The "Top Three/Bottom Three" Phenomenon

T KCorrespondent IJune 17, 2008

Who needs $200 million anyway?

As I write this, the three lowest-payroll teams in baseball (Marlins, Rays, and A's) have a better record than the top three payrolls (Yankees, Mets, and Tigers).

The Marlins continue to exceed expectations. They're three games back in the NL East and six games over .500. In the offseason, they unloaded Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, in an effort to cut a third of their payroll, to a league-low $21 million.

For what its worth, the Yankees are paying Alex Rodriguez $28 million this year, and they find themselves with a worse record than the Marlins.

The Marlins have received huge contributions from unlikely guys, like second baseman Dan Uggla (156 OPS+), third baseman Jorge Cantu (121 OPS+), and outfielder Cody Ross (.503 SLG). None of those three are making more than $500,000 this year.

Cantu has replaced Cabrera at third, and he has hit more home runs and has a higher OPS than his predecessor so far this season. You didn't need me to tell you that he's making a fraction of what Cabrera makes.

And what about Andrew Miller? The 23-year old has a 2.77 ERA in his last nine starts, and he has been one of the best starting pitchers in the National League during the months of May and June. Again, you didn't need me to tell you that he makes a fraction of what Dontrelle Willis makes.

Once again, the Marlins seem to time the right moment to sell-high on their big players and find cheap, young players to fill in. I commented on Rich Lederer's recent column over at The Baseball Analysts and pointed out the 'Top Three/Bottom Three' phenomenon.

Rich responded with "just as practice doesn't make perfect...perfect practice makes perfect, spending does not equal success...only wise spending equals success."

I totally agree.

Now, let's just see if this can hold up throughout the rest of the season.