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No team with a top-five payroll has a winning record and four are in last place

May 22, 2012, 12:48 PM EDT

stack of money

This obviously isn’t going to last all season, but right now it’s pretty damn startling to look at the standings and see that the five teams with the highest payrolls in MLB are all .500 or worse and four of them are currently in last place.

New York leads MLB with a $198 million payroll, yet the Yankees are 21-21 and tied for last place in the AL East with the Red Sox, who have MLB’s third-highest payroll at $173 million.

Philadelphia sits between them in payroll at $175 million and the Phillies are bringing up the rear in the NL East at 21-22. Similarly the Angels rank fourth with a $155 million payroll and are the AL West’s last-place team at 18-25. Detroit is the only top-five payroll to avoid last place, but the Tigers and their $132 million payroll aren’t exactly thriving with a 20-21 record that’s good for third place in the horrendous AL Central.

Add it all up and those five teams have spent around $833 million on players for this season, and after one quarter of the schedule they’re a combined 101-110 and 27 total games out of first place.

All of which makes me wonder: When it comes to the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, and Phillies making the playoffs this season, how you would bet if the over/under was set at 2.5 teams? I’d likely still take the over.

  1. proudlycanadian - May 22, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    I doubt that any of those teams who overpaid their employees will make the playoffs this season. To further compound their problem, most of the money is guaranteed to continue for many years due to long term contracts.

    • paperlions - May 22, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      …and those long term deals are mostly to players past their prime.

      • thefalcon123 - May 22, 2012 at 1:55 PM

        The 2016 Yankees will have $67.5 million committed to 40 year old Alex Rodriguez, 35-year-old CC Sabathia, and 38-year-old Mark Teixeira. A-Rod and Teixeria have declined noticably in recent years…I can’t imagine what they’re going to be like in 4! The Yankees may be able to absorb the money, but will they be willing to bench a $25 million player?

        The 2013 Phillies will be paying $104 million to:
        Ryan Howard, 33 years old, coming off an injury and in noticable decline the past few seasons

        Cliff Lee, 34, and while still awesome, increased age comes with increased risk of injury and decline

        Chase Utley, 34, in noticable decline and ravaged by injuries

        Roy Halladay, 36 and no comment ’cause he’s pretty good

        Jimmy Rollins, 34, and currently hitting like me

        Jonathan Papelbon, 32 and a relief pitcher

        That means, the 2013 have about $71 million for a 3rd baseman, an entire outfield, and two rotation spots…with sub-par performances at shortstop and huge concerns at 1st and 2nd. Yes, the Phillies are in trouble.

      • paperlions - May 22, 2012 at 2:21 PM

        The Phillies phuture is murky at best.

      • paperlions - May 22, 2012 at 3:30 PM

        Okay…it’s not murky…it is clearly shitty. 😛

      • biasedhomer - May 22, 2012 at 6:51 PM

        The Utley, Howard, and Rollins deals are going to hurt the Phillies. But Lee, Halladay, and Papelbon should remain pretty good.

      • pjmarn6 - May 23, 2012 at 11:28 PM

        WOWOWOWOWOWOW!!!!!!!!!!!! When I say that baseball players are overpaid trained animals who are way past their prime and the fans are being hose by these ridiculous contracts and applauded the use of steroids to make these seals look like lions to ink the ridiculous contracts, I am booed incredibly. When other people say the same thing, they are looked upon as great sages.
        Who wants to look at Rodriguez get paid $45,000 a swing? Or a pitcher with a 4.50 ERA get paid 3 million dollars for the paltry 5-10 wins he manages a year?
        The game is like cheap wine nor, all rotgut.

  2. bigleagues - May 22, 2012 at 12:57 PM


    • Gamera the Brave - May 22, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      You say that like it’s a BAD thing…

      • pjmarn6 - May 23, 2012 at 11:37 PM

        Remember you all wanted the big names who were on steroids to be paid millions of dollars a year and long term contracts, when any wino in the street could tell you that athletes lose it way before they are 35 years old.
        I remember when just making the show was a fabulous idea for all the minor league players and a $100,000 was a fortune for a baseball player. I see all you dimwits talking about giving rookies millions of dollars as signing bonuses and demanding millions each year. Yet teachers only make about $45,000 a year, just what Rodriguez gets a swing.
        Hey a good teacher will work 45 years. A baseball player may get 6-10 years and what are 99% of them remembered for? Nothing! But a good teacher in 45 years can create and carve out of almost 9000 young minds an electrifying experience.

      • cleverbob - May 24, 2012 at 8:49 AM

        No one is going to watch teachers on TV, or buy tickets to watch them teach, or buy t-shirts or jerseys with their favorite teacher’s name on the back, or buy a certain product because a teacher endorsed it.

        Hell, according to some politicians teachers are evil sponges upon society.

  3. hansob - May 22, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    As much as it’s unfair to the young players who play for about $1.5M total for their first 3 years regardless of how productive they are, and then are forced into signing team friendly extensions or go year-to-year in arbitration, it’s this system that allows any team to build from within and make a run if they do it right.

    I’d hope the players realize the importance of this from a fan perspective, and don’t try to go too far in the future to minimize it in future CBA’s.

  4. Adam Seidel - May 22, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    I wouldn’t take the over on 2.5, but I may take push on 2. THe Angels and Phillies are very large longshots at this point (both are chasing very, very good teams leading their division and the Phillies just flat out are old as hell and without their only good offensive players). The Tigers should still probably win their terrible division, and I would think the Yankees are going to figure out how to get in, but wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Red Sox out.

    • biasedhomer - May 22, 2012 at 7:06 PM

      The Angels and Phillies are not long shots. Please do remember it is only May.

  5. Chip Caray's Eyebrows - May 22, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    All of which makes me wonder: When it comes to the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Angels, and Phillies making the playoffs this season, how you would bet if the over/under was set at 2.5 teams? I’d likely still take the over.

    I’d probably bet the under (Tigers and Yankees) and be pretty nervous about it, wondering if it was a mistake to underestimate the Phillies.

  6. Ben - May 22, 2012 at 1:05 PM

    I dunno, I think there actually is a reasonable argument that none of those five will make the playoffs.
    Yankees: Old, injuries.
    Red Sox: Old, injuries.
    Tigers: Stars and scrubs
    Angels: Underperforming, they can’t be this bad, right?
    Phillies: Old, fragile, beastly rotation but not much else.

    I think it’s unlikely, but none of those teams look like a lock–their divisions are all strong, except for the Tigers’.

  7. syracuse451 - May 22, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    Yet another reason that proves people who argue money buys championships are in fact idiots.

    • Ben - May 22, 2012 at 1:12 PM

      Money buys championships. Money also buys the decline years of superstars.

    • tsi431 - May 22, 2012 at 1:36 PM

      Actually it has.

      2011 St Louis — 11th highest payroll

      2010 San Francisco — 9th highest payroll

      2009 New York Yankees — highest payroll

      2008 Philadelphia Phillies — 12th highest

      2007 Boston Red Sox — 2nd highest.

      I would go further, but my point is made.

      • syracuse451 - May 22, 2012 at 1:46 PM

        2007 is an interesting cut off date. The next five were 11th, 13th, 2nd, 25th, and 15th. So while there are outliers on both sides (Boston/New York or Florida) most of the teams who have won in the last decade are top 12 payroll teams, and not top-5. So while I rescind my original hyperbolic statement, I still stand by the argument that there is significantly more parity among the medium and high payroll clubs that mainstream fans believe.

      • kopy - May 22, 2012 at 1:51 PM

        TV contracts are widening the gap between the upper and middle class of baseball teams. The parity is that some teams are shifting around from one to the other, since TV money is a newer development.

        Money doesn’t guarantee championships, but anyone who denies a positive correlation between payroll and wins is naive or stubborn.

      • Ari Collins - May 22, 2012 at 3:13 PM

        Yeah, I think that only one team being in the lower half of payroll kind of proves the point. Money may not be the only thing, but it’s a pretty big thing.

  8. xmatt0926x - May 22, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    Yeah, that’s the thing. Unfortunately in the end the high payroll teams usually make it, whether we like it or not. It’s easy to take a snapshot of one particular time and take joy at high pay teams struggling, but in the long run if we are going to have an uncapped payroll system i’d rather have my team be able to spend. And then people say “those teams have all these big, bloated contracts”. Yeah, that’s usually how it works because those are the only teams that can spend on the high priced free agents that leave the small market teams who can’t afford them. For all the talk of a team like Tampa who seemingly can throw out new prospects on the field year after year, the winners in the end are usually the high spending teams. Take a look at several of the World Series winners of the past 5 or 6 years and which one isn’t a top 10 payroll over $100 million? Remember when Texas was showing all the high salary clubs a thing or 2 in the last couple seasons? They are at about $120 million now and will try and lock up Hamilton this year. Thats what happens when you want enough great players to compete. Along the way these teams are going to miss on big contracts and have to eat a bloated salary here and there. It’s the cost of doing business and the fans in KC and Pittsburgh wish their teams had these “problems”.

  9. sgtr0c - May 22, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    it is the third week of May. Do it in the third week in September.

    • nolanwiffle - May 22, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      I tend to agree….

      Last year’s playoff teams on 5/23/2011:
      Tampa Bay 26-22
      Texas 25-23
      New York 25-21
      Detroit 24-23

      St. Louis 29-20
      Philadelphia 29-18
      Arizona 23-23
      Milwaukee 25-23

      While none were under .500, only Philly and St. Louis were flexing their muscle.

  10. heyblueyoustink - May 22, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    If Billy Beane was one of the five kings, i’d bet on him.

  11. thesportsguru7 - May 22, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    Anyone else have a feeling that the Phillies will be parting ways with Doc at the deadline if the team keeps under-performing. Grab a couple top notch prospects, and give Hamels a new contract with the money that is off the books.

    The team is old, they need to get younger, and healthier for that matter. Can’t wait to see Howard back, it can’t come soon enough. Utley and his knees on the other hand, may lose that job to Galvis who has been getting better and better.

    • cleverbob - May 22, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      Thanks to the extra wild card, the Phillies may still consider themselves within striking distance of sneaking into the playoffs. At that point, any team could catch fire Cardinals style…

      • vanmorrissey - May 22, 2012 at 3:19 PM

        I see Phils-Nats last day of the season. What would be sweet if NL East has the two wild cards also, not a stretch by any means, and that second one is the winner of this last game. So last wild card spot would come down to last day, last division game between the two teams fighting for it. THAT, I would love to see.

    • paperlions - May 22, 2012 at 3:32 PM

      I don’t think the Phillies are under performing….this is who they are. A team that does 1/2 the things on the field well, and 1/2 not so well…resulting in a .500 record.

      • thesportsguru7 - May 22, 2012 at 4:36 PM

        175 million dollar pay roll, and a .500 record is considered under performing.

      • paperlions - May 22, 2012 at 4:52 PM

        Under performing intimates that they are not performing as well as they could or should….the Phillies have many over paid players, not many under performing players.

      • thesportsguru7 - May 22, 2012 at 5:35 PM

        They have won the NL East every year since 2007, added 2 of the best pitchers in baseball, and are now sub .500. That is the definition of under performing.

  12. mungman69 - May 22, 2012 at 2:09 PM

    Let’s look at the standings in September.

  13. offseasonblues - May 22, 2012 at 3:09 PM

    Three things:
    – consistently successful teams draft late for long stretches and, while smart drafting can help, they have to make up the talent gap with free agents who are almost by definition being paid for past production, expensive, and soon to decline. The alternative is to tank a season or two, and you can imagine how well that would goes over in New York, Philly and Boston.
    – injuries are playing a huge role here. The Red Sox have an all-star infielder, six pitchers, and six outfielders on the DL – and a seventh with concussion symptoms.
    – I’ll take the over.

  14. alleghenys - May 22, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    Worth pointing out that the 5 teams with the lowest payrolls (Pittsburgh, KC, Houston, Oakland, SD) have a combined record of 94-117 and are 30.5 games out of first place. So while the rich may be struggling this season, the poor continue to flounder as they have in most years.

  15. rcali - May 22, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    Please Bud Selig, retire.

  16. sfm073 - May 22, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    I’ll take the under, Detroit and new York.

  17. bleed4philly - May 23, 2012 at 2:23 AM

    It’s a conspiracy that all the other teams are secretly uniting against them!!!

  18. rosesacl - May 23, 2012 at 6:31 AM

    money doesn’t always buy championships, but it buys playoff games at least….
    -lonely padre fan

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