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):
($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.
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.
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.
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.
($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.
($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.
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”.