.  Yet the large market takes up 75% of the playoff teams each year.  The NBA is on its way to be just like baseball, which is sad.  Two great sports becoming unwatchable because its too damn predictable.  Mr. Snyder remember there are 30 teams in baseball not 5.  Your stupid narrow minded argument just tells me you had nothing else to write about.  Unless you tell me you are that dumb and believe the BS you wrote.  Maybe you are from New York?

Since: Sep 22, 2006
Posted on: May 18, 2011 3:52 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity

Well said.  Also, a little vocabulary lesson would help too.  Market: the area and or population which might possibly support a team, either through personal attendance, television, radio, or the purchase of team gear.  By any reasonable definition of "market", the Braves are a "big market team" and the Twins are a medium- to small-market team.  it has to do with population in the area, dumbass, not how much the team spends.  The A's and the Giants, by the way, pretty much share the same "market", so to label one big-market and the other small-market is clearly asinine.  Or don't they let you out of the padded room?

Since: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: May 18, 2011 3:26 pm

On baseball's payrolls, parity

 What a ridiculous and biased article... There are some great teams in football, no doubt, and there are some terrible teams and franchises as well. The difference between great teams in football and great teams in baseball is that football teams are great because of how they operate their franchise, drafting, personel, scouting. That is the way it's supposed to be. I can't fault the successful teams in the NFL for winning, they have done it the right way, and on a level playing field (or as level as a pro sport can possibly be) 

 In baseball teams that spend more have a much better shot at being successful. Mind you anything can happen in the play-offs, but you generally need to spend a ton of money or be in a mediocre division to get in. Listing the teams that are small market and winning right now is  pointless, the standings will look much different in a few months. Tampa Bay is a horrible example of a successful team. They are a great team, right this second. But they were the league doormat for a decade and stockpiled high draft picks and young cheap talent. Their stars will soon be in New York, Boston, LA etc. Is that what it takes to win? Absolutely tanking for a decade and then having a 3 yr window to win? The big market teams are generally successful every year, and if they aren't it's in spite of their huge advantage. Bad management can only be bailed out so much by a high payroll, good management however, becomes great management when you can absorb huge free agent flops that would absolutely cripple a team like my Blue Jays. 

 How many teams in the league do you think could qualify for the play-offs in the AL East? I put the number at 5 or 6... pretty discouraging. 

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