First of all, as always, I am enjoying the hell out of the MLB Playoffs. One of my favorite times of the year. However, even though I have enjoyed the Yankees comebacks and watching the Red Sox get swept and watching the Dodgers bullpen, even i have to admit, that it will always be this way. Nine times out of 10, the top dogs will win. The top dogs are the ones who spend the money.
Here’s a list of 2009 team player payrolls: (Numbers are before the season started and don't include payroll additions and in the Pirates case, subtractions)
New York Yankees
New York Mets
Boston Red Sox
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers
Chicago White Sox
San Francisco Giants
Toronto Blue Jays
St. Louis Cardinals
Kansas City Royals
Tampa Bay Rays
San Diego Padres
Baseball's final four is again made up of the rich teams. All four teams still playing are in the top 9 in payroll. Sure, occasionally a team like the Rays can go on an improbable run to the World Series every once in a while, but often the case the big dogs make it.
So what do fans of the Bucs, or the Reds, Marlins, Nationals, etc. hope for? Who should they model them self after? Billy Beane's Oakland A's? Sure they have made some good deals and have made some post-season runs, but last time I checked, they haven't won anything. The Twins? Here is a good model for small market teams. They keep running young arms up to the big leagues. The win by playing Ron Gardenhire ball. the have no problem simply plugging players in for those that they lose and they continue to produce.
Eventually, I could see some similarities between what the Bucs are trying to do and what the Twins have done for the last decade. The difference though between the Bucs (and other small market teams) and the Twins is that the Twins have guys like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. So no matter the young guys they have to play, they still have two studs in the middle of their lineup. Maybe the Bucs could eventually get to that point with McCutchen, Alvarez, Tabata, etc., but the key to the Twins success is sustaining the pipeline of young talent to the majors. They continue to develop young players.
The most likely scenario for a team like the Bucs is the one the Rays just went through. Stockpile a boatload of young talent and when they are ready, get them to the big leagues all together and hopefully let them learn how to win together. The advantage the Bucs would have over the Rays is that they aren't in the AL East. However, they are still in a division that spends money- Cubs, Cards, Stros.
I still believe, that it can happen, but even I understand how difficult it will be, given baseball's current economic state. What can Bud Selig do to fix things? Salary cap. Although, no way that will ever happen. Union wouldn't let it, and if I'm a team like the Yanks, I don't want a salary cap. I don't hate the fact the Yanks have five times the payroll as the Bucs. It's actually nice to see an owner put the money back into the on field product. Even though 200mil is ridiculous, Yankees fans can never say that their management is not doing everything possible to try and win. I'm not saying the Bucs have to go out and spend 200 mil, but facts are facts and the teams that spend the money necessary to put a real product on the field, generally have the best success.
The one thing I'm truly tired of though is Bud Selig's constant plea of parity in the game. What a crock of shit to feed the fans. Just because the Rays made it to the World Series last year doesn't mean there is parity in the game. Some teams still have zero chance of even competing next season. Some type of balance has to be met. I give Selig some credit. Revenue sharing has worked, but it is up to the teams to put the money back into the on field product. Now the Bucs needed an overhaul of their farm system so I will cut them a break this time around. Soon though, they are going to have to spend to compete. There is still no reason that the Brewers should have nearly double the payroll of the Pirates.
Even though there is reason to get excited about the young talent that is on the way, until the decide to compete with other teams economically, the Pirates are very unlikely to compete with them on the field.
Here is a good article by Joe Starkey to check out as well