The New Moneyball Theory Continues: Rays, Rangers Top “Smartest Spenders”

Jerry MilaniContributor IAugust 30, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 29: Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run homer against Matt Harrison of the Texas Rangers on August 29, 2012 at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)
Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

Somewhere Vince Naimoli and Tom Hicks are scratching their heads. The former owners of the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers were vilified during their mismanaged runs at the top, promising much and delivering little more than mistakes and apathy. My how times have changed.

Tampa Bay and Texas are now perennial contenders under Stu Sternberg (Rays) and the ownership group that includes Nolan Ryan (Rangers), and both have some of the brightest stars in the game, all at properly managed prices led on the field by master technicians Joe Maddon and Ron Washington.

So it should come as little surprise to the current legion of fans that the Rays and Rangers were first and second in Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2nd annual ratings of the smartest-spending franchises not just in baseball, but in professional sports.

The ranking determines how well the 122 franchises in the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB spend their money. The ranking was compiled by using regular and post-season records and publicly available payroll data to calculate how much teams spent per win over the last five seasons (for baseball he also included the first half of the current season).

Every team was then compared against league average to see how well they turn wages into wins, producing a total score called the “efficiency index.” The lower the index the better.

Following the two MLB clubs were the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings; No. 4 NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers; No. 5 NBA’s Boston Celtics; No. 6 NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins; No. 7 NFL’s New England Patriots; No. 8 NFL’s Green Bay Packers; No. 9 NFL’s New York Giants; and No. 10 NHL’s Boston Bruins.

For this year’s ranking, bonuses were added for the victories that matter most: wins above .500, playoff wins, and championships. The scale counts regular season wins once, with a half-win bonus for every win over .500. Playoff wins count for 10 percent of a season; championships for half a season. In their Super Bowl-winning season in 2011, for instance, the New York Giants got credit for nine regular-season wins, plus a .5-game bonus for their ninth win—the one that put them above .500. Their four playoff wins earned them 6.4 more wins and the Super Bowl victory eight more for a total of 23.9 “weighted” wins.

On the bottom? A good pile from Gotham. While the St. Louis Rams were 122 with an efficiency index of 4.07, the rest of the bottom 10 included No. 120 MLB’s New York Mets; No. 119 New York Islanders; No. 116 NBA’s New York Knicks; No. 115 and NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

It must be true that everything is always more expensive in New York. At least that’s what the owners will say. However, for those enjoying another summer of David Price under the Dome or Josh Hamilton at The Ballpark, they will take those efficient wins any time. I’m sure the owners will agree.