If the season ended today, the teams with the three highest payrolls would miss the playoffs. Yes, it’s more tales from the spreadsheets.
The Yankees, Dodgers and Phillies would be out. They’re Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in payroll. The No. 7 Angels would be sitting home, too. So would the No. 9 White Sox and No. 10 Blue Jays.
On the other end, Nos. 28, 29 and 30 would also be out. That’s the Rays, Marlins and Astros.
If you’re keeping score, that means all 10 MLB playoff teams would be bunched in the 24 spots between fourth and 27th. Here’s who’d make it: 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 15, 18, 22, 24, 27. The Red Sox would be at the high end, the Pirates at the low. The No. 18 Braves, No. 22 Royals and No. 24 Rockies would also have themselves a postseason berth.
The Royals would be making their first postseason appearance in 28 years, the Pirates in 21 years. The Rockies and Red Sox last made it in 2009. Which means that four teams from last year’s postseason tournament–Yankees, Nationals, Reds, A’s–would not make the playoffs.
Are there lessons to be learned from all of this? One is that teams at the bottom of the revenue chart have a chance to compete thanks to revenue sharing and Moneyball. But maybe the real lesson is that luck plays a huge role. The Yankees, Dodgers and Angels have been absolutely crushed by injuries.
Were they poorly designed? No.
Could all three still rally to make the playoffs? In the case of the Yankees, absolutely. The Dodgers and Angels are knee-deep in slumps and injuries. Both would need to do a dramatic turnaround.
The Phillies are an interesting story on their own. They’ve got baseball’s third-highest payroll because, in the wake of winning five straight division championships, they do what good owners almost always do. They tried to keep the band together. Now the band is getting old.
But what were their options? To tell Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard to take a walk? To shake Chase Utley’s hand and wish him well?
Regardless of how it plays out with this group of Phillies, fans in Philadelphia had a great run. To go to the World Series twice and to finish first five years in a row, to play in a rocking, packed ballpark, is special. They sent their fans home happy a whole bunch of times.
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. began the retooling last season, but was hoping to get another nice run from Utley, Jimmy Rollins, etc. Maybe he’ll still get it. There have been hopeful signs from some of those young pitchers, and Utley and Howard have both looked like their old selves at times.
Likewise, the Blue Jays just aren’t the team they drew up in Spring Training. And some of their starting pitchers simply haven’t performed the way they were supposed to perform.
But we haven’t even gotten to the 25-percent poll yet, so there’s plenty of time for things to change. A baseball season eventually exposes every weakness, and some of the teams in good shape right now–Royals, Pirates, Rockies–aren’t perfect clubs, either.