The Giants are no slouches, either, as they hold the second-best record in the National League, fourth-best overall and are fresh off their trip to the White House where they were congratulated by President Obama for winning their first World Series in 56 years, their first in San Francisco.
Reminiscing about their 2010 success and World Championship, it’s very clear that the biggest obstacle in their postseason run last year was the Philadelphia Phillies. After squeaking into the playoffs by winning the final game of the regular season and then beating the Atlanta Braves with a combination of good pitching (something Giant fans were accustomed to) and timely errors by Braves, Giant fans were already preparing their “overall, it was a good year, we have a lot to build on,” speech.
As much as the fan base believed in their Giants, not many of them would have been surprised if the offense had been completely shut down by the likes of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Instead, the Giants rallied to score three or more runs in each victory, including six runs in Game four, which was enough offense to support the amazing pitching performances the Giants were receiving on a nightly basis.
After the Giants dispensed of the Phillies, most fans believed they would handle the Texas Rangers in the World Series, and that’s exactly what they did. Following their defeat, the Phillies felt it necessary to bolster their pitching staff even further, going out and acquiring Cliff Lee for $120 million dollars and upping the Phillies payroll to $173 million in the process, the second-highest payroll next to the New York Yankees at $197 million.
While the Giants payroll is in the top ten (eighth) at $118 million, it could be a lot higher if some of their young stars were as far along in their careers as some of the Phillies everyday standouts. While the Giants have young, homegrown talent currently starting on a regular basis (Pablo Sandoval, Nate Schierholtz, Brandon Crawford, Chris Stewart, and Brandon Belt), none of those guys make over $500k, and collectively they make less than $2.2 million.
Compare that to the Phillies homegrown talent, such as Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Domonic Brown, who collectively make approximately $46.9 million. The difference is even clearer when you compare each of their last two starting lineups. On Sunday, the Giants played the Brewers and their starting lineup’s salary was just under $17.8 million. Yesterday, the Phillies played the San Diego Padres and their starting lineup’s salary was just over $78 million, $32.5 million over the Padres payroll for their entire team.
A lot of the Phillies' high-priced salaries are indicative of a team that went to the World Series back to back years, winning in 2008 over the Tampa Bay Rays and then losing to the New York Yankees in 2009. Surely, after last year’s stunning defeat to the Giants in the NLCS, a team that had far less talent on paper and payroll, the Phillies front office felt they missed a huge opportunity to cash in on some of the money they have invested in a select core of players.
On the flip side, the Giants front office will have to make some of the same investment decisions over the next couple of years, and some of the choices could be very tough and unpopular with the fans.
One thing is clear for now—last year’s World Championship team was an incredible bargain as current payroll’s go, and if they recreate the same magic this year, their return on investment would be off the charts.