Baseball's biggest spenders aren't finding much success so far this year

storapse@aol.comMay 17, 2012 

You may not have noticed, but this is shaping up as a pivotal baseball season.

Oh, we haven't hit the quarter pole yet, but if, like me, you are tired of the big spenders going overboard with multimillion dollar long-term contracts, there are some interesting figures to ponder:

  • There are five bottom-rung payroll teams -- Tampa Bay ($64 million), Baltimore ($74 million), Cleveland ($78 million), Washington ($81 million) and Atlanta ($83 million) at the top of the baseball standings.

  • Three New York Yankees players -- Alex Rodriguez ($30 million), Mark Teixiera ($23 million) and CC Sabathia ($23 million) -- make more than the total payroll of either Baltimore or Tampa.

  • Philadelphia (Ryan Howard) and Boston (Carl Crawford) have $20 million-plus players who have yet to play an inning this season, and there is no telling if or when either will get off the disabled list.

  • The Los Angeles Angels spent $317.5 million on free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson last winter. After 37 games, Pujols is hitting around .200 and has only one home run and 15 runs batted in. Pitcher Wilson has a 4-3 record.

  • Only one of the five teams with baseball's highest salaries -- NY Yankees ($198 million), Philadelphia ($174 million), Boston ($173 million), LA Angels ($154 million) and Detroit ($132 million) -- has a winning record. If the season ended today, four of those teams would not make the playoffs, the exception being the Yankees.

  • In March, all five big spenders were regarded as World Series contenders. And obviously there is still plenty of time for each to recover and make the postseason.

    But hopefully there is a trend here. Last season, Las Vegas favored a World Series matchup between Philadelphia and either the Yankees or Red Sox. Boston didn't even make the playoffs and the Phillies and Yankees were eliminated in the first round.

    Instead, two middle-of-the-road spenders, Texas and St. Louis, gave us a World Series to remember. It could happen again.

    With Nolan Ryan, a non-believer in long-term contracts, calling the shots, the Rangers have been the American League champs the last two years. The Cardinals, who refused to shell out to keep Pujols, have won two of the last six World Series.

    The unknown factor is always injuries. This season, Philadelphia, Boston and the Yankees all have been hit hard.

    While we can be sure that New York will spend what it takes to make the playoffs, the same cannot be said for the Red Sox and Phillies, who say they have hit a spending wall. Their playoff hopes hinge on getting their injured stars healthy.

    The two teams that should benefit most if Boston and Philadelphia continue to struggle are Tampa in the AL East and Atlanta in the NL East.

    Once again, manager Joe Maddon has the over-achieving, low-salaried Rays in the thick of the pennant race. And likely they will still be there in September.

    Meanwhile, the no-name Braves are kind of operating under the national media radar. Excellent pitching, pretty good hitting and so far no major injuries. Manager Fredi Gonzalez seems to have settled in nicely in his second year.

    One nitpick. If you tune in on the Atlanta telecasts, you'll discover the players have no last names. With the ever-biased hometown announcers, it's always Randall and Craig and Brandon and Tyler and Eric and so forth.

    Maybe if the Braves make the playoffs and some professional announcers do the games we'll find out who these guys are.

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