MLB Playoffs: Money Still Talks in the Postseason

Jim FlanneryAnalyst IOctober 12, 2013

ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 12:  Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates as Andre Ethier #16 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to striking out to end Game Two of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on October 12, 2013 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Major League Baseball began its League Championship Series Friday night with the Los Angeles Dodgers visiting the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, while the Detroit Tigers are taking on the Boston Red Sox beginning Saturday for the American League title.

While it has been entertaining and gratifying to see small-market teams like the Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates competing in the postseason, the teams with all the money are the ones who have made it to the final four.

I'm sure many will argue the MLB system is working by pointing to the several small-market teams that made the playoffs this year and the fact that the New York Yankees missed the postseason with the largest payroll in baseball.

But here's the reality: It has been three seasons since a team in the bottom half of MLB team payrolls made it to the World Series (the Texas Rangers in 2010) and a decade since a team in the bottom half won a World Series (the Florida Marlins in 2003).

In fact, since the last MLB work stoppage in 1994 the average World Series winner has had the 7th highest payroll and the average loser has had the 8th highest. 

This year the four teams that have made the LCS are all in the top 10 for payroll, with the Cardinals as the cheapest team, coming in at 10th with a payroll of $115,222,086. The Dodgers have the second-highest payroll in baseball this year at $216,597,577, the Red Sox are fourth at $150,655,500 and the Tigers are fifth at $148,414,500.

What the last two decades have shown is that teams that spend a lot of money win championships and teams that don't spend money, well, don't. 

This is why the luxury tax system that the MLB has in place is such a dismal failure. Teams with deep pockets are too busy counting their pennant flags to worry about throwing a few more bucks into the league's coffers while the poor teams continue to flounder.

The fact that the occasional small-market team with excellent management can find its way to the postseason when the stars align just right, or that the occasional big money team will miss the playoffs, proves nothing. The long-term trend clearly shows that if you are serious about winning a World Series, you better plan to drop some serious coin on top-shelf talent.

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 12: Dustin Pedroia #15 of the Boston Red Sox turns a double play as Austin Jackson #14 of the Detroit Tigers slides into second base during Game One of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park on October 12, 2013 in Bost
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

And if you can't spend with the big boys, you simply aren't going to be able to compete.

The inequity of this state of affairs flies in the face of everything America stands for. The notion that any team can win the whole thing if they build a quality program is a lie, if anyone even pretends that that's the case. The deck is hopelessly stacked against you if you don't have endless resources to throw at your team.

If the league were actually serious about leveling the playing field for everyone, it would have a salary cap like virtually every other major professional sport and bring the big money teams back to the rest of the pack.

But they don't. There's a lot of revenue tied up in having the big market teams playing in the postseason due to the ratings they draw on TV.

Who, aside from the most hard-core fans, will sit down and watch a World Series featuring the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres? Maybe Mariners and Padres fans? Maybe...

So if you're planning to place a few bets on the outcome of this year's playoffs, you might want to consider a big Dodgers comeback against the Cardinals and look to see them face the Red Sox in the Series. Because when it really comes down to it, the only stats you really need to know are measured in dollars, not batting averages and earned runs.


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