• Cyber Thoughts On Payroll, Contending Teams & Smart G.M.’s

    Posted by on August 30th, 2010 · Comments (10)

    An email exchange between me and my buddy, and fellow Yankees fan, Phil today:

    Phil: Can we put the whole “payroll=playoffs” argument to bed? Five of the lowest 10 payrolls are playoff bound…..Rays, Reds, Padres, Rangers and Twins.

    Steve: Yup. Astute GMs can put together a playoff contender without having to spend boat loads to get it done.

    So, what do you think? Do you agree with Phil? How about me? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section of this entry.

    Comments on Cyber Thoughts On Payroll, Contending Teams & Smart G.M.’s

    1. August 30th, 2010 | 3:22 pm

      Its a long term v. short term thing. I spoke to Mark Shapiro of the Indians, who had a brief cycle of success at a small market club. He said that small market teams try and contend in cycles, where they have some young guys hit the bigs close to each other, spend a bit in FA, and go for broke. Then, when those guys get expensive, they need to tear it down a bit and try to start a new cycle, one that they had already been planning for. The big market teams, once they find a winning formula can sustain it much longer. So yes, you can build a team that will contend for a year or two, possibly three on the low budget. Sustainability is the issue.

    2. Jim TreshFan
      August 30th, 2010 | 5:01 pm

      @ yagottagotomo1:
      I gotta agree with you there. Small market teams have a very small window of opportunity when it comes to playoff contention. That won’t work in New York where fans expect continued excellence year-in-year-out. Which brings up an interesting question: If the Yankees were being handled by an astute GM working on a small maket budget where would Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera be playing today?

    3. August 30th, 2010 | 5:29 pm

      I dunno. The Red Sox are a high payroll team. And, they consistently make the playoffs. But, they also are not shy about letting their older players and Free Agents go – no matter who they are and what they did in the past. So, that’s another question: If the Yankees were being handled by Theo Epstein where would Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera be playing today?

    4. jay
      August 30th, 2010 | 5:50 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      I dunno. The Red Sox are a high payroll team. And, they consistently make the playoffs. But, they also are not shy about letting their older players and Free Agents go – no matter who they are and what they did in the past. So, that’s another question: If the Yankees were being handled by Theo Epstein where would Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera be playing today?

      I’m inclined to agree with you about the Red Sox, but first, to the original question…

      It’s not really fair to compare teams like the Rays and the Yankees (although unfair comparisons are your specialty, Steve, so it likely wouldn’t matter.) No one talks about how the Rays were terrible for ~10 years. The draft has become less of an inexact science in that period, especially with the top 5-10 picks. It’s one thing to build a consistent contender (like the Red Sox and Yankees) – it’s entirely different to load up in the draft and then have a few years where you ‘go for it.’ Now, the Rays did well when they grabbed Carlos Pena, but they’ve taken a bath on a free agent just like other GM’s have (Pat Burrell comes to mind.)

      As for the difference between the Red Sox and the Yankees, we’ve had the draft comparison debate around here several times. Of the top of my head, I think you can say that they’re comparable if you expand it and make it the “non-amateur draft” debate, as the Yankees have done quite well in the international free agent market.

      I agree with you that the Red Sox seem to have accomplished this at about 75% of the Yankees payroll by taking the hard line with fan favorites. But do we want that as Yankees fans? If the revenue is there, do I really care if they spend it on a player I’ve seen wear pinstripes for 15 years? The answer for me is no. I like seeing guys like Jeter, Posada and Rivera be ‘Yankees for Life.’ The Yankees are different than other teams – they’ve never had names on the back of their uniforms, they’ve never changed their uniforms, they try to win every year (although those late 80s/early 90s teams make you wonder what the hell the mission was at that time.)

      But this statement: “Astute GMs can put together a playoff contender without having to spend boat loads to get it done.” is just a jab for jabbing’s sake. It doesn’t hold water.

    5. jay
      August 30th, 2010 | 5:51 pm

      Err… I meant “non-free agent debate”, meaning a comparison of how the teams acquire players other than from post-6 year service time free agency.

    6. Corey Italiano
      August 30th, 2010 | 6:53 pm

      (Pat Burrell comes to mind.)
      ————
      Seeing how Burrell reverted to his old form when he joined the Giants, it makes me wonder if perhaps the reason he failed to meet expectations had something to do with the Joe Maddon or the team itself.

    7. Evan3457
      August 30th, 2010 | 7:02 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      I dunno. The Red Sox are a high payroll team. And, they consistently make the playoffs. But, they also are not shy about letting their older players and Free Agents go – no matter who they are and what they did in the past. So, that’s another question: If the Yankees were being handled by Theo Epstein where would Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera be playing today?

      Well, I assume that Mariano would still be there as he is the best at his job for a generation now. As for Jeter, Theo would likely have signed him for no more than 6 years…and would’ve then probably signed him to short term deals. He might’ve missed the slightly down years of 2007 and 2008, and then missed the near-MVP quality year of 2009. But if he had signed Jeter for 2007-9, he’d have signed him for 2010 as well.

      It’s interesting to note that with the exception of Orlando Rivera, Theo has had no end of trouble filling short with a quality player. Even this year, Scutaro’s surface stats compute to an 87 OPS+, which is lower than Jeter’s.
      ========================================
      “Astute GMs can put together a playoff contender without having to spend boat loads to get it done.”

      No one’s ever disputed this, in the same way no one can dispute the fact that a great juggler can juggle 8 or 10 plates in the air at the same time. But, as the juggling time increases, sooner or later, some of those plates come crashing down.

      Most of these teams benefit from competing in weaker divisions, where the “cost” of 1st place is much lower (Reds, Twins, Padres (who are lucky the Dodgers are in cost contain mode because of the McCourt divorce; this will change), even the Rangers (the Angels have financial clout, but prefer to rely on their farm system; that could change this winter).

      The Yanks are in a division of sharks, barracuda and piranha. They don’t want to be one of the hunters; they want to be kings of the sea, every season. Since they will not accept much risk, they pay for it in $$$. That is the price of never accepting a down season. If such a team is poorly run, it can flounder on a treadmill (see 1979-1988), and finally collapse (1989-1992). If it is well run, it should be the king of the sea. And the Yankees have been, from 1994 until today.

      Why only one title since 2000? Two reasons. The first is that for a long time, they put most of their eggs all in one basket: hitting. They became a one-dimensional team, and got beat when that one dimension failed for brief periods, or when the weaknesses got exploited. The other reason is external. Short series are inherently riskier. There is no time for recovery from a bad stretch, no time for dominant players to express that dominance over the long haul.

    8. Evan3457
      August 30th, 2010 | 7:04 pm

      ugh. Orlando Cabrera. CABRERA.

    9. Raf
      August 30th, 2010 | 7:32 pm

      When teams can put together a playoff run like the Yanks and Braves without spending money, then we can dismiss the ‘payroll=playoffs’ argument.

    10. Raf
      August 30th, 2010 | 7:40 pm

      Steve Lombardi wrote:

      I dunno. The Red Sox are a high payroll team. And, they consistently make the playoffs

      Playoff appearances since 1995
      NYY:15
      BOS: 9

      I’ll gladly take a high payroll, if it means my team makes the playoffs 15 out of 16 years.

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