The other day in The Fast Lane, Rammer, D’Marco and I were kicking around the playoff prospects for the Major Leagues, and I noted that the six division leaders in baseball at the moment are teams among the nine highest payrolls.
For several years, Bud Selig has tried to tell us that revenue sharing is working, and that smaller market teams have as much chance to get to the World Series as their contemporaries in larger markets. And to be fair, Tampa Bay did go to the World Series last year, the Cardinals won in 2006 and Arizona did in 2001.
Deciding that revenue sharing isn’t working like Selig says it is, I tried to defend my position by opening three internet windows…this morning’s standings, Neilson’s television market size, and USA Today’s salary database.
Here’s what we glean. Five of the six division leaders come from the USA’s four biggest markets. The Yankees are from number one New York, the Angels and Dodgers are from number two L.A., the Cubs are from number three Chicago and the Phillies from number four Philadelphia. The Tigers, leading the A.L. Central, inhabit the eleventh largest market, Detroit. As we move to the Wild Card leaders, the Giants are from the USA’s number six market, San Francisco, and the Red Sox from number seven Boston.
What difference does that make? Well, larger TV market teams garner more media income than smaller markets, and can use more of that revenue to pay players. Seven of eight teams that would make the playoffs right now are in the top nine in payroll, with San Francisco thirteenth.
So, how is this revenue sharing working? If the baseball season ended today, the eight playoff teams would come from the top eleven markets, with seven from the top seven markets. And seven of the playoff teams would be from among the top nine in payroll, with only the Mets and Houston missing.
Answer: it ISN’T working. Until baseball takes the same approach as the NFL, with across the board revenue sharing, a salary cap and a salary FLOOR, the large market, large money teams are going to be playing for the World Series Championship. Since revenue sharing started in 2003 and was apparently enhanced in 2006, four of the six World Champs have come from the top seven markets.
One more note: the one exception to this rule is your St. Louis Cardinals. Of the twelve World Series teams since 2003, St. Louis (twice) and Denver are the only cities not in the thirteen biggest to appear in the World Series. STL is the 21st market, Denver is eighteenth. I take my shots at times at Bill DeWitt’s ownership, but have to give credit where credit is due. There are a lot of teams in bigger markets that haven’t accomplished what the Cardinals have.