Opinion: MLB payroll is unfair to baseball

Stats never lie. The New York Yankees have won 18 division titles, 40 American League pennants and 27 World Series Championships. The Seattle Mariners, on the other hand, have won three division titles, zero AL pennants and zero World Series Championships. They are one of only two teams in Major League Baseball to never have played in a World Series.

Yes, the Yankees have been a professional baseball team longer than the Mariners, but the results are clear. One team has the pedigree for winning while the other seems to be in the middle of the pack year after year. Why such a big difference? It has a lot to do with the team’s payroll.

This is a common issue that many small market teams face each year. When star-free agents look for a new team to play for, they usually look for the situation that offers the most money. Big market teams like the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox will always be a more attractive situation for players compared to small market teams like the Seattle Mariners or the Tampa Bay Rays.

For the fans that don’t believe the payroll gap doesn’t matter, consider the following study. According to sports business journalist Darren Rovell, between 2001 and 2010, 61.5 percent of the league’s playoff teams were ranked in the top 10 for biggest payrolls. 23.1 percent were ranked 11-20 in payroll, while only 15.4 percent were in the bottom 10 teams.

It is even worse when we look at the World Series winners during the same time period. Six of the 10 winners ranked in the top 10 regarding end of the year payroll for MLB teams. The four other teams ranked in the middle, while none ranked at the bottom. Not surprising.

2018’s highest MLB payroll was set at $223 million by the Boston Red Sox who went on to win the World Series. The fourth highest payroll was set at $180 million and belonged to the World Series runner-up Los Angeles Dodgers.

It is a trend that plagues baseball. Two of the top teams in terms of payroll played in yet another World Series. These big market teams are in big cities which results in generating more revenue. They are able to pay the bigger salaries that the best players are looking for.

This is why many MLB fans call the small market teams the “farm systems” to the bigger market teams in the major leagues. It doesn’t matter who teams draft, the stars will eventually find their way to the bigger markets with lots of success and lots of money to spend.

If the Seattle Mariners want to end their playoff drought and win their first World Series in franchise history, they have to increase their payroll.


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