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):
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.
1. San Diego Padres ($591k
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”.