In baseball, salaries have become outrageous. The gap between the high salaried franchises and low salaried franchises have become utterly ridiculous. The Yankees have the highest overall team salary in baseball at over 206 million. Currently the dubious honor of holding the lowest team salary in baseball is held by none other than the Pittsburgh Pirates, at a meager 34 million. Ironically, the Yankees share the best record in the MLB, while the Pirates have the 2nd worst record in the game. Coincidence I think not.
So how can these smaller market teams compete? I will tell you how, “By living and dying on young talent.” The only way for the smaller market teams to compete with the big boys and have a prayer at being in contention come October is by having a young and talented team. Younger players tend to have smaller salaries. They have not become the big shots yet, who demand the big bucks. They are still grounded and humble in their ways. Baseball has not become strictly a business at this point in their careers.
Major League baseball currently consists of 30 teams. And as we mentioned earlier, there is a 172 million dollar disparity between the highest and lowest salaried teams. But how about the contenders. I mean sure, the Yankees have the highest salary in the League and are currently tied for first place. The Chicago White Sox are currently leading the AL Central, and have the 7th highest team salary in baseball. And then Atlanta is currently leading the NL East with the 15th highest salary in the game. So I have picked out 4 teams that are all currently tied for 1st or in 1st in their current divisional races. These 4 teams are the Texas Rangers, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, and Tampa Bay Rays.
The San Diego Padres currently have the best record in the National League. Want to know what their team salary is? It is less than 38 million, which is good for 29th lowest in the 30 team in MLB. The Texas Rangers are currently leading the AL West. Their overall team salary is right around 55 million, which is good for 27th lowest in the League. And then you got the Tampa Bay Rays, all tied up with the New York Yankees in the AL East. Their payroll is a little less than 72 million, which is ranked 21st in the League. Then finally, you have those scrappy boys out of Cincinnati, who currently are a half game up in the NL Central. Their overall team salary is 72 million, and 19th in the MLB. Want to know what all 4 of these teams have in common? They are all ranked among the youngest teams in the League. Meaning their rosters are all full of young studs.
The Reds are currently the 15th youngest team in the League with an average roster age of 28.8. The Padres are currently the 17th youngest team with an average age of 28.6. The Rays are the 20th youngest team in the League, while the Rangers are the 21st. So all of these teams are among the younger squads in the League. It’s a fact that young talent can lead to winning seasons. None of these 4 franchises have the big money of the Yankees, the Reds Sox, or the Mets, but they do have youth on these high-powered franchises.
Let me give you some prime examples. The Reds are currently being led by a guy who definitely is a big time candidate for the National League MVP in Joey Votto. Want to know what the Red’s 1st baseman makes a year? Try a whopping $525,000 salary. Want to know what Mark Teixeira, the Yankees 1st baseman is making this season? Try well over 20 million dollars. Teixeira is 30, while Votto is 26. The Reds groomed Votto up through their system. The Yankees picked up Teixeira in a monster free agent deal a couple of years back. Another prime example of this point. Lets compare Ray’s 3rd baseman Evan Longoria with Yankees 3rd baseman Alex Rodrigeuz. ARod is making an unfathomable salary of 33 million dollars this year and putting up a decent .264 batting average with 17 HRs and 87 RBIs. Longoria, a young 24-year-old who came up through the Ray’s system is making $950,000 this year. He is currently batting .292 with 15 HRs and 69 RBIs. Are ARod’s numbers really worth 32 million dollars more? Are they even better? So would you prefer the big blockbuster deal for ARod in this case or the guy who came up through the farm system in Longoria?
So I could go through examples like this all day. But the only way for smaller market teams to compete with the big dogs is to groom young talent through their farm systems, and put out a young and talented product. This is obviously much easier said than done, but look at the benefits teams like the Padres, Reds, Rays, and Rangers are reaping. They have young and exciting teams in which they brought up through their farm systems. And their team salaries all together barely add up to more than that of just the Yankees alone (237 million to 206).
So you do the math. It is no easy task, but young money can pay big dividends, and is the only way for these smaller market teams to sniff postseason baseball.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.