Remember that old movie UHF? You know, the movie where a little low-budget UHF television station hit it big and became the hottest network around? Don’t you wish that the sports world could be like that? You know, where a team could easily win games even without much money.
Well, the movie world envisioned by a musical genius who successfully merged a Dire Straits song with the Beverly Hillbillies theme song is nothing more than a fantasy. The fact is that it’s extremely hard to get something good in the sports world for cheap. Then again, it’s not like any cheap sports teams can give us such quality programs as Conan the Librarian or Wheel of Fish.
The fact is, an organization needs to spend loads of money if they want to have a good team. This is clearly evident in Major League Baseball. Sure, teams that spend tons of cash can be hit with luxury taxes, but some teams are just better off than others and can afford to shop at Spatula City.
Teams making revenue left and right have the means to spend money on players they want. The New York Yankees made $471 million in 2012 while the Boston Red Sox generated $336 million. What’s more, the Yankees have gotten two World Series titles since 2000 and the Red Sox have three. The St. Louis Cardinals have had two in recent years and won four NL titles since 2000 with an annual revenue of $239 million, making them somewhat of an exception to the rule. Teams that can’t earn $180 million more in revenue like the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates have struggled for the most part.
But does this mean that money equals championships every single time? The fact is that some teams can get lots of wins without spending much. This listing of teams based on which ones got more wins for less money shows that maybe you don’t have to spend loads to have a strong team. Then again, some teams on this list prove that if you spend a little you won’t necessarily get a lot.
Note: All payrolls are as of the start of the 2013 season.
10. Minnesota Twins – $75.5 million, 66 wins – $1,143,939 per win
Why is a team as pathetic as the 66-96 Minnesota Twins on the list? Well, for starters, the Twins had the same record as the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs, a team that could actually throw a bit of money around in desperation to try and (cough) win a World Series, spent $104.1 million this past year while the Twins spend $75.5 million. The Cubs spent nearly $1,570,000 per win last season while the Twins parted with over than $400,000 less per win. Okay, so the Twins aren’t good but at least they got what they paid for, unlike the Cubs or the 61-99 Chicago White Sox, a team that blew $124 million on the season for a cost of $2 million per win.
9. Arizona Diamondbacks – $90.1 million, 81 wins – $1,112,345 per win
A .500 record is not all that great, especially when you’re in the same division as the Los Angeles Dodgers. But at least the Arizona Diamondbacks have youth in their rotation. The big question now involves just how much they’ll be paid. Patrick Corbin got around $500,000 this past season and went 14-8. He’ll certainly be due for more in arbitration. The same goes for Wade Miley, a pitcher with a 3.55 ERA and the same salary and arbitration status. The $90 million team salary for the D-Backs will certainly go up in time so it’s up to the team to perform a little better if they’re actually going to keep from spending more than $1.11 million per win. Catching the Dodgers would certainly be nice.
8. ColoradoRockies – $75.5 million, 74 wins – $1,018,918 per win
It didn’t take long for the Colorado Rockies’ 2013 season to be thrown into the Plots R Us Mortuary Service pile. The Rockies did at least get their money’s worth on Michael Cuddyer. They paid $10.5 million for him and he produced a .331 batting average, the highest in the league and of his career. Of course, you could consider that stat to be heavily inflated, what with the Rockies literally playing one mile above sea level. But for a team that’s been known to historically have pitching issues due to the elevation, Jorge De La Rosa at least got $11 million after going 16-6. Still, a 74-88 record won’t get you anywhere these days. At least not in today’s game, that is.
7. Kansas City Royals – $80.5 million, 86 wins – $936,046 per win
Failing to make the playoffs is not all that fun. The Kansas City Royals know this all too well. They haven’t reached the playoffs since the Reagan administration back in 1985. Still, an 86-76 record, the team’s best since going 83-79 in 2003, is a sign of hope. The Royals acquired James Shields, paying his $9 million salary for the year, and will pay him $13.5 million in 2014. He did go 13-9 with a career best 3.15 ERA this past season but will the Royals regret trading away top prospect Wil Myers to Tampa Bay for Shields? One thing is for certain in that they didn’t have a need for the $520,000 prospect that they got in the trade. Elliot Johnson was put on waivers and signed by Atlanta after batting .179.
6. Atlanta Braves – $89.3 million, 96 wins – $930,208 per win
The Atlanta Braves found themselves in a familiar spot in 2013 – on top of the AL East! They also found themselves in another similar situation, being knocked out of the playoffs for the thirteenth time since winning the 1995 World Series. The 96-66 Braves spent $89.3 million on the team, but the returns for some coveted players were mixed. B.J. Upton got $12.4 million in the first year of a five-year contract with the Braves but only managed a .184 batting average. His brother Justin, who made $9.7 million, had a .263 average. Dan Uggla was even more embarrassing as he got $13 million for batting .179. Then again, pitching has been the Braves’ forte in recent years. Mike Minor only got $505,000 but he still went 13-9.
5. Oakland Athletics – $68.5 million, 96 wins – $713,541 per win
The Oakland Athletics have a history of working hard to find players that don’t need lots of money and are still very talented. After all, they were the subjects of the famous movie Moneyball. The A’s went 96-66 and won the AL West in spite of spending just $68.5 million. That’s less than half of what the Los Angeles Angels spent; the Halos spent around $142 million with much of that money going towards Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Yoenis Cespedes, the most expensive player for the Athletics, was worth only $10.5 million (despite his .240 batting average). Meanwhile, Bartolo Colon only got $3 million and had an 18-6 record on the mound. So if the A’s were so cost-effective, why can’t they keep the dugouts at O.co Coliseum from flooding with dirty water?
4. Pittsburgh Pirates – $66.3 million, 94 wins – $705,319 per win
Finally, the Bucs got back in the playoff picture! The Pittsburgh Pirates made the playoffs for the first time since 1992 with a 94-68 record on a $66.3 million payroll. This payroll will certainly go up thanks to Andrew McCutchen’s contract moving him from a $4.5 million payday in 2013 to a salary of up to $14.7 million in 2018. This is part of a six-year $51.5 million contract with the team. It’s a total that the Bucs will be more than happy to spend, what with the Cutch winning the NL MVP title. Francisco Liriano will be getting $6 million in 2014 instead of the $1 million from 2013 too, a raise he did earn what with his 16-8 record and 3.02 ERA.
3. Miami Marlins – $39.6 million, 62 wins – $638,709 per win
So, how’s the rebirth of the Miami Marlins and Marlins Park working for the team? So far we’ve got an embarrassing take at the gate with the upper deck being closed off half the time, a silly-looking home run sculpture, former manager Ozzie Guillen praising Fidel Castro, an awkward and sad instance of trying to bring Muhammad Ali out during the park’s opening and a game day atmosphere where the fans are more interested in hitting up the in-park club than watching the game. And let’s not forget the Marlins cutting their payroll by more than 60% down to $39.6 million. But the Marlins did spend just $638,000 per win during a 62-100 season, so it has to be good, right? And it cost just $2.7 million to get Placido Polanco who batted .260, so that’s a good deal. Isn’t it? Anyone?
2. TampaBay Rays – $57 million, 92 wins – $619,565 per win
The Tampa Bay Rays have been notorious for struggling to do much in baseball from a financial standpoint. The team is the poorest in the MLB, it had the third-lowest payroll of 2013 at $57 million and they finished last in attendance with only 1.51 million fans at Tropicana Field, which by the way no one wants to spend money to replace. However, ever since manager Joe Maddon took over in 2006, the Rays have gone 677-620 with two AL East titles, one AL pennant and a total of four playoff appearances including one in 2013. This is in spite of playing in a division with the Yankees, Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, three teams that all spent at least $115 million on players. Matt Moore only got paid $1 million for a 17-4 season while James Loney hit .299 while earning $2 million. Both players are signed for at least the next three years and will get bigger salaries very soon. Hopefully they’ll have money left over for maintaining that cownose ray tank.
1. Houston Astros – $24.3 million, 51 wins – $476,470 per win
This entry comes with an extreme caveat. A cheap team will NOT give you good results. The Houston Astros spent just $24.3 million on players in 2013 and had the worst record in baseball going 51-111 and losing the last fifteen straight games of the season. In fact, the team even traded away the man who was arguably their best and possibly most expensive player during the season. Jose Veras, who earned $1.85 million this year, was traded to the Detroit Tigers after landing 19 saves. Meanwhile, 5’5″ infielder Jose Altuve got $505,000 this year and batted .283. That’s $7,769 per inch, by the way. Jason Castro, who made it to the All-Star Game (only because MLB rules say you need at least one player per team in the game for some reason), got around $500,000 too. He could afford nine spatulas at Spatula City (the tenth costs just one penny!).
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