World Series: Fall classic for the rich?

September 29, 2009

If the broadcasting Gods had their way, this year’s World Series match up would feature the New York Yankees versus the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Then again, the Yankees’ last championship in 2000, dubbed “the subway series by New Yorkers, was derided almost everywhere else as a contest between “payroll #1 (the Yankees) and payroll #2” (the Mets). Where did that leave smaller markets?BASEBALL/

Fans in Milwaukee, Kansas City, Oakland, Pittsburgh didn’t share the Big Apple’s excitement and the much-hyped series turned out to be the lowest-rated World Series in history, according to Fox Sports.

This time, it would be Wall Street against Hollywood, two regions of the country

that consistently sign high-priced free agents from the so-called “flyover states.”

Last winter, the Yankees secured former Milwaukee Brewer pitcher C.C. Sabathia with a $161 million contract (over seven years). Then, former Toronto Blue Jay fire-baller A.J. Burnett was happy to take $82.5 million (over five years) from the Yankees.

Finally, first-baseman Mark Teixeira got $180 million (over eight years) to relocate his family to Manhattan after stints with the Angels, Braves and Rangers.

On the other side of the country, Joe Torre’s Dodgers spent $45 million (over two years) to retain left-fielder Manny Ramirez.

Aside from the St. Louis Cardinals, all the other division leaders (Yankees, Tigers, Angels, Phillies and Dodgers) have payrolls exceeding $100 million. However, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig told the Los Angeles Times that he doesn’t see any disparity in baseball.

“I take great exception to that,” Selig said. “I think this year is an aberration. In the last five years, I think we’ve had as much competitive balance as we’ve ever had. Am I concerned that we’re back to where we were in the ’90s? We’re a long way from that.

“I don’t think this year has discouraged me one bit. I know I’m right, to be frank with you.”

Lew Wolff, the owner of the Oakland Athletics, said: “This is not a blip. I hope it’s an aberration, but I’m not sure it is. If it’s not, we’ll have to tweak the labor agreement.”

12 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

The disparity in baseball mirrors that of Amerian society. The rich make the rules so they get richer and the rest of us get scraps…if we’re lucky.

Capitalism? Yeah, it’s good. For a few.

Posted by Mike H | Report as abusive

It is so obvious, I’m surprise the questions is even beiing asked. Prior to free agency in baseball, teams such as Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & Kansas City were consistantly in the playoffs. These teams are now the development league for the big markets. Whats surprises more is why the owners of the small & mid-size markets do not split from MLB and form a new league. Who would NY & Boston play then?

Posted by John M | Report as abusive

What a joke. a Question about baseball parity and we get the first grade answer from Mike about the evils of rich people.

Mike, will a poor person ever give you or create a job for you? (not unless your working for the feds) How many hospitals have wings built with donations from a homeless beggar? Rich people who you seem to dispise provide many things to our communities even if Micheal Moore tells you they don’t. So stop with the class warfare garbage, it is getting old. It’s people like you and Michael Moore with a chip on their shoulder that are tearing this country apart. Are some people greedy? sure. But under any other system we wouldn’t even have great baseball stadiums and Football teams. Guess what someone had to work their butt off to get rich in the first place. And in a free country they should be able to do whatever the hell they want with their money. No one is under obligation to provide for lazy bums and drug addicts to survive. Self reliance is what we all should be concerned with in our lives. And for those that don’t have and can’t provide there is a safety net. Usually provided by the donations of large corporations, religius institutions and last but not least wealthy people. I am so sick of this stuff.

As far as parity goes. Who really cares? It’s a game.
It’s entertainment. The same thing happens when a movie is being cast and they want the biggest stars and the biggest names associated with the film to draw more people in to watch. If your two largest markets are NY and LA wouldn’t it seem logical that those teams have many more revenue streams available to them? None of this matters anyways because it’s up to the owners to spend their money the way they see fit. If we don’t like the product they field we don’t participate. Has anyone seen how many times Fenway Park has sold out!!! Can we say that about Kansas City…Milwaukee…Oakland???

Posted by E. Cartman | Report as abusive

The problem is they got rid of the salary cap i hope the nfl doesnt do this and then we end up with the cowboys being a good team cuz they can pay the most for their players. i hate baseball.

Mike, why is that my parent’s had 3 children, and one turned out extremely wealthy (millionaire), one turned out very middle class ($80,000 per year), and one struggles to make it (single mom, $30,000 per year). My parents were High School dropouts by the way, but they both worked hard and met our needs (modestly)… unitl we turned 18, then they said “you are on your own.” The point is, the beauty of our country, and capitalism, is EQUAL OPERTUNITY, not equal outcome. If i wanted to be rich like my brother, and I was willing to make the sacrifices that he has to achieve that wealth… there is no doubt in my mind that I could not do so. And besides all of that, even our “poor” live better than those under socialism or any other form of government. I guess you think those “greedy” people will be less greedy under socialism?? No – they will still be greedy, the only difference is they will have it ALL with no hope for you to get ANY. AT least now we all have an opertunity.
Under socialism you will live in extreme poverty while the “leaders” live in the lap of luxury. Just look at the socialist countries…

Back to base ball. I agree in principle with John… but I think if the owners were wise they’d figure out a way to make the teams more evenly matched… or baseball will continue to die a slow death. It is hard to be a fan of a perpetually losing team.

Posted by Randy M | Report as abusive

As a Pirates fan, you can imagine my opinion.. the rise of free agency, lack of salary cap has resulted in exorbitant ticket prices in most markets. Rich teams like LA NY Boston don’t have to share their home market TV revenue, much like the NFL does. Michael Shapiro’s recent book, Bottom of the Ninth gives you a glimpse of what might have been if Walter O’Malley and the Yankee owners Del Web and Dan Topping had not had their way in 1960.

Sorry to all you die-hard baseball enthusiasts, but your game is NOT a game. It is contest being the rich and the poor. It is the saddest example of American sport. I used to enjoy watching baseball growing up, now I could not be bothered.
Sport is loosely defined as a competition between competitors, usually with an equal playing field. Baseball destroys this idea. \’Fair\’ is a word no longer within the framework of the national past time.
When I team\’s tax for over-spending is more than the payroll for some teams, something is wrong. When a team over pays for a player so that he will not sign with another rival club, something is wrong. When player\’s used illegal drugs, admits it and there is no consequence from the governing body, something is wrong.
I love NFL football since the salary cap makes it the most equal, fair sport in America. It is the example that all sports should strive to duplicate. A fair playing field is a good thing!
Final thought… teams that made the playoffs in MLB 2009 and salary rank:
Yankees (#1)
Boston (#4)
*Tigers (#5)
Angels (#6)
Phillies (#7)
Dodgers (#9)
Cardinals (#13)
Rockies (#18)
*Twins (#24)
6 of the top 9 made the playoffs… is the case and will always be the case. Sure we get the low income earnings coming through but that is more the anomaly than the norm.

C\’mon Twins… the real sports fan are pulling for you!
Cheers…

Posted by Lobyk | Report as abusive

Hey, I’m a Yankee Fan and I admit it. However, the Yankees are willing to spend the money on players. Don’t give me that “small market” mentality where they say they can’t afford it. The Yankee are paying a luxury tax to these teams which in essense is helping you pay for these players. If you put a good product on the field then the fans will show. If you put a crappy product on the field then your fans won’t show and your advertising sponsers won’t show and so on. The Yankees haven’t won since 2000 so why is everyone always complaining this point? I realize the Yankee got caught over-paying for “juiced” players in the steroid era that ultimately turned out to be detrimental to the Yankees and other high payroll teams…but the Yankees can’t be held accountable for the actions of these players…it’s Bud Selig and MLB. Now that we’re in a post steroid era I believe that there will be more competative balance where if the owners manage their finances better and throw a little more money into their clubs then they should see the fruit of there investment. The Yankees are just one of those teams that gets it right.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

Hi Jim,

I don’t think Don Cistaro or anyone else has a “small market” mentality and I don’t think the current situation should be analyzed through some sort of “marxist class struggle” prism either. The Yankees happen to play in the richest city in the world and whatever they charge for corporate boxes and\or tickets, fans are always willing to pay for it. It’s a classic supply and demand equation.

A sad fact widely known is that small market teams can’t keep up with the inflation brought on by the Yankees, Red Sox or Dodgers when it’s time to snap up the best free agents. If MLB wants small market fans to tune in, they need to figure out a way to prevent them from becoming farm teams for big city teams. Why would you watch 162 games, if your home team doesn’t stand a chance from day one?

Posted by Lionel Perron | Report as abusive

In response to Lionel,
Everyone says the same thing…”The Yankees play in the richest cities in the world”. Guess what? The Mets do also and I know they’ve been hampered with injuries this year. But just look at the Met payroll. They should’ve been able to overcome those injuries and be competitive yet they nearly lost 100 games. It has nothing to do with big market cities, it has to do with the franchise itself. The Red Sox once played in a small market town yet now it’s a big market. And why is that you ask? It’s Red Sox Nation that fuels the fire in Boston.

Let’s just say for argument sake the Yankees relocate to say San Antonio. The brand is still intact. In a couple of years you’ll be saying the San Antonio Yankees are a big market team that can afford to pay for the best players.

And it’s not like the Yankees are scarfing up all the best players. At some point some of these other owners are going to realize you got to spend money to make money. I remember Kansas City and Pittsburgh being great franchises a few decades ago. There was no salary cap back then. You pay and treat your players right and they’ll stay. Just remember the Yankees are home grown up the middle with Posada, Cano, Jeter and Cabrerra to go along with pitchers Pettitte and Rivera. And then you add a couple of free agents A-Rod, Tex and CC and you have a playoff team.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

From a Red Sox fan perspective, I think that baseball does not have a real league — it is totally unfair to small money clubs. There needs to be an absolute amount that teams can spend on their players — make it more like football. Granted, teams sometimes win that are not large market, but it’s the exception, not the rule.

BoSoxFan

Posted by BoSoxFan | Report as abusive

I totally agree with BoSoxFan. Bring on a salary cap that’s within reach of most of the smaller markets. It’ll hurt the Red Sox, but it’ll hurt the Yankees even more and most non New Yorkers will likely agree that anything that hurts the Yankees is a good thing.

Tampa Bay’s success last year is not going to happen very often. The reality is that big money is going to overpower small money most of the time. The NFL has it right. Time to wake up, MLB!

Posted by AnotherBoSoxFan | Report as abusive