The Pittsburgh Pirates – In Need of a Government Bail-out?

Alright, alright, so I exaggerate. Maybe they don’t need any kind of bail-out, but even still, the numbers almost make you cringe.

According to ESPN, the Pirates have once again finished dead last…in terms of total roster salary. In 2009, their roster posted a meager $25 million.  The next lowest, out of 30 teams, paid over $10 million more than that.  In fact, even the 27th lowest team, the Oakland Athletics, had a team salary over twice the amount of the Pirates.

If you thought those statistics were mind-boggling, wait until you read this one:

The New York Yankees had a 2009 team salary of over $208 million. Yes, a full eight times greater than the Pirates’.  And the worst one of all?  Alex Rodriguez made over $8 million more in 2009 than the entire Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

The salary cap argument continues, made especially urgent by the Yankees’ recent World Series victory. But I’m not here to argue for or against a salary cap, for the topic has been discussed ad nausea. I’m merely pointing out the absurdity that one man’s worth in baseball is far greater than an entire team. That fact alone gives those in favor of the cap a lot of ammunition.  Whether one agrees or disagrees with the arguments for a salary cap, one must admit the absurdity of it all.

Oh, and one more fun tidbit – the Yankees’ payroll in 2009 nearly tops all five of the lowest team salaries.

My point is this:  whether you have a team with a gigantic payroll or a team like the Pirates, it still takes talent to win the World Series.  No fan can refute this (however, they will still proclaim that capitalism was the series’ MVP).

I’m not the kind of fan to normally play devil’s advocate, especially in favor of the New York Yankees.  I, among many, find an internal hatred for the Yankees to be nothing less than hereditary.  However, in 2009, it is difficult to argue with the facts. They did have the MLB’s best regular-season record, and they did perform the best in the playoffs.  I’m not certain even the most formidable Phillies fanatic could disagree.

Is it to say that the Yankees have absolutely no advantage over another team because of their payroll? Absolutely not.  Once again, I believe even most Yankee fans recognize this. However, it does not guarantee anything.  The Yankees had nearly the same payroll in 2008, and failed to even make the playoffs.

Lest we forget, the American League champions were the Tampa Bay Rays, which if we look at a listing of the 2008 team salaries, had the Yankees still leading the pack and the Rays trailing them by a mere 28 ranks.  The Rays had the lowest total in the American league, and yet they out-performed the Yankees in a full 162-game season.

Does having a higher payroll give a team a statistical advantage because they can afford to sign top-notch players to sensational contracts? Absolutely. Does that team still need to out-perform the other 29 teams through a 162-game season and three rounds of playoffs to win a championship?  Absolutely.

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