I don’t know if it’s just Yankee apologist backlash, but I seem to be hearing a lot lately of the argument that MLB teams at the lower end of the payroll scale are just cheap bastards who only care about making money.
The latest version of this was a Bill Madden Daily News column that I read on my way to the track on Sunday.Â Madden says his sources say the Pirates made $75 million in 2009 before selling a ticket from revenue sharing and central fund monies (shared national TV, marketing, licensing, MLB Network and WEB site revenue).Â Seems like a lot.
But Maddon also claims sources tell him that the Pirates made a profit of approximately $14 million last year.Â Which, if we trust his numbers, means the Pirates would have lost $61 million if not for what little revenue sharing there is in baseball’s current rules.
Meanwhile, the Pirates were 62-99 last year and had their 17th straight losing season. So how are we supposed to feel about that $14 million profit?Â Should losing teams not be allowed to make a profit?Â And could that $14 million have made a difference?
Only the Padres and Marlins had 2009 Opening Day salaries lower than Pittsburgh’s $48.7 million.Â Are there $14 million worth of players out there that would have gotten the Pirates 13 more wins and moved them out of last place?Â At $62.7 million, the Pirates still would’ve been outspent by 25 other teams.Â Just in their division the Cubs spent more than double that ($135M), and the 5th-place Astros spent a shocking $103M. The Cards won the division with an $88M payroll.Â If the Pirates had operated at a $14 million loss, their payroll still would’ve been between Milwaukee ($80M) and the Reds ($71M), and have only been 18th highest in the bigs.Â Does anybody think that it’s a good bet that with $28M more in salary the Pirates win the 29 more games they would’ve needed to get into a tie for a playoff spot?
Yes, we know it’s not impossible to win with what the Pirates spent in 2008.Â The mighty Devil Rays made it to the World Series starting 2008 with only a $43.8M payroll.Â Â But there’s a big difference between possible and probable. Clearly, the odds are stacked, the dice are loaded, and the playing field sure as hell ain’t even.
But it’s real fun to pretend we know better how to spend other people’s money and run their businesses.Â Like when Bill Madden said the Yankees should cut ties with A-Rod and eat $270 million last February after the steroid admission. Fun.Â Next to no basis in reality, but fun.