Buying a championship

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Open Thread: Dodgers interested in Abreu

As the Yanks have spent money they have to spend at a time when other teams are conserving resources, they’ve been subject to numerous articles expounding on how they should be vilified for “buying a championship.” Plus, these columnists claim, it doesn’t work. Luckily, Yankee fans are a little more level-headed than, well, everyone else.

In a post on Bronx Banter over the weekend, Alex Belth deftly dismissed this charges. While the Yanks may be buying a championship, this approach has actually worked. Writes Belth:

Sure, it doesn’t always work, we know that (and thank goodness, because it keeps things interesting). But facts are facts: since the start of free agency in 1977, no team has spent more money on players than the Yankees have; no team has won more pennants or more championships. So while no team can ever fool themselves that they can pre-arrange success (as George Steinbrenner was accused of believing in the Eighties), the Yankees aggresiveness in the free agency market hasn’t always back fired either.

I’d like to take this argument one step further. Spending money and making the playoffs often does indeed guarantee success. While the team that spends the most doesn’t always win the World Series, the richer teams seem to win. Since the 2001 Diamondbacks upset the Yankees in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 of the World Series, the team with the higher payroll has won the World Series four out of seven times. The three exceptions were the 2003 Marlins who simply out-pitched and out-managed the Yankees, the 2002 Angels who pretty much came out of nowhere and the 2005 White Sox whose payroll was a measly $1.6 million less than that of the Astros.

Heading back into the 1990s reveals the same trend. Every year the Yankees won the World Series, they did so with a payroll higher than that of their opponent. Between 1995 and 2000, only the 1997 Marlins emerged victorious with a lower payroll than their opponent.

So it works. Spending money pretty much works. It’s not a guarantee. As Belth writes, the games keep things interesting. But once October rolls around, the richer teams invariably win. Just ask the Red Sox. Just because they spend the second- or third-most in baseball doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to buy a championship either, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

RAB Live Chat
Open Thread: Dodgers interested in Abreu
  • Moshe Mandel

    Got this from BBTF.

    Over the last 11 years, teams which had a Top 10 payroll finished with an average of 87.7 wins
    Teams which were in the middle ten finished with an average of 83.2 wins
    Teams in the bottom 10 payrolls (which the Jays were in 4 of those years) had an average win total of 72.1

    Teams in the top ten finished with 90 or more wins 48 times in 110 chances and finished with 90 or more losses 11 times
    Teams in the bottom 10 finished with ninety or more wins 13 times and ninety or more losses 51 times.

    Spending wins. However, many teams can spend and choose not to- also from BBTF-

    Top teams in profits, 2002-2007
    Washington Nationals 2007
    Florida Marlins 2006
    Florida Marlins 2007
    Cleveland Indians 2005
    Baltimore Orioles 2004
    New York Mets 2007
    Chicago White Sox 2007
    Houston Astros 2005
    Toronto Blue Jays 2005
    Tampa Bay Rays 2007

    The bottom ten:

    Toronto Blue Jays 2002
    Texas Rangers 2002
    Los Angeles Dodgers 2002
    New York Yankees 2006
    New York Yankees 2003
    Texas Rangers 2003
    Los Angeles Angels 2004
    New York Yankees 2004
    New York Yankees 2007
    New York Yankees 2005

    • Ryan S.

      I know that at least the Yankee numbers are skewed. Even if the Yankee franchise itself is in the red during a given year, its parent company, Yankee Global Enterprises continues to roll in the dough.

      Make no mistake, Yankees are easily the most profitable team in baseball, and probably in all of sports.

      Still, your point remains true: some of the most profitable teams are also the ones that have a low payroll, and those are the guys people should be pointing the finger at, not us.

      You know who I never hear complain about salary caps? The only people you really need in order for the sport to work – the players . The worst thing a player has said about us this year is Torii Hunter, who basically said “Damn, those guys must really be serious about winning” – that’s as much a compliment as anything else. Funny how that works out.

      • Moshe Mandel

        Yeah, the numbers dont consider extrinsic sources of income such as the YES Network. As you say, the point still holds- teams like the Marlins are nowhere near being in the red.

        • Ryan S.

          To bolster your argument, its worth factoring in the wealth of the owner of the team. Pohlad, the Twins’ owner, is worth more than twice what Steinbrenner is for example. That cheapskate wouldn’t even get a domed stadium for his baseball team … in MINNESOTA. That’s straight up not caring about your fans or your baseball team- the weather could still be in the 10s or 20s in April over there!

  • Jake K.

    Since spending works, 1 year, $25 million for Manny. It’ll win games and be as entertaining as hell.

  • Rick in Boston

    Ben – (Hate to nitpick), but didn’t the 2003 Marlins have a lower payroll than the Yankees?

  • Ed

    I’d distinguish between trying to buy a championship and just operating under a big budget.

    The Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, etc are just teams that earn and spend a lot of money.

    The 2001 Diamondbacks were a team trying to buy a championship. They spent an abnormal amount of money compared to their revenues and payroll for other years. They did it by offering players huge contracts with massive amounts of deferred money (Johnson and Schilling each had ~50% deferred for starters), a lot of which they’re still paying out.

    The Marlins championship years were also aimed to buy a championship, considering they spent big on one season then traded away all their big contracts with no intentions of competing again soon.

  • Old Ranger

    As pointed out above and by someone else (who else but me) a few days ago, the Yankees Team has lost a lot of money over the years. They pay into Rev. Sharing big time, plus all the money spent on the Lux. Tax. Big Stien spent money on the team…not into his pocket, as some of the owners do.
    This year, instead of putting the money (from Jason, Moose, Bobby etc.) in his pocket, he (the boys) put it right back into the team. If others would do that, there would be better level of competition, and less reason for the hate the Yankees bunch. They need a whipping club…the Yanks. 27/09.

    • Ryan S.

      See my response to Moshe Mandel above. Even if the Yankee team itself is in the red, Yankee Global Enterprises is making a ton of money every year. Its great we reinvest our revenue into the team, but its not like the Steinbrenners are taking money out of their own pockets to do so.

      • Old Ranger

        More or less you are right but, if one part of the unit is in the red and the others are making money…it is still loosing money, and the money put back into the club IS THEIR money.
        In the days before the big “G-E” took off and made so much money; both the Yanks and Yes were running in the red. Before that the Yanks were running in the red and the big guy put his own money back into the team.
        Now days Yes, they make money hand over fist…as fans, we like that very much, because they reinvest it. 27/09.

        • Ryan S.

          I see your point, but even from a strictly business sense, it would be counter-intuitive to not reinvest money back into the franchise even though its the only unit operating at a loss. Obviously the Yankee baseball franchise is easily the most essential part of Yankee Global Enterprises. Its taken as a given that you need to reinvest money into the team in order to accelerate (or at least maintain) the profit of the other entities. I know the Steinbrenners reinvest money into the team because they want to win, and that it is far more than a business to our ownership, and I’m grateful for that. But its also one of the main aspects of their business model and they’re not necessarily being magnanimous by putting “their own money” back into the franchise, as at the end of the day, they make more money by doing so than by not.

          • Old Ranger

            Ok Ryan, I would say, you are right but…
            My point was not the hear and now (Mo knows one puts money into a money maker, as you pointed out).
            My point (which as usual), didn’t print out as well as it was meant to be, is…before (like back in the ’60 even) the team lost money but, the Big Guy spent his own money to bring in players and make the team better. After they started to make money, he took the profits and put them back into the team.
            Now here is this big enterprise, making more money then anyone could have thought possible…back in the day.
            Remember a few years back, there were talks of the kids taking over the team? The word out there was, if they did they would sell it, because it wasn’t that profitable. Oh, how things and people change. 27/09.

  • pat

    It all boils down to management. Marlins are an excellently managed club top to bottom. They know their own strengths and weaknesses as an organization and make decisions accordingly. The royals, a 75 win team, went out and spent 9 million dollars for freaking kyle farnsowrth. IMO a better idea would have been to take half that money add it to your draft budget and sign a few stud prep guys. That way when they reach the bigs you have a 3 or 4 year window to try and win a championship before they get too expensive. You can then have a fire sale and start over again. Obviously having the money to buy guys is a huge advantage but in the end sound management trumps money.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    I’m quite sick of this argument. But I’ll play along anyway.

    The Yankees play in a huge market. Not a big market, not a medium market, not a small market. A HUGE market.

    The tri state area has NINE, yes NINE, professional sports teams. TWO baseball teams. While other large markets (Chicago, Bay Area, LA) have several professional teams and teams like the Red Sox serve a large geographical area (New England), and some states have more than one team, there is nothing even remotely comparable to the greater New York area in terms of market. The influence of this market cannot be underestimated. It’s an important factor in being the Yankees. The NY stands for New York and there is nothing bigger than New York. And both the Yankees and Mets have humongous payrolls in part because of where they play.

    Second, we have owners who want to win. Not pocket the money, not horde the money, but spend the money. And sometimes they have spent that money foolishly and sometimes they have not managed the farm team well. But the spirit of winning is firmly entrenched in the organization.

    The organization pays mighty fees in luxury taxes and revenue sharing and they do it without complaint. They also spend a lot of money on charitable events and have been the first organization, on many occasions, to pitch in and help even if it’s not a local issue (Vtech anyone?) I would like EVERY SINGLE article that talks about the Yankee payroll to include the amount they pay in luxury tax, revenue sharing and the amount they give to charity.

    Thirdly, the fans want to win. And the organization understands that.

    Fourthly, there were how many pennants and World Series won BEFORE free agency? Did we buy them all?

    If not, shaddup. If so, damn we’re good.

  • Manimal

    Anyone have an opinion on Yasser Gomez? He is said to be fast and he hits .330 in his 10 years in Cuba. He is still only 28 and could play center field. Should the yankees get involved?

    • whozat

      These guys just defected, right? Juan Miranda had to spend a season or two in the DR while they tried to get him into the states to be allowed to work here.

      So, this guy isn’t going to be here and ready to play in the bigs this season. So…if you’re talking about signing him to play some OF in AAA next season, see if he’s going to be anything…ok. But I wouldn’t be looking to spend a 40-man slot on him.

      • anonymous

        They are 29 and 28 and the ESPN article claims they are MLB ready.

        • whozat

          Then I’m sold! They certainly won’t need any time to adjust to America or Major-League baseball!

          Look, they just got out. They still need visas and stuff at minimum. So who knows when they’d even be able to legally come here? As I said, it took Miranda a long time. Third…are YOU ready to hand a MLB starting job to one of these guys? You have more confidence in them than you do in Gardner? Do you want to DFA Dan Geise or Chase Wright or George Kontos in order to get one of them here? Do you want to shift Jackson over to a corner in AAA or keep him in AA so Gomez can play CF in AAA?

          Look, if you can a guy here on a minor league deal, sure. Bring him in, start him in CF in AA or a corner in AAA.

          • anonymous


            Anyway if they are good you are right they still have to set up residence outside the US I think so they are a while off I think. But ElDuque went strait into the majors didnt he? Granted he was like 47 when he got here but its been done.

            • whozat

              “But ElDuque went strait into the majors didnt he? Granted he was like 47 when he got here but its been done.”

              And Alexei Ramirez with the Chisox came right to the majors last year — but he was 26, and they didn’t have a top prospect that he was blocking or indeed many other tolerable options in the middle IF.

              So it happens. But, my points are that these guys aren’t going to fill a hole right away. And they’re probably going to get a 40-man slot from somebody else. So, you have to convince me that one of these guys is likely to be more useful to the Yanks than a guy like Kontos or Wright. Since they’re already approaching 30…it’s hard to say that they will.

              Hey, if they’ll take a minor league deal, do it. No problem. But if I have to drop a guy that I could use in the bullpen this year to sign one of these guys…I don’t really want to.

              • anonymous

                Well just off the top of my head Id rather have a pitching prospect on the 40 man then Shelley Duncan.

                • whozat

                  They also need a slot for Tex.

                • anonymous

                  ugh this just makes me hate Melky more. Fine.

            • Ed

              El Duque spent a few months in the minors before being called up. Not a ton of time, but it wasn’t straight over.

    • waswhining

      Man I hope so.

      On another note, did you read the Joba the-Drunken-Indian-who-is-set-to-implode-on-his-fame story in the post? Shoddy reporting but scary nonetheless. I so want the kid to do well but genes and character will out.

  • Booch

    There will always be sour grapes from the other fans of us. We buy championships and throw money around. If it wasn’t for the small markets the Yankees wouldn’t have a team because they just buy the best players from them.

    Yeah, well so what. Free enterprise at its best. Could it be more competitive if there was revenue sharing and a cap? Sure. But, in order for that to happen baseball would have to shut down completely for more than 1 season while the owners stick to their guns and say “we will dissolve MLB unless it happens”.

    The yanks just play by the rules and they are the best thing for baseball given the current parameters. Everybody wins when the Yanks win.

    • Ryan S.

      Despite the advantages that a team with a high payroll has, league parity – the central argument for a salary cap – has remained in tact. All a salary cap is, is a money transfer from the players to the owners.

    • VO

      you know this whole buying chapionships thing is crap. you cant say we need a salary cap because its totally legal what there doing they have money they can spend it. look who won the world series, THE RAYS, the yankees stilll spent over 200 million and noone was complainnning then, now the yankees are getting better so they neeed something to complain about to say its not fair

      • keith

        the phillies won the ws

        • waswhining

          Really? When did THAT happen?

  • Jamal G.

    Hey, you know what us Yankee fans say to all those criticizing the Yankees’ spending? They can call get in one, single-file line and each take a turn to unzip our respective zippers. Seriously, let them bitch and moan as much as humanly possible, nothing we say will even begin to change their minds. It’s insanity, we can’t keep arguing with these people – especially Todd Jones and Karl Ravech, the douches – over the same point and expect different results.

    Fuck. Them. All.

    • LiveFromNewYork

      This is true. If we lose they laugh at our payroll that we COULDN’T buy it. If we win, they sulk that we DID buy it.

      I’ll take the we win, they sulk scenario since they are going to complain either way.

      It’s better to be a winner and listen to the complaints then losing and listening to taunts.

      “I’m sorry…did you say something? I was busy polishing my TWENTY SEVEN WS rings.”

  • Booch

    I think the point will be moot over the next few years since the Yanks now have 4 people locked in for 5 or more years at over 100 mil. I don’t see them adding much more than what they got as far as exorbinant contracts. It will be interesting to see what kind of deal Jeter gets in a few years though.

    • Old Ranger

      How about none? Don’t get all excited, what I’m getting at is, if he can do the job…pay him. If he can’t do the job anymore…don’t put a contract out there.
      Let’s face it; in the real world, one gets to old or just can’t keep up anymore, what happens…we lose our jobs.
      Jeter can’t hit with enough power to play corner OF, where would he play? Do we want to have another Bernie situation on our hands? Just have to talk with him face to face and tell it like it is, besides…I have said before, he will go out on top. 27/09.

      • Ryan S.

        Fortunately, I think Jeter will be acceptable in LF for a couple years. He’s not going to get 3000 hits by the end of his current contract, and I don’t see him retiring before he does that.

        • Old Ranger

          Could be right but, either way, I would like to see him go out before the fans realize he ain’t what he was. 27/09

  • ortforshort

    You don’t need to win championships to be successful. Having a contending club and making the playoffs is all you need. That’s what the Yankees have been doing this decade and the Global Enterprise has been making money hand over fist. Its been the best of both worlds for the big leagues in this decade – a strong Yankee club with other clubs winning the title. It keeps the Yankees as a huge attraction while letting everyone still believe that they’ve got a chance of winning it all. Baseball’s never been healthier. The teams that are a problem are the ones that don’t spend like Kansas City and Pittsburgh. If they want more parity, folks should be screaming for a salary floor – it would help the game whereas a cap would hurt it.
    As far as Jeter is concerned. He’s a great athlete who keeps himself in great shape and still plays an excellent shortstop. I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell people who take fielding statistics seriously.

  • DCStack

    I have to take you to task on your egregious statistical gaff. The higher payroll winning four of the last seven World Series is not statistical proof. In fact it goes against the argument. In fact, if neither team has an advantage we would expect the team with the higher payroll to win the World Series four or more times in a seven year period exactly 50% of the time simply by chance.

    The math:
    Total Prob. = (.5^7)*((7 choose 7) + (7 choose 6) + (7 choose 5) + (7 choose 4))

    If I went around telling people that “heads” has an advantage when flipping a quarter simply because I observed a quarter landing on heads four out of seven times, people would call me nuts. That is essentially what you are doing with your World Series argument.

    I agree with the general argument that bigger payrolls help win championships, but they do this by helping you get to the playoffs not because of an advantage in the World Series.