The general rule in Major League Baseball and other pro sports is that the big spenders have an unfair advantage. They get to drop major coin to acquire elite talent and then ride those purchases on to post-season glory. Well, that's the theory anyway. But how has it worked in practice in the Majors this season?
#1 Spender: New York Yankees = $197,962,289
Perfect! The theory is flawless. The highest spending team has the best record in the AL right now. All is right with universe. Capitalism rocks!
#2 Spender: Philadelphia Phillies = $174,538,938
Uh oh. The theory has met its first exception, or will it prove to be the rule? Inquiring minds want to know! As you probably know, the Phillies have been a season-long disappointment and provided ironclad proof that no amount of money can stop a team from being ravaged by old age and injuries.
#3 Spender: Boston Red Sox = $173,186,617
Hmm, this isn't helping, not one bit. The Red Sox are "only" four games under .500, but that is unacceptable for a team with their payroll. Like the Phillies though, injuries have played a role. But why focus on such a simple and benign explanation as that when we can all just point and laugh at their toxic clubhouse chemistry, managerial coup in the making and throw in a few beer and fried chicken jokes for good measure. The real lesson though is that maybe there is something to the idea that just having a lot of talent isn't enough if said talent isn't cohesive.
#4 Spender: Los Angeles Angels = $154,485,166
If this had been written three weeks ago, the Halos would be a shining example of what off-season spending sprees can do for a team. Back then they were perched atop the WIld Card standings and nipping at the heels of the Rangers in the AL West. Now? Yeah, well, not so much with any of that. They are quickly tumbling down the standings and owner Arte Moreno looks to be on the verge of seeing all that money circle down the drain. A lot has gone wrong for the Angels in the last month, so maybe they can rebound, but maybe the real lesson is they should've spent more money on their greasefire of a bullpen.
#5 Spender: Detroit Tigers = $132,300,000
Ah, now we are headed back in the right direction, sort of. The Tigers are right in the middle of the Wild Card race and just 1.5 games out of the division lead. That is all fine and well, but the assumption before the season was that they would runaway with the weak AL Central. Instead, they are struggling just to keep up.
#6 Spender: Texas Rangers = $120,510,974
And the theory gets new life! Texas has done it all the right way, mixing big expenditures with a healthy dose of homegrown talent. The result is two straight World Series appearances and a real good shot at a third this year. Even with Texas experiencing several major injuries and seeing some of their better players regress in a big way (hello, Michael Young!), they just keep on keeping on.
#7 Spender: Miami Marlins = $118,078,000
And now the Money = Wins theory dies a fiery death. When you have a top seven payroll after an epic free agent spending spree, but end up holding a fire sale at the trade deadline, there is a pretty good chance that you're doing it wrong. It is all just so horribly wrong, even the new uniforms.