In The Post-Steroids Era, Mid-Market Baseball Teams Have An Advantage

Tim Lincecum

Tomorrow night, the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers will open the 110th World Series. Those two teams had a combined opening day payroll of $153 million, or $53 million less than the New York Yankees.

This season, only two of the eight teams with payrolls of at least $100 million made the playoffs. Meanwhile five of the eight teams with $70-99 million payrolls played in October.

The list of the highest paid players in baseball is littered with sluggers including Alex Rodriguez ($33M), Mark Teixeira ($21M), Miguel Cabrera ($20M), and Ryan Howard ($19M). Certainly all solid players. And yet none of them are competing on baseball’s biggest stage.

Is giving sluggers big salaries still the way to win in baseball?

Rays manager Joe Maddon recently suggested that steroid testing has leveled the playing field in MLB, noting that steroid testing has opened opened the door for teams with good athletes that play the game the right way.

Outside of the Yankees, who looked old and slow, this year’s playoff teams were filled with good young athletes that play fundamentally sound baseball. And many of these young players also happen to be cheap.

It wasn’t that long ago that some believed low payroll teams actually stood to make more money by losing and playing in front of small crowds, noting that wins may not be as lucrative as revenue-sharing. But what if teams can consistently compete and maintain low payrolls?

We could be witnessing the beginning of a cold age in baseball spending. An era in which mid-market teams actually have an advantage by not overspending on big names and big bats. Rather, the new formula may be to have a core lineup of cheap, young players, complimented with cheap free agents. And if a team is going to spend money, spend it on pitching.

Welcome to the post-steroid era in baseball.

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