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2012: The year of the little guy?

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer
You feel sorry for these guys, right? (Getty Images)

If you're someone who enjoys the plight of the underdog, then 2012 is shaping up to be your kind of season. While there's plenty of clarifying stretch-drive drama to come, it's possible that a surprising number of high-payroll teams are going to miss out on the postseason.

To put a finer point on it, take a look at the top five preseason payrolls. If the Yankees' ongoing slide continues, then it's possible that all five of those deep-pocketed clubs -- the Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox, Angels and Tigers -- will be home for the playoffs.

Throw in the Marlins, and that's six of the top seven payrolls. That would mean, oh, just a bit less than $1 billion in player salaries reposing on the sofa or wearing ridiculous pants -- just look at those pants -- on the golf course while the postseason is unfolding. And that would be extraordinary in any season, let alone this one, in which the playoff pool is larger than ever.

In fact, not since 1991 has each of the top-five payroll teams missed the postseason. The difference, though, is obvious. Back in '91, just four out of 26 teams (15.4%) made the playoffs. This year, 10 out of 30 (33.3%) will be a part of the fray. On a percentage basis, a given team is more than twice as likely to make the postseason in 2012 than it was in 1991. Still and yet, the five biggest opening-day spenders have a real shot at being shut out. There's even a chance that seven of the 10 playoff teams could come from the bottom half of the league as determined by payroll.

Those who still complain about baseball's plainly non-existent parity "problems" would do well to take note.

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