Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow!
So began Macbeth’s soliloquy, as he remained resigned to the fact that his life, his ascent to power, and his closest associates, were all dissipating one at a time. It is a sad consistency over the past eight years for certain Major League franchises to expand their payrolls from being just slightly bloated into gargantuan monstrosities.
Today, Dec. 23, 2008, the New York Yankees agreed to terms with first baseman Mark Teixeira. The Yankees have agreed to sign Teixeira to an eight-year deal worth $180 million! That means approximately $23 million per season. To put that figure in laymen’s terms, that is more than half the total payroll of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, also known as the defending American League Champions!
I now turn my attention to one Hank Steinbrenner. Will you learn anything from your father, Hank? You cannot possibly BUY A PENNANT! You want precedent to substantiate this claim? Let us take a look at recent history. The 2008 American League Champions had a payroll that was 25 percent of the Yankee's. Even the 2008 World Series Champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, boasted a payroll ($98 million) that was less than half of what the Yankees spent. In fact, the top three payrolls for the 2008 season were, in order, the Yankees ($209 million), the Detroit Tigers ($138.6 million), and the New York Mets ($138.2 million). How many of those teams played in the postseason last year? About the same number as American League pennants won by the Yankees since signing Alex Rodriguez…zip!
When will these franchises learn? Money does not buy championships; heart does! Remember the 2003 Florida Marlins? The mediocre payroll that the Marlins had that season did nothing to prevent them from scoring a major upset in the World Series, knocking off the heavily-favored Yankees. It was this defeat that prompted George Steinbrenner to pursue Alex Rodriguez, and the Yankees have yet to play in another World Series since.
But, it is not just the New York Yankees who are guilty of this fiscal recklessness; however, the Yankees are the ones who spend the most money regardless of the rough economic times nationwide. The Chicago Cubs in 2006 began a transformation from a big-market team into a supermarket franchise. At the end of the 2006 season, the Cubs signed third baseman Aramis Ramirez to a five-year, $73 million contract extension. Derek Lee had been given a five-year, $65 million contract extension during the season. However, even with those monster contract extensions, Chicago exacerbated its own bloated payroll after the 2006 season by signing free agent Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million contract to complete a $100 million payroll for the upcoming 2007 season.
The Cubs followed this by re-signing overrated starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano to an expensive extension late into the 2007 season at five years and a whopping $91.5 million! This figure helped give the Cubs an even further expanded payroll for the 2008 season totaling $118 million. What have the Cubs gotten in return for their spending? Well, they did win back-to-back NL Central division titles in 2007 and 2008. With that said, the Cubs have only managed to win a grand total of…[drumroll]…[more drumroll]…0 playoff games!!!
Playing with heart is not just simply a rhythmic melody from a catchy song in some musical about some diehard Washington Senators fan who sells his soul for a shot to play on the losing ballclub to upend the Yankees for the pennant. Playing with heart is what can transform a small-market team into an elite franchise. Ever heard of Money Ball? Billy Beane, the long-tenured and successful general manager of the Oakland Athletics, transformed a small-market franchise into one of the most victorious teams this decade. With a very small payroll fitting in the bottom third of all franchises in baseball, the A's have managed to clinch four AL West titles and one Wild Card berth in the past decade. In fact in 2006, the Athletics clinched the American League West with the fifth best record in the majors in spite of the fact that their total payroll was 21st out of 30 teams.
Thus, supermarket teams like the Yankees, Tigers, Mets, and Cubs need to learn this valuable lesson. They can spend as much money as they please. They can attempt to buy up all the talented bunch of stars available in the free agent market to intimidate the small-market franchises. However, when the curtain is drawn, when that first pitch is delivered on Opening Day, when the 162-game regular season drags on, success is not measured in dollars, but by the scoreboard, with one team gutting out a win and another team grinding it out in defeat. Money does not make champions. Heart does.
Until this lesson is heeded by the supermarket franchises, all that remains for them is another “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” [Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5]