Here is something Hal Steinbrenner said back in spring training, something about which the son of George Steinbrenner, the biggest spender of his time in baseball, was absolutely right:
“A decade-plus ago, I always used to say that you shouldn’t have to have a $200 million payroll to win a championship, right? Because nobody had it. Times have changed. I will acknowledge that. So I will say that you shouldn’t have to have a $300 million payroll to win a world championship because nobody has, including Houston.”
Nobody has, at least not yet and maybe not ever, even with spending skyrocketing now in baseball, starting in New York. Nobody is going to do that this year, now that the Mets, at $348 million, are holding a tag sale. And guess what? Across the last 10 seasons, a time when long-term $300 million contracts for player came into baseball, only two teams with $200 million payrolls have won the World Series:
The 2018 Red Sox.
The 2019 Nationals, who just got across the line according to Spotrac at $201 million.
Hal Steinbrenner isn’t right about everything, of course. If there is one frustration among the Yankee fans I know — and an awful lot I don’t know — it’s that he doesn’t hold his baseball people accountable, even as they continue to sell World Series-or-bust at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have stopped coming right out and saying that. But it is still an implied-type thing, even though the Yankees haven’t been to the Series in 14 years, and have won a grand, whopping total of one Series since 2000.
But Hal is on the money about the money, one hundred percent, or 300 million percent. You shouldn’t have to spend like Saudis to win. If you do, how come the Rays are good every year?
Right now, here are the Top 10 payrolls in major league baseball:
1 Mets $348 million (less David Robertson, of course).
2 Yankees $280 million.
3 Padres $246 million.
4 Phillies $242 million.
5 Angels $223 million.
6 Dodgers $218 million.
7 Blue Jays $212 million.
8 Braves $204 million.
9 Rangers $198 million.
10 Astros $190 million.
The Dodgers, despite all their October failures and October heartbreak in this generation of Dodger baseball, could do it with the sixth-biggest payroll. The Braves, at No. 8, are the best team right now. Then there are the Astros to fill out the Top 10. Maybe one of these teams could surprise the way the Phillies did last October, when they knocked off the Braves and ended up at two-games-all with the Astros in the Series before the Astros finished them off.
The Mets are now the gold standard — well, fools’ gold maybe — for finding out that money doesn’t buy you World Series happiness in baseball. But they are hardly the only one. Here is another baseball list, about where the World Series champs of the last 10 years ranked in payroll:
2013 Red Sox: 4th.
2014 Giants: 7th.
2015 Royals: 17th.
2016 Cubs: 6th.
2017 Astros: 17th.
2018 Red Sox: 1st.
2019 Nationals: 7th.
2020 Dodgers: 1st.
2021 Braves: 10th.
2022 Astros: 8th.
It is why it is a continuing source of entertainment that the trade deadline, year after year, is supposed to be like some sort of get-out-of-jail card for contending teams still viewed as not being good enough at the deadline, or have underperformed. Maybe the Yankees are going to be buyers again this year, just because it is almost impossible to believe they’re going to be sellers even sitting in last place going into the weekend. But if they are buyers, it means that the team with a payroll of $280 million, the biggest in the history of the Yankees, still hasn’t quite figured things out. And what’s been stopping them?
Did Aaron Judge get hurt? He sure did. He sure is as important to the Yankees as Shohei Ohtani is to the Angels. But the Angels also lost Mike Trout, who for years and years has been called the best all-around player in the sport. And even without Trout, the Angels came into the weekend in the same wild card scrum in the American League that the Yankees are in, and just a half-game worse than the Yankees in the overall standings.
Bill Parcells once told me this: “You know how many other teams care about your problems? None, is how many.”
We just saw two Subway Series games between the Yankees and Mets at Yankee Stadium. The combined payrolls for those teams was around $630 million. Never been anything like it in baseball. But if you watched the two teams and those two games, were you able to see the money on the field? Justin Verlander was terrific in the first game and so was Pete Alonso, the Polar Bear coming out of a great big summer slumber. Carlos Rodon pitched well for the Yankees in the second game.
But at the end of those Subway Series games, Alonso was still hitting .216. Francisco Lindor was at .230. Jeff McNeil, last year’s National League batting champ, was at .249. For the Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton, the new Dave Kingman, was at .200. Anthony Rizzo was at .246 and DJ LeMahieu was at .231. Again: These are the two biggest payrolls in the sport, with too many veterans past their primes.
But the Braves? They might win another World Series, their second in three years, with a payroll nearly $150 million smaller than the Mets’. The Astros might win their second in a row spending $160 million less than the Mets are spending and $90 million less than the Yankees are spending this year on baseball players.
Is there still time for the Yankees? We keep saying there is still time because there is plenty of time for them, as close as they are to the third wild card in the American League — if they get it, they would likely play the Twins in the first round — and because they’re not a crazy distance away from first place in the AL East. It doesn’t change the fact that Hal Steinbrenner can’t possibly think he ponied up all that cash for what he’s seen so far.
Neither can Steve Cohen, you bet. Now he’s selling off like the Mets are a bad stock. It remains to be seen what the Yankees are going to do at the Trade Deadline. Or not do. Both owners had to think there was at least a chance that they might have the best team money could buy coming into the season. They didn’t. Hal’s right. There. I said it.
FREE AGENT SHORTSTOPS NOT LIVING UP TO PRICETAG, YANKEES HAVEN’T DEVELOPED A STAR SINCE JUDGE AND TODDY GURLEY IS WHY RB’S DON’T GET PAID …
It’s not just dead money on team payrolls, incidentally.
Look at how much money last year’s free agent shortstop class made in free agency, and what they’re doing for their new teams:
Trea Turner ($300 million from Phillies) has 10 homers, 34 RBI, .245 average.
Xander Bogaerts ($280 million from Padres) has 11 homers and is hitting .265.
Carlos Correa, who got $200 million from Twins after Mets passed, is at .228.
Dansby Swanson ($177 million from the Cubs) has 12 homers and is hitting .268.
Only Corey Seager, currently on the IL for the Rangers, has come up big in a .350 season.
And nobody wants to hear this around here, but let’s see where the Yankees are with No. 99 and his $360 million contract in a few years.
By the way?
Here’s the list of star position players developed by the Yankees in the past two decades:
That’s the whole list.
No corner infielders.
Their best catcher, for a blink, was Gary Sanchez.
The best two outfielders they’ve developed after Judge are Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera.
Dave Dombrowski — who’s taken four different teams to the World Series — gets a lot of heat for the way he cleans up the town in baseball when he takes over a new team.
But when you look at the current Red Sox, it’s worth nothing that Triston Casas and Jarren Duran and Connor Wong – the young guys they’ve got at first base, in centerfield, and catching – were all drafted when Dombrowski was running the Red Sox.
You know why running backs like Saquon Barkley don’t get paid what they think they should be paid now in the National Football League?
Because guys like Todd Gurley before them did get paid.
Then got hurt.
Gurley is 28 now, and out of football.
He’s two years older than Saquon.
It sure is lucky where the Murdoch Media is concerned that Hunter Biden didn’t do something like, I don’t know, try to overturn an election or storm the Capitol.
If you are looking for a smart, fun summer read, go read “The Twist of a Knife” by Anthony Horowitz.
The NCAA just suspended Jim Harbaugh for Michigan’s first four games.
Those games are against East Carolina, UNLV, Bowling Green and Rutgers.
That ought to teach him.
Wow, it didn’t take Aaron Rodgers all that long to give the Jets a hometown discount on his contract.
My pal Stanton has a good question about Sean Payton and the way he ran his mouth the other day about the new Jets offensive coordinator — and former Broncos coach — Nathaniel Hackett:
How does what Payton said help the Broncos now, exactly?
Payton: Another guy who won one Super Bowl and acts as if he invented football.
And if he does know everything about everything, how come he didn’t know anything about Bountygate?
I plan to get to “Hard Knocks” as soon as I finish rewatching all seven seasons of “West Wing.”
Well, at least the Mets are having a better summer than Ron DeSantis.