Introduction. The goal of every team manager is to win trophies. For many years, the warm weather in America has made baseball a great sport for Americans to unwind, with fans filling the ballparks to cheer on their teams. It is a sport that relies on discipline from team members, use of physical skill, and the clever use of strategy and tactics. The most successful teams also attract more fans and have the TV rights for the aired games. This means that they gain more revenue than the less successful teams (Isaacs 56). Baseball markets can be grouped into three; small, medium, and large depending on the magnitude of their payroll. Teams with high chances of winning the World Series are those that are willing to spend more money to attract the best players. Jerry Hunsicker, the Houston Astros General Manager argued that “The bottom line is, in baseball today, if you want to have a legitimate chance to be competitive year-in, year-out, for most teams you have to be able to lose significant dollars to do it” (MacGregor). There are a few teams that have beaten the odds by remaining competitive without spending so much money. A good example is the Oakland Athletics.
In the movie “Moneyball”, the story revolves around Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletics’ general manager. He was at one point a very promising player but he never fulfilled his promise. Through flashback, the movie reveals that Beane did not meet the expectation of the scouts of big league teams. It was painful for him not to succeed as a pro-baseball player after he turned down a scholarship from the Stanford University. He became the manager of the A’s in early 2000 and was able to form a team of budding superstars who helped the team to play in the play-offs but not to the World Series. He later lost three of his best players to teams with bigger payrolls leaving the team with no stars. When he tried to talk to the owner to buy new players, he was told that “Oakland is a small market team with a small market payroll, unable to compete with the rich guys in Boston and New York. Find another way to win” (Mahler). He was forced to recruit Peter Brand from Cleveland Indians. Brand looked at the skills of the players based on saber metrics. Together they formed a new team from the unwanted players. Even though they faced fierce opposition, their approach finally paid off when Oakland Athletics, the lowest-salaried team won twenty consecutive wins. Beane later found out that a big team like Boston Red Sox had won the 2004 World Series based on the theory he pioneered. Although there is no scientifically proven method to build a MLB roster, the utilization of an unconventional approach by Billy Beane caused a stir in the baseball community. Ultimately, the MLB is an unfair competition between the rich and the poor teams and the poor teams have no option but to find unconventional ways of winning the title.
The tricky business of managing a MLB team can be intimidating. The funs and owners of baseball teams expect the manager to win trophies under all circumstances. Large market teams therefore have an advantage over the small market teams because they are able to attract the superstars. However, the “Moneyball” demonstrated that winning does not entirely depend on big payrolls. For example in the 2011 World Series, the four teams that reached the semi finals were the Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tiger, and St. Louis Cardinals. Among the four, only the Tigers had one of the largest payrolls (Price 12). One of the conspicuously absent teams from the postseason was the Oakland Athletics which finished 14 games under .500.
The small market teams have come up with unconventional methods to find their ways to the top of the league. In the past two decades, there has been an increase in baseball statistics. Computerized statistical analysis is now being used to project the efficiency of the players. Some of the information that can be obtained from the statistics includes; home runs, runs, battle in, and the earned-run average. Bills James alleges that computers can provide “battling average with runners in scoring position with less than two outs when facing a left-hander who was born east of the Mississippi River and used to play for Chicago Cubs”(Leopold). Ideally, any everything about the players can be record and used by team managers. Bill suggests that teams should begin working with the information they have rather than looking for what they don’t have. Since small-market teams do not have the capacity to compete with big spenders like the Yankees, their competitive advantage can only come from using saber metrics about the unwanted players. This is exactly what happened in the A’s in the Moneyball.
This method has begun to change the way small market teams in the MLB manage their payrolls. Behind each of the four successful teams in the 2011 season is a story of skillful management. For instance, despite losing Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals made the playoffs. However, it is not their resilience that made them pluck but a few risky moves like bringing on a long time absentee Lance Berkman to man right field. The team must have utilized the strong points of Berkman to improve their game. Additionally, it was their determination not to give up on a lost season that yielded to quick fixes. Colby Rasmus was swapped for some pitching depth (Mahler).
Similarly, the Brewers would not have played a World Series berth if their manager had not traded a number of the products of the killer farm system of the club for the two pitchers; Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke. Dave Dombrowski, the Tiger’s manager also made a clever free-agent signing of Victor Martinez and solved the remaining problem by adding a third baseman and a starting pitcher in late July.
The best evidence that it is not always about money is the Texas Rangers. Tom Hicks signed Alex Rodriguez for a ten year contract valued at about $50 million more than the second highest bidder. He then signed up other free-agent sluggers to play alongside the star. Although he failed to get the World Series, he almost went broke trying. When things went wrong, he attempted to slush the clubs expenses to prevent it from going under. However, when Jon Daniels took charge as the general manager, he came up with a more cost effective approach. He restocked the depleted farm system of the team and refocused on pitching. He also made some big trades that formed the core of the team.
Building a baseball team is not an easy task. It is a complicated business that requires good coaches. It is no doubt managers like Theo Epstein are wanted by every team because of their ability to sport talent and develop them into some of the best players in the MLB. It is not like NBA where you would pluck pro-ready players and make a team. One needs to identify and develop new and raw talent and match them via free agency and trades. All managers understand that any player they sale could be a potential star and anyone they sign could be a bust. It therefore depends on how well a manager uses the talent he has. “Being a big-market team is no guarantee of success, just as being a small-market one is no guarantee of failure” (Mahlar).
In baseball, high payrolls are associated with success. You can never ignore the fact that there is a disparity between the teams with big payrolls and those with small ones. For instance, teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates have one of the smallest payrolls of about $45 million. This is the reason why they have never played the postseason since 1992. Other teams like the Pirates and Sand Diego Padres have a hard time playing competitive baseball and often lose their young talents to the trumps of the league like the Red Sox and Angels.
Before the widespread use of statistics about the players, very few teams could find excellent players considered to be undesirable. Such players were therefore affordable. However, when baseball began using advanced statistics, teams began to hire brilliant graduates from Ivy League to run their offices. This left spending more money as the only way to gain competitive advantage. In 1999, the teams that played in the World Series were the Yankees which had the highest payroll and Braves with the third highest payroll. This almost confirms that the championship in MLB can be bought. In the same year, statistics show that as the teams spend more, the number of wins increased. It is therefore very evident that wins and payroll have a positive association.
In 2012, teams that were considered to be small-market also increased their spending to increase their chances of winning the championship. For instance, the Brewers’ payroll reached the $100 million mark from $88.4 million in 2011. Although the team was shy in the market last winter, it seems to have changed its strategy by realizing that winning comes with spending. Doug Melvin, the Brewers general manager alleged that ‘I believe it’s the sixth-highest jump in the majors. That comes with winning. You decide if you want to still try to compete” (Haudricourt). In 2005, the team’s payroll was about $27 million. The team moved from the small market to the mid-market category. Although the team lost Fielder to Detroit, it signed free agent players like Aramis Ramires at a cost of $36million and Alex Gonzalez at $4.25 million. Clearly this is an indication that every team manager understands that they have to spend more to become more competitive.
To remain competitive in the league, you need a sizable payroll. Although some people might argue that money cannot buy happiness, it has worked for the Brewers. Jerry Hunsicker, the general manager of Houston Astros said “don’t blame anyone in particular for the Reds’ situation. Just accept the reality that is baseball” (MacGregor).
Moneyball demonstrates that baseball is an unfair game. It is very true that the big-market teams have an advantage over the small-market teams. They have the resources to buy new players every winter while other clubs like the A’s have to take a different approach to the game: Wining their matches with the good players they have before they are bought buy high spending clubs. Teams like the A’s and Florida have demonstrated that small market teams can still achieve success on the field. However, this does not mean that small market teams are not disadvantaged. Not every team has the privilege of being managed by Billy Beanes. If they have to succeed, they must operate with utmost efficiency. Most sports in America use salary caps to regulate team spending. Baseball could probably benefit from such a deal.
Teams with big payrolls can sign up any player they want at the expense of the small-market teams. If no changes are made in baseball, the situation will worsen. The best action would be to put a payroll cap for every club so as to balance the competition in MLB.
As it has been demonstrated, it is very tasking for the managers of baseball teams to propel their teams to the World Series. Everyone has to find the best strategy that would give him a competitive. As a result, teams with big-payrolls can afford to sign the best players to help them win the championship. However, the small-market teams with less money have to look for alternatives. They have come up with unconventional ways of getting the competitive advantage through the use of computerized statistic. Like the A’s in the Moneyball, managers have to go for the players that are not highly rated in the MLB and utilized their strengths. However, although a team like the A’s has managed to record successes with their small payrolls, not every other team has been able to do so. Ultimately, the fact is that teams have to spend more to win games. Some small market teams have not been able to reach the postseason games because their low ranked players cannot compete with the big names. This is the reason why the Brewers had to increase their spending to remain competitive. However, it is argued that in order to increase the competitiveness in the MLB, there is need to introduce payroll caps in order to create a level playing ground for all teams. As a matter of fact, most sports in America use payroll caps.