The New York Yankees have long had the highest payroll in all of baseball. Millions delight in their annual playoff ousting and confidently proclaim that World Series Championships can’t be bought. We beg to differ. Check out how the San Francisco Giants and other perennial contenders buy the World Series Championship year after year.
Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post recently ran a story that explained how in 2012, teams with the top 15 payrolls in baseball averaged 81.4 wins while the bottom 15 had 80.6 wins. He makes a compelling point about how teams that have tried to buy championships have failed. His piece primarily focuses on the playoff production of Yankee stars as well as yearly woes of the Red Sox and Phillies. You can read it here.
Forget the fact that the teams Boswell referenced were World Series Champions a total of four times in the last ten years. He actually makes a great case, but we aren’t totally convinced. To further explore this issue, we looked at the last decade, ranking each team’s payroll from the highest (1) to the lowest (30).
Sure, this year’s top 15 and bottom 15 payrolls had very little difference in terms of regular season wins, but did you know that in the divisional round of the playoffs, the higher payroll won all four series? Each of these four teams were within the top nine payrolls in Major League Baseball.
If you look at the San Francisco Giants’ payroll over the past 10 years, you will see that their payroll rank fluctuated greatly between 6th and 17th. That said, all three of their playoff appearances – including two World Series Championships – came during seasons when their payroll rank was in the top 10.
When looking back at the past decade, there is a clear trend of baseball’s aristocratic elite taking the top prize. In fact, the average payroll rank of a World Series Champion over that time is 9.5. Keep in mind that this includes the 2003 Marlins who pulled off a highly remarkable and controversial World Series win with the 25th highest payroll in baseball. The next lowest was the Chicago White Sox in 2005 with the 13th lowest payroll. So a bottom-15 team has won once in the last decade. When you remove the 2003 Marlins from the data set, the average World Series champ has an astounding payroll rank of 7.67.
Over that span, the No. 1 payroll (always the Yankees) has only missed the playoffs one time and seven of the past 10 World Series Championships have been won by the team in the series with the higher payroll.
The Yankees have proven that going out and employing the most expensive players will not guarantee a championship, but hanging out around the top 30 percent of payrolls provides a huge advantage.
Photo by Keith Allison