The Breakdown: Baseball, losing and sour grapes
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Summit County, Colorado
Sure, World Series rings cost a few thousand bucks, what with all the jewels and gold on them. But there is no price tag for a World Series title.
What I’m trying to say is that you cannot buy a championship.
As much as fans of the Rockies or Twins or other “small” market teams may try to tell you, a World Series is about going after the gold, not following the green.
This comes up every fall, when teams with low payrolls get ousted by teams with high payrolls. For example, the 2007 World Series between the Sox and the Rox or this past week’s ALDS between the Twins and the Yankees.
And everytime a situation unfolds like that, people instantly whine about baseball not being fair and how poor little franchises just can’t compete against the evil empires in big cities.
Too bad that’s not true, because that’d be a nice excuse for franchises with inept general managers and/or frugal owners.
This complaint bothers me for many different reasons – none of which have to do with me defending a team I like that has “bought a title.”
I’m a Cubs fan, so all we’ve ever bought is sadness and misery. If anything, the Cubbies have actually proved – far too many times – that spending a lot of dough means about as much in the win column as having aesthetically pleasing uniforms. In fact, you could argue, and I often do, that their spending is the direct result of their failures. Over the past decade, spending big bucks on perpetual fanner Alfonzo Soriano, oft-injured Mark Prior and recently crowned town idiot Milton Bradley have put the Cubs in a pretty miserable hole as a franchise.
(Enough venting on my part, though, and let’s get back on track.)
As my rant about the Cubs showed, spending money doesn’t mean that you win. Eventually every title in every league at every level of every sport comes down to four things: talent, desire, momentum and luck. I don’t care if we’re talking about a little league team or an MLB squad. You have to have those four things, plain and simple.
Now, money can buy a team some decent talent, even title-worthy talent, but desire, momentum and luck are all up to the players on the field. No payroll can make a team win 21 of 22 games like the 2007 Rockies, and no general manager can make a fourth-string wide receiver make a catch off his helmet on a game-deciding play in the Super Bowl, like David Tyree in 2008. Eventually, everything comes down to what happens on the field.
Still, some may try to argue that a higher payroll in baseball does help to put a team in a better position to have the other three factors fall into place.
But the one thing that people forget is that big payrolls are not limited to big-market teams. Unlike other sports, there is no salary cap in baseball. It’s not like the Yankees are allowed to spend $200 million a year, while Kansas City is limited to $100 million. The only restriction is that owners have to pay a luxury tax if they spend too much. That’s it.
You see, the problem isn’t that the Yankees or Red Sox, or even the hapless Cubs, buy up all the good players. No, the problem is that the other owners are flat out too cheap to do it themselves.
Sure, some markets may be different than others (though I’d argue that winning solves that (Example: Green Bay)), but a billionaire owner in New York and a billionaire owner in Denver are no different.
The fact of the matter is a team only loses because of two reason: The other team was better, or the other team played better. Everything else is simply sour grapes.
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