There’s no crying in baseball. Well, unless you’re Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, that is.
USA Today published an article Monday about Major League Baseball teams slashing payroll. The piece ended with Attanasio taking a shot at the highest-spending team in either league — the Yankees.
“We’re struggling to sign (first baseman Prince Fielder) and the Yankees’ infield is making more than our team,” Attanasio said.
Yankees president Randy Levine took objection with the dig.
“I’m sorry that my friend Mark continues to whine about his running the Brewers,” Levine said in an interview with ESPN on Tuesday. “We play by all the rules and there doesn’t seem to be any complaints when teams such as the Brewers receive hundreds of millions of dollars that they get from us in revenue sharing the last few years.
“Take some of that money that you get from us and use that to sign your players.”
While the thought of siding with the most hated team in baseball on anything might make the bravest of people sick, it’s hard to argue with Levine on this point.
Since purchasing the Brewers in 2005, Attanasio has doubled the club’s total payroll to around $81 million. While that may be a far cry from the $206 million the Yankees are committed to this season, it’s significantly more than the $35 million the Pirates are paying to trot out Bobby Crosby and the Buccaneer Bunch in 2010.
Before Attanasio decided to lick his team’s wounds in public, he probably should have taken a look at some of the clubs that have had success during his time as owner so as not to embarrass himself.
In 2005, the White Sox swept the Astros in the World Series with a payroll of $75 million. The next year, the Cardinals cruised to a Fall Classic win in five games over the Tigers with an $89 million payroll. Then in 2008, the Rays, who had long been the laughingstock of baseball, played for MLB’s championship with a stunningly low $44 million payroll.
There are ways for teams to develop players and win without spending money.
From 2000 to 2006, the Athletics made the playoffs five times with an average payroll of $48 million. Part of the team’s success was due to luck, but a bigger factor was that the front office accepted its small-market status and looked for cost-efficient ways to assemble its club.
With more teams embracing sabermetrics as a legitimate way of evaluating players’ talent, every team with a competent front office has a chance to build a winner. Outspending everyone else the way the Yankees and Red Sox do may bring short-term success, but it does not guarantee long-term stability.
Factor in the money small-market clubs receive from MLB’s revenue sharing plan and there really isn’t much reason to complain. The Brewers need to concern themselves with winning the National League Central instead of getting into a shouting match with the American League East.
But if Attanasio really wants something to cry about, he won’t have long to wait; Fielder’s contract is up at the end of the season, which means it’ll be about six months before the Yankees make him the highest-paid designated hitter ever.