Small Market Baseball's Story of Survival From WhatIfSports.com image

MLB's Small Market Escape Artists

Doing more with less in Major League Baseball
By Ryan Fowler, WhatIfSports.com
May 27th, 2010
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Size Matters in Texas

Texas Rangers Except for the Rangers 4th-lowest MLB payroll

Arlington, Texas sits in the shadows of a city commonly referred to as Big D.

The Cowboys created a billion dollar stadium on steroids boasting the world's largest high-definition television.

Houston's Carlos Lee's stature is so he was bequeathed the nicknamed "El Caballo" because (at one time) this horse was large enough to carry an entire team.

For years, the San Antonio Spurs possessed two big men on the blocks referred to as the Twin Towers.

If size truly does matter to the folks down in Texas, the Rangers' and their puny $55-million payroll must have earned a pass.

Entering the 2010 regular season, they were only $151-million shy of catching the Yankees' behemoth bankroll.

However, the size of one's wallet in Major League Baseball may as well remain slender if the final results after nine innings of play still produce a win.

The Rangers rank 27th in payroll and yet are only two wins shy of matching the Yankees 2010 total of 28.

"If you ask any small market general managers they want a salary cap," former MLB GM and WIS baseball insider Jim Bowden said. "You ask any big market general manager; of course they don't want a salary cap. We are not going to get one."

As I pointed out in my MLB All-Budget Team article, earlier this week, most of the lowest total payrolls in the league are still winning over 50-percent of their games. Teams like the Padres, A's, Marlins and Blue Jays are surviving their small markets thanks to two areas.

"They all have two things in common," Bowden said. "They all have strong, good, young pitching and good defenses. This allows them to stay in games."

Jim Bowden

"In this post-steroid era, youth is a lot more important than veterans."
- Jim Bowden

Baseball's post steroid era has also changed the complexion of small market rosters. The marketing philosophy of "chicks dig the long ball" is a distant memory caught up in the dust of the new stance: speed kills.

"In this post-steroid era, youth is a lot more important than veterans," Bowden said. "I think in the steroid era, speed was not as much of a factor because power is what dominated the sport."

To take Bowden's claim a step further, the average age of the Rays, Blue Jays, Marlins, Padres and those puny Rangers is 27-years-old. All of those teams are in contention for their division crown (yes, I know it's May). The five highest payrolls (Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Phillies and Mets) average player age is nearly two years older (28.9-years-old). The Cubs continue to piss off Lou and the Mets' Jerry Manuel may have bought some time by taking the Subway Series, but New York is still in the NL East basement.

Though my degree in macro-economics is still pending, our discussion quickly escalated to the topic of revenue sharing. Bowden, who was in charge of a mid-sized market in Cincinnati for over a decade, believes MLB's trickle down effect has evened out the playing field. The Yankees and Red Sox have contributed over $1-billion to the smaller markets during the latest deal.

"Revenue sharing has worked," Bowden said. "Now there have been some complaints by the (Players) Union that the smaller market teams aren't putting the money back into the team. The Players Association said if the small markets aren't going to put money into payroll, we aren't going to agree to revenue sharing down the road."

Bowden pointed out the Marlins front office has openly pledged to inject more cash collected from revenue sharing into payroll.

Playing the "Yankees just buy their World Series Championships" card isn't going to cut it anymore. Though New York is shelling out bloated amounts of coin to their players, Bowden believes baseball's playoff system, in its current state, allows for any team to break into the second season come October.

"Most markets are competitive," Bowden said. "Most teams have a shot for the wild card ever single season. I think it's going to continue along this path. I think parity is back."


Ryan Fowler is the Content Manager for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at rfowler@whatifsports.com.

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