Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Money Can't Buy You Love or Wins in MLB

Now that The Great American Pastime’s post-season is set, the baseball gods have spoken and they didn’t have much to say for the game’s big spenders. Out of the top six spending franchises in the game today in terms of payroll, four didn’t even make the post-season. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox all bought themselves nothing more than a ticket to watch the playoffs on television. View the Smacchat MLB Playoffs Preview Here. The most talked about spending failures however took center stage in Southern California. Angel’s owner Arte Moreno made it no secret last off-season, he wanted the Halos back in the Fall Classic and was going to open his pocketbook to put his team in contention. The target, free-agency’s 254 million dollar man last winter, Albert Pujols. The former N.L. MVP left his comfort zone in St. Louis after a World Series title for the big cash of Orange County and a ten-year deal the Cards weren’t going to offer, which included 12-million in year one, as most of the contract is back loaded. Along with Pujols’ big bucks, Moreno was on the line for outfielders Vernon Wells and Tori Hunter’s cash flow. Wells made 24.5 million this season and Hunter 18.5 himself. The problem was even with the addition of pitcher Zack Grienke at the trade deadline and his 13.5 million dollar deal, The Halos couldn’t make up enough ground from their bad start. Despite a payroll of 154,298,266.00, third highest in the majors at season’s end, Anaheim started the year with just a 17-26 overall record thru May 21st. On top of that, Pujols didn’t even hit his first home run of the season until May 6th. That was 29 games and 111 at bats into the season, not exactly what the boss man Moreno had in mind. Pujols will finish with at least 30 long balls, 105 runs batted in and an overall average of .286, but the bottom line is the Angels a favorite to finish atop the A.L. West ended up on the outside looking in. On the final day of the regular season, The Halos sit four games out of first place and were eliminated from wild-card contention a few days earlier. But this wasn’t a case of terrible injuries or bad chemistry. The Angels played in very competitive division with the two-time defending A.L. Champion Texas Rangers and the surprise team of the entire major league season, The Oakland Athletics. The bottom line is the Angels never played well enough to overtake either team down the stretch. The Rangers, who have the sixth highest payroll at 135,560,974.00 dollars played steady all season long, while Oakland, who ranks just 27th overall in payroll at 58,335,000.00 made a major run towards the end of the year while using five rookie starting pitchers which of course is simply unheard of and not the norm. For the other Southern California team the Los Angeles Dodgers, the story was a little different. The Dodgers had to wait for a change in ownership pre-season to become a real player once again. After Frank McCourt mismanaged the franchise into bankruptcy court which eventually led to him being forced to sell the team, the club was bought by the Guggenheim Group. The new ownership instantly wanted to push the club back towards its glory days didn’t hesitate adding players and salaries. At the trade deadline, the Dodgers dealt for all-star Hanley Ramirez while picking up both relievers Randy Choate and closer Brandon League. When the season started Los Angeles ranked only 13th as far as overall salary with the payroll being 93,686,077. But even with the help at the trade deadline, injuries to Matt Kemp, Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr. among others stalled the Dodgers early season division lead and had them behind in the N.L. West standings, certainly missing a few pieces to contend for a World Series Title. So the new ownership group went to work on the waiver wire deadline and eventually made the deal of the season in baseball on August 24th. The trade added Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett, the injured Carl Crawford and Nick Punto. With the players of course came salary additions of more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the course of the contracts. The new players moved the Blue-crew all the way up to the number two spot in overall salary at 198,369,359.00 for the 2012 season. The result ended up being far from what Dodgers fans hoped for. With the club only getting a month and a half to gel and figure out roles, it slumped from the get-go finding itself at one point dropping 12 of its first 18 games with the new squad, mostly because of a lack of offense. With a red-hot San Francisco Giants team taking full advantage of the Dodgers slump they ran away with the division title. Los Angeles was left battling for a wild-card berth and despite finally getting hot as team over its last eight games; they were eliminated from playoff contention on the seasons second to last day. The bottom line here is without enough time together to finish off the season the offense started to press when they fell behind in the standings. Players started trying to do too much and you had a team not complementing each other offensively with everyone trying to win games on their own. The result was an offensive slump that ended the season early despite an everyday line-up that resembles something the New York Yankees put on the card game in and game out. While the Yankees are in the post-season with the games highest payroll, they still haven’t won a World Series Title since 2009 and before that hadn’t even been to the fall classic since a 2003 defeat to the Florida Marlins. The Bombers of course did however roll off a run of four World Series Titles in five years from 1996 thru 2000, always with the highest payroll in the sport. Baseball is a funny game indeed where the team with the best overall players, don’t always win. In order to get those types of players however, you have to pay big dollars but those dollars spent don’t guarantee anything on the field. There is something to be said for team chemistry and we’ll see next October after a full season passes, if the money both the Angels and Dodgers spent on some of the game’s best players can actually buy them the success they’ve been swinging for.

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