Professional baseball is a sport almost entirely based on money. For years, money has been a huge factor in winning a World Series. This season though, money has not been the largest factor. In fact, it has backfired on a few teams.
Eleven out of the last fifteen world series champions were among the top ten payrolls in baseball at the time. This has led to the steady increase of player salaries.
Now, big free agents get signed to massive contracts that the lower–payroll teams cannot afford. 27 of the last thirty largest contracts in baseball history have been signed by the top half of the payrolls in Major League Baseball (MLB). The only way low–payroll teams can have superstars is if they get them through their farm system, and even then, they only have them for a few years.
This season however, the four teams with the highest payrolls currently occupy either last place or second to last place in their divisions. The Yankees, the team with the highest payroll in the MLB, are in 3rd place in the American League (AL) East. This can be attributed to their awful pitching, but their high paid players are also underperforming. Mark Teixeira is being paid about $22.5 million per year. Currently, he is hitting a disappointing .263.
The Boston Red Sox are in last place in the AL East, just one game behind the Yankees. You can also attribute a lot of this to pitching. The Red Sox have a team 4.64 earned run average, third worst in the MLB. The loss of their All-Star center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, has also hit them hard, but this is no excuse for the baseball they are playing. The Philadelphia Phillies have had almost no offense. Their pitching staff is probably the best in the MLB, yet they are still in last place.
Lastly, the Los Angels Angels, unlike the Phillies, have one reason for being in last place: they are playing wretchedly. Albert Pujols leads the charge batting .213 and the Angels will be paying him $24 million a year for the next ten years. These are the richest teams in the MLB, playing poorly in 2012.
Why has the pattern of the last fifty years suddenly been altered? The fact is, you cannot buy team chemistry. Teams like the Red Sox showed their terrible team chemistry in crunch time last year, when they had their historic breakdown.
Although money can win a championship because of all the signings and releases, it is harder to build team chemistry. The Yankees have been so good in the last decade not because of their superstar talent, but because the core players had played together for a long time. The 2010 Giants were not a very good team on paper, but their team chemistry led them to a championship.
This will be my last article as a sports columnist this year. I have enjoyed writing for you all and look forward to writing next year. Thank you, Playtime readers.