The Seattle Mariners are in a league where they are out of their league.
That is, the Mariners are a member of Major League Baseball, but they cannot compete financially with certain teams that have seemingly unlimited payrolls.
As reported by ESPN, the Los Angeles Dodgers are on the brink of signing Zack Greinke to a six-year, $150 million deal. Greinke is a talented pitcher to be sure, but that is the kind of money that eliminates all but a handful of teams in baseball from bidding on his talents.
Jayson Stark of ESPN did the math, and the Dodgers could now have over a half-billion dollars in salary that is owed to a grand total of five players.
Five players. A half-billion.
The Dodgers have become the West Coast version of the New York Yankees.
And here we thought the $9 million owed to Chone Figgins was outrageous.
Where will this type of spending end? Can a team like the Mariners ever hope to win a World Series, let alone reach the postseason again?
It has been shown over time that spending money does not necessarily lead directly to championships. The 2012 season is touted as evidence of this, particularly since the Oakland Athletics and their 29th-ranked payroll made the playoffs.
In addition, as noted by the economics site Freakonomics.com, only two of the top-five payroll teams made the playoffs in 2012.
However, that site also noted that there is a statistically significant relationship between team payroll and the number of wins when you look at the aggregate data over time.
Is it time to simplify all this mathematical jargon? What this means is that spending a lot of money in one given year will not necessarily lead to success. Spend money over the course of several years, and your chances of winning goes up.
To borrow an analogy, if you buy a whole bunch of raffle tickets every year, eventually you will probably get one of your numbers drawn. The Mariners represent those nice people who buy a couple of tickets and hope against hope that their number gets picked.
The New York Yankees are a good example of this. They have certainly spent the cash in recent years, and they have their share of World Series championships. Since they do not win every year, Bud Selig will suggest that there is parity, particularly when a team like the A’s gets in.
However, there is a reason that the Yankees have made the postseason in 17 of the last 18 seasons. Cash does not guarantee the win, but it certainly provides the opportunity.
Back to the Dodgers and how they relate to the Mariners.
If Zack Greinke is worth $150 million, how much will Felix Hernandez be worth? King Felix might be comfortable in Seattle, and he might give the team a bit of a hometown discount. However, there are limits.
Seattle can afford to pay two, or maybe three big-name players and maintain their payroll. A team like the Dodgers can conceivably fill their roster with huge contracts.
Perhaps the spending by the Dodgers is a good thing. Maybe the league will eventually figure out that a salary cap is a fair and fiscally responsible way to take baseball into the future. After all, these contracts are not just about the individual player and the team that pays them.
These contracts have a trickle-down effect that impacts the entire league. The contracts will not get cheaper in the future, and the have-nots will fall farther behind.
Again, history has shown that a team like the Mariners can overcome the statistics and find a way into the playoffs with a lower payroll that the big-market clubs.
However, for a franchise like Seattle, those opportunities may be few and far between.
Get out your ticket for the big baseball raffle. You could be this year’s Oakland A’s.