Some need to balance the books

Hot Corner XIII

Baseball is a game. Well, sort of.
Most of us who watch it think it’s a game, but a lot of the guys who play it
every day call it a business. Trades, free agency, arbitration hearings and contract
negotiations are a frequent reminder that while running around on the grass
whacking a leather-covered lump of cork with a wooden stick might not be “real
life”, it certainly is driven by money.

With that in mind, here’s a look at
the best and worst clubs so far this year in terms of how they have performed
versus what they are spending (opening day payroll divided by number of wins =
amount of money spent to get each win):

The Worst:

1. New York Yankees ($3.1m per win)

Actually the Yankees are the
exception to my opening premise. They are not focused on how much each wins
costs them, as long as they win. So while their dollars-per-win ratio is worst
in the major leagues, they are on top of the AL East, so they don’t care.

2. Chicago Cubs ($3.1m per win)

The Cubs on the other hand, have
more limited resources and care a great deal. Trouble is, they are stuck under
two of the more egregiously awful contracts in recent memory. Carlos Zambrano
($18m/year through 2012) peaked six years ago and is a liability. Alfonso
Soriano ($17m/year through 2013) has a career OBP of .326 but, also, a great
agent.

3. Boston Red Sox ($2.6m per win)

A potential World Series winner
before the season, they have been ravaged by injuries. Leadoff man Jacoby
Ellsbury has played about a dozen games this year due to a rib injury, 2B
Dustin Pedroia has been out for a month and their best hitter Kevin Youkilis is
out for the rest of the season.

The Best:

1. San Diego Padres ($591k per win)

They still can’t hit, but may never
need to as long as their top four starting pitchers all have ERA’s under 3.85.
There was talk of possibly trading slugger Adrian Gonzalez, but with Gonzalez
the most indispensable player to this team in the league, the division-leading
Padres held on to him in hopes of a postseason run.

2. Florida Marlins ($878k per win)

The Marlins are in a rebuilding
phase…as ever. The new ballpark is on the horizon for 2012 but until then, any
half-decent player that makes it to arbitration is traded to save money. Still,
with their penchant for trading for quality pitching they never become
irrelevant, and may have the major leagues best pitcher in Josh Johnson.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates ($1m per win)

The Pirates won’t be accepting any
awards for this as they currently have the second-worst record in the league.
They’re not so much in a rebuilding phase, as a clearing house for cheap old
veterans on the way down and reasonable young players on the way up.

So which is it: game or
business?  I’ll leave the last words to
the late Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner: “It’s about the money, stupid”.

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