A common belief among casual Major League Baseball fans is that teams who splash large amounts of cash during offseasons will compete for championships. MLB continues to not utilize a structured salary cap for rosters, and thus owners with deep pockets can acquire and retain big-name stars.
The thoery isn’t totally off. Four of the five biggest spenders in the league will participate in the 2014 MLB Playoffs. The New York Yankees are not one of those sides, as the Bronx Bombers will have no October baseball for the second straight year.
These are the 10 highest payrolls for teams that didn’t make the 2014 MLB playoffs.
Values via Spotrac
10. New York Mets – Team Payroll: $98,310,519
These weren’t your so-called “Same old Mets.” While the Amazin’s did end the season 17 games out of first place in the National League East, no team in the division outside of the Washington Nationals finished ahead of the Mets in the division. A 79-83 record is respectable for a roster that, to be honest, does not have $98 million worth of talent on it.
There are reasons to believe the Mets will contend for a playoff spot next September. Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom could be cornerstones of a future championship rotation. Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell will hopefully be 100 percent in 2015.
Ya gotta believe.
9. Seattle Mariners – Team Payroll: $100,745,156
Seattle makes this list due to the team crumbling with a postseason berth on the line. The Mariners lost back-to-back games when on the road against an awful Houston Astros team in September, and Seattle then dropped three straight when at the Toronto Blue Jays. Winning four straight wasn’t enough to save the team’s season, as the Mariners finished one game back of a Wild Card spot.
Not even King Felix Hernandez could stop the bleeding during Seattle’s losing streak. He was lit up at Toronto on September 23, surrendering 8 runs – 4 earned – in 4.2 innings. That outing will live long in memories considering that the Mariners were a victory away from forcing a one-game playoff.
8. Milwaukee Brewers – Team Payroll: $111,359,023
The Brew Crew completely fell apart in the last days of summer. Milwaukee lost nine straight from August 26 through September 4, and they went on to drop 13 of 14 contests. That run of poor play put the Brewers in too big of a hole, and Milwaukee ended the campaign at 82-80.
Brewers owner Mark Attanasio didn’t shy away from publicly hitting out as his players regarding that losing streak. “Frankly, I’m disappointed in the team, disappointed in the guys,” Attanasio stated in late September. “They’re better than this, and they didn’t show it.
“There’s a lot of euphemisms we’ve heard. We’ve heard heart. We’ve heard leadership. And we’ve heard urgency. We just didn’t get the job done. There was a job that needed to get done, and it didn’t get done.”
7. Cincinnati Reds – Team Payroll: $112,436,785
The numbers tell you all you need to know about why the Reds didn’t make the playoffs. Cincinnati ended the season 28th in runs, 29th in batting average, 29th in on-base percentage and 26th in slugging percentage. That the Reds finished only ten games below .500 is impressive factoring in the team’s dreadful offensive output.
Cincinnati wasn’t a complete afterthought on the final days of the regular season, as the club played the role of spoilers against division rivals the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ramon Santiago hit a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the tenth inning of the second-to-last game of the season. The Reds defeated Pittsburgh 4-1 in the regular season finale, and those two results kept the Pirates from winning the National League Central.
6. Atlanta Braves – Team Payroll: $112,747,008
Heads were bound to roll in Atlanta due to the Braves having a lousy season. That is what happened in September when team CEO Terry McGuirk sent general manager Frank Wren packing a day after the team was eliminated from the playoffs. John Hart, who was GM of the Cleveland Indians for 13 years and for four years with the Texas Rangers, was awarded the Atlanta post, but he is not expected to keep it on a long-term basis.
The Braves, like the Mets, finished the year at 79-83. Atlanta will owe Dan Uggla $13 million in 2015. That is a lot of money tied up on a player released by the Braves this past July.
Spend wisely in the future, Atlanta.
5. Toronto Blue Jays – Team Payroll: $128,742,934
The Toronto offense was good enough to land the team in the playoffs. The Blue Jays finished the season fifth in runs. They were fourth overall in slugging percentage. Toronto was sixth in on-base percentage, and the club finished seventh in batting average.
Things weren’t so bright for the team as it pertains to overall team pitching. Toronto finished 21st in WHIP and BAA. The Jays were 22nd in team ERA.
Toronto was one of several clubs to shrink away with a playoff berth on the line. The Jays were losers of six straight, and they lost seven of eight games in the middle of September.
4. Texas Rangers – Team Payroll: $132,162,729
The Rangers were an absolute disaster in 2014. They were the worst team in the American League and the third-worst side in all of Major League Baseball. Texas could use upgrades at manager, starting pitching, at least one outfield position, and the team badly needs a bat.
What a mess.
In fairness to Tim Bogar, the Rangers played well in the final month of the season under the interim manager. The club won seven straight games during a stretch of time, and the Rangers closed 2014 out by winning 13 of 16 contests. Bogar deserves to enter 2015 as Texas manager.
3. Boston Red Sox – Team Payroll: $156,381,898
Boston went from first to worst in 2014. The defending World Series champions struggled throughout the spring, and the Red Sox went on to be sellers before the July trade deadline. While many saw Boston as the big winners of summer trades regarding building for the future, those moves essentially ended the team’s season.
The Red Sox finished the year at 71-91.
One thing Boston did correctly: Send New York Yankees superstar and baseball royalty Derek Jeter off with a bang. Jeter, retiring at the end of the campaign, was honored with a pre-game ceremony at Fenway Park before the two rivals faced off in the season finale. Fans of both clubs put history aside when chanting Jeter’s name on multiple occasions during and after the game.
Sports truly can bring people together.
2. Philadelphia Phillies – Team Payroll: $169,505,755
The Phillies didn’t wait until the first day of the offseason to shake things up in their front office. Assistant general manager and amateur scouting director Marti Wolever was fired on September 26. By that point of the campaign, Philadelphia had clinched the worst record in the National League East.
The Phils finished the year at 73-89.
Figuring out what to do with slugger Ryan Howard is a must for Philadelphia. The Phillies owe Howard, who will turn 35 years old in November, $60 million. While Howard smashed 23 home runs and drove in 95 runs in 2014, he hit only .223 and struck out 190 times. Philadelphia will have to eat some of his contract even if they find a team to take him in a trade.
1. New York Yankees – Team Payroll: $226,714,866
The Yankees somewhat ironically made baseball relevant on a national stage thanks to an all-time great. Shortstop Derek Jeter, who should be in the Hall of Fame before the end of this decade, experienced a dream ending to his playing career, notching a game-winning hit in his last at-bat at Yankee Stadium before driving in a run on his final career at-bat at Fenway Park. Jeter made the Yankees must-see TV at the end of the season, which is incredible considering that New York wasn’t a playoff contender on the last weekend of September.
The Yankees are, of course, meant to be about more than ceremonies and goodbyes during the fall. Not making the postseason for a second consecutive year is unacceptable for this club. Those blaming only injuries for New York’s 2014 woes are ignoring the fact that the Yankees could be on the cusp of the end of an era.