For years, baseball fans have complained that the system is not fair because the big money/market teams like the New York Yankees simply go out and buy all of their championships. People are sick and tired of watching Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriquez in the playoffs every October and hearing about how much money they were paid to get there. When one looks at the history of the World Series, it is obvious that things are lopsided. The World Series title goes back over a hundred years and the Yankees have won just about a quarter of them; impressive to say the least, unless you live in another part of the country where such a record is more sickening than anything else.
In a perfect world, there would be more of a balance. People want to see the underdog win, it’s romantic. It would be wonderful to see the Pittsburgh Pirates do something special in October for the first time since the late 70’s, and the same could be said for others like the Kansas City Royals or Milwaukee Brewers. These are fantastic, hard-working, blue collar baseball cities that love their teams and want nothing more than to see them win, and also to give fans a break from the hated Yankees.
While it is true that the New York Yankees currently own 27 World Series Titles, the most of any sports franchise in the world, there is more to think about than the fact that they throw so many greenbacks at their players. We have compiled 8 reasons as to why simply buying a World Series Title is anything but a sure lock. The Yankees are a good example for this actually, winning only one World Series title in the last thirteen years
8. Where Paying for High Priced Players has Worked
In order to provide perspective as to why buying a title is not a sure thing, we have to look at the times where it may have worked and so we have compiled a few examples for our #8 spot. The Yankees lost the World Series in a four game sweep to the Big Red Machine in 1976. However, the very next year, the team owner/dictator, George Steinbrenner, signed the first big name free agent and missing piece of the puzzle, in Reggie Jackson. The result, World Series wins in both 1977 and 1978.
In 1997, just five years into the franchise’s existence, the Florida Marlins put together what was considered its own all-star team with mass signings of high priced, superstar players like Gary Sheffield, Moises Alou, Cliff Floyd, Bobby Bonilla, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, and Livan Hernandez. That team went undefeated in spring training on their way to taking it all for their first of two World Series titles in a six year period.
In 2008, the Yankees fell short of making the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. In the off-season, the Bronx Bombers acquired prized free agents C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira on their way to their 27th World Series title the very next year.
7. The Lovable Losers, Even the Big Market Teams Struggle
Coming in at #7 on our list are the lovable losers of Baseball, the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are a major market team that has not held up the World Series trophy since 1908, and at this point, there is no telling when a championship may find its way to the windy city. The Lovable Losers spent decades under the ownership of the very rich and capable Wrigley family of the Wrigley Chewing Gum dynasty. They are in one of the major television markets with the popular Chicago station, WGN. And lastly, have also spent large amounts of money on some very high end players, yet with their championship drought now inexplicably approaching 106 years, one must wonder if the World Series trophy will ever rest again in the hallowed halls of Wrigley field.
6. The Larger Market Teams Were Winning Long Before Free Agency and the Big Money Contracts
It’s not much of a surprise, but the larger market teams were winning long before free agency and big money contracts. According to Major League Baseball, the first official World Series was back in 1903 and between that time and the early 1970’s, when free agency first came into prominence, only five teams dominated baseball with World Series titles; the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, the New York Giants, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the St. Louis Cardinals. These cities were winning it all at a time when there was no such thing as a big money contract, and the average player often held part time jobs at the local market or car wash in the off-season to make ends meet.
5. The Luxury Tax
Taking up the #5 spot is the Major League Baseball Luxury Tax. According to Sportingcharts, Major League Baseball has created what is known as the Competitive Balance Tax, or as it is more widely known, the Luxury Tax. USA Today reports that, “The Luxury tax is different from other methods for limiting payroll as it doesn’t really prohibit big payrolls, as would be the case of a salary cap. What it does is impose a penalty on the teams whose total payroll exceeds a certain amount previously defined on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)”.
The baseball higher ups decided one day that the current system in which the New York Yankees have dominated the free agent market with financially exorbitant signings just wasn’t working for small market cities like Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. So they decided, in a very communistic manner, to tax the teams who went over a certain payroll number. While Communism is actually a good idea on paper, in the sense that we should make sure the little guy can survive, it also penalizes the guy who builds his own success. It has never worked, and goes against everything that is free will American Capitalism.
Interestingly, in its ten plus years of existence, the Yanks have had to kick out $252.7 million of the $285 million in luxury tax penalties handed down by Bud Selig and the MLB. Even with the lottery sized windfall that the Bronx Bombers have given the other small market teams, the luxury tax has never helped one of them win a World Series title; on those merits alone, it is a failure.
4. Where Paying for High Priced Players has Failed Miserably
The #4 spot is reserved for the failures of a team like the Angels that have proven empirically that buying a title is not a sure thing. The schizophrenically named Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have recently signed Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton and Vernon Wells, inflating the team’s payroll to over $140 million and earning them a spot in the payroll stratosphere with other major league heavy hitters such as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers. One would have thought that such all-star acquisitions and salary leaps would automatically equal the second World Series title in team history. The reality however was a record of 78-84, 6 games below .500, and a mediocre 3rd place finish last year.
3. Baseball is a Team Sport
Baseball, unlike golf, tennis, or some may even argue basketball, is a team sport, first and foremost and deserves the #3 place on out list for being so. There are nine players on the field at any one time, and while a talented player such as Alex Rodriquez has a better chance of getting a hit, stealing a base, or making a dazzling play in the field, he remains at the mercy of his teammates and visa-verse. A-Rod could have a career performance. He could go 4 for 4 with a double, a triple, and two home runs. He could make several ungodly defensive plays at third base. He could steal second, third, and even home. He could be the lead on Sports Center. But if his starting pitcher gives up 5 runs, and the rest of his team dogs it, then the Yanks lose.
2. Free agency
At the #2 spot is the ever present free agency. Although the premise of this article is that buying a title is not a sure thing, we still have to take a look at what may be the largest piece of the puzzle with free agency. If people want to blame anything for an unfair playing field, and teams looking to load up on high priced talent to win it all, they should really look hard at this issue.
Prior to its implementation in the 1970’s, players did not have a say in which team they played for. That all changed however in 1975 when, according to Scott Kendrick of About Baseball, pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally argued that their contract was not valid because they had not signed it. They won their case in arbitration and became the first legitimate free agents. Scott continues, “The players’ union and the owners then agreed to the rules governing free agency that the teams and players would follow”. From this point on, Major League Baseball players could essentially participate in American Capitalism as we know it, by having teams bid on their services. The good players began to go to the highest bidder, hence the beginning of the financially large market team dominance. But even attracting the big money fee agent still does not guarantee a title.
At #1 rests probably the most important factor in the difficulty in buying a title, the unpredictability of the game. In addition to being a team sport, baseball is also the epitome of unpredictable. The hitter cannot control exactly where he hits the ball, nor can the fielder determine exactly where the ball will go. The pitcher is throwing it at different speeds and from various angles. Lastly, the flight of the ball is affected by wind, humidity, temperature, altitude, and whether or not the pitcher dropped some spit on it. There is just no way to truly predict what will happen on every play, in every game. While it may seem like getting talented players equals an instant championship, both the team and unpredictability factors involved, make it so that it’s not a guarantee.
So while it may be nauseating to watch the Yankees make a run every year in the playoffs, and stack up more World Series trophies than anyone, while the Pirates and the Brewers wallow in another decade of losing, one must keep in mind that there is more involved than just throwing another $200 million at a guy and taking home the trophy.