With the World Series around the corner, the question always emerges every year regarding payroll. What does it really mean for the World Series?
For years the New York Yankees were destroyed by petty fans who determined that each World Series title came from the front office buying their rings.
That is a narrative that has become far too common in today’s game, especially where the Bronx Bombers are concerned. Their dynasty in the late 1990s was torn to shreds by jealous fans who determined that they would not be collecting those rings without all the money spent.
That narrative is something that Yankees fans will be happy to get off their back, especially since this year’s Fall Classic pits the Boston Red Sox against the Los Angeles Dodgers…the two of the three highest payrolls in the sport.
So the big guns are facing off but that’s not always the case. In fact, on the surface, it really seems that the higher the payroll, the more likely a team is to hoist the trophy at the end of the season.
So let’s take a look at the past few seasons. Last year, the Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were ranked first in overall payroll. The Astros were ranked 17th, below the league average.
In 2016, the Chicago Cubs claimed the title at 5th in payroll, defeating the Cleveland Indians at 23. 2015 was probably the most interesting series, which pitted the Kansas City Royals (ranked 17th) against the New York Mets (ranked 20th).
And that is not something that’s abnormal at all. From 2000 until 2017, 10 of the World Series winners have been ranked 10th or above in payroll. In fact, in that same time span, only two teams have won with the highest payroll in the league (2009 Yankees, 2000 Yankees).
While only two teams emerged as champions while owning the top payroll in the league, there are only five times the top spending team has made it to the World Series in the last 19 years (six with this year’s Fall Classic).
The running pattern as of late seems to show that money doesn’t necessarily matter. Just ask the Houston Astros, who essentially took the World Series with a gaggle of young, talented stars and very little money spent in comparison.
Teams will gladly spend their money on pieces that will get them to the World Series. So, yeah, spending money is pretty important in the grand scheme of things. However, it only works if you do it right.
And that’s exactly what the Boston Red Sox have done this year.
Yes, they’re essentially buying a championship … something that the Yankees did when they spent the most money back in 1996, 1999, 2000 and 2009. But the reason they were able to do that was due to the idea they spent their money the right way.
Boston knew they needed to shell out some dough to fill the vacant designated hitter slot since David Ortiz’s retirement following the 2016 season. They paid a pretty penny to bring in J.D. Martinez and that has been well worth the five-year, $110M deal they inked.
They saw a need and the perfect bat to fill it and spared no expense to get him to Boston. Much like the Yankees did when they inked CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira back in 2009 to help fill the biggest holes in their lineup: starting pitching and first base.
So is there a direct correlation with spending money and winning the World Series? We would all like to think so, especially with the Red Sox on pace to earn yet another World Series title with the top payroll in the sport. But if history shows anything, a team of rag-tag no-names can just as easily win a title as a team full of overpaid superstars.
The “buying championships” narrative has gotten old. Yes, teams can certainly spend all they want to improve their squad’s chances of winning a World Series. However, it only works if you do it the right way.
The Yankees did it the right way in 2009, just like the Red Sox are doing this season. They spent their money wisely and collected players who were tailor-made for their ballparks. The Yankees also did it the wrong way for some time too, as proven by their championship drought from 2001 until 2008.
Regardless of the facts, the narrative is still there. But we all know the truth: no matter how much money you spend, a championship is not guaranteed.