Postseason proves only for big money

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 10, 1999

The Associated Press

The eight playoff teams all were among the 10 top spenders, according to figures distributed Tuesday to major league general managers meeting in Dana Point, Calif.

Wednesday, November 10, 1999

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The eight playoff teams all were among the 10 top spenders, according to figures distributed Tuesday to major league general managers meeting in Dana Point, Calif. The New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves each had the highest payrolls in their leagues.

The World Series champion Yankees had a record payroll of $91.99 million, about $18 million more than the previous high, set by Baltimore the previous year. Among playoff teams, they were followed by Texas ($80.8 million), NL winner Atlanta ($79.3 million), Cleveland ($73.5 million), Boston ($72.3 million), the New York Mets ($71.5 million), Arizona ($70 million) and Houston ($56.4 million).

Proving that money doesn’t guarantee success, the top five included baseball’s most notorious underachievers of 1999: Los Angeles was fourth at $71.1 million, followed by Baltimore at $70.6 million.

”We think in the new year, we’ll make some recommendations,” said Sandy Alderson, the executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner’s office. ”The commissioner is committed to making some serious changes in the system. I think that’s the No. 1 item on his agenda.”

Since the end of the 1994-95 strike, just one team not among the top half by payroll has advanced to the postseason: the 1997 Astros, who were 18th among 28 clubs.

The eight postseason teams were among the top 12 in 1998, the top 14 in 1996 and the top 12 in 1995.

Since then, the 10 World Series teams all have been among the top 10 in payroll, including six among the top three and eight among the top five. The Yankees’ payroll was more than six times that of the lowest team, the Florida Marlins ($14.65 million).

”What am I going to say? For me, the only thing I’m concerned about is trying to repeat in 2000,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

Cincinnati, with a $38 million payroll that ranked 20th, was in contention until the final day of the regular season, losing a wild-card tiebreaker playoff to the Mets.

Florida continued its astounding drop. The Marlins were fifth at $53.5 million when they won the World Series in 1997, dropped to 27th at $15.1 million as they went 54-108 the following year and were dead last this year, as they went finished a league-worst 64-98.

Montreal, last in 1998 at $8.3 million, nearly doubled its payroll to $15 million and moved up to just 29th.

”Cleveland, Ohio, in the late ’80s was at the bottom,” Indians general manager John Hart said. ”Several factors have changed that. We’re still a middle market. We have large revenue fueled by the new stadium and a good product. Part of the American way is to be creative. It’s an issue.”

The average salary increased 13.2 percent, from $1,384,530 to $1,567,873. The median jumped 13.6 percent, from $427,500.

After paying $1.464 billion to 920 players this year, teams already have guaranteed $1.157 billion to 285 next season – including $74.9 million by Atlanta and $74.0 million by Arizona – and $745 million to 131 in 2001.

Teams have made $2.596 billion in future commitments – and these figures were compiled before Green’s contract Monday.

Payrolls include salaries, performances and prorated shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income, but not award bonuses, which have not yet been tabulated.