Small Markets Find Ways to Compete

(From the New York Times, October 1, 2013)

Russel Martin and Nick Swisher will both be playing in the MLB postseason.  After leaving the legendary New York Yankees in the off-season for the Pirates and Indians exclusively, the two players find themselves in the playoffs with smaller market teams, while the Yankees and their large payroll find themselves at home.  The Pirates, Indians, Rays, and even the Oakland Athletics have proved that it isn’t the size of your payroll that determines your fate, but rather how smart you spend those limited dollars.  Those four teams are in the bottom ten of payroll amounts, yet find themselves playing in October.  Market size matters, but not as much as good management.  Most sports today have salary caps that help equal the playing field, however baseball does not.  Teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox are spending hundreds of millions on players trying to improve their roster, while these small market teams spend a fraction of that.  To compete with such small payrolls compared to the competition, the Rays and other small market teams alike rely on spending smart dollars.  These teams are using saber metrics to find value in players.  Saber metrics help teams find players who are worth more than their salary.  Rather than having an overpaid superstar that sells tickets, these teams find underrated players that help win games.  The Pirates and Indians will never match the Yankees in revenues and market size, but they can find a way to pass them in the standings.  The Yankees have room on their payroll to make the occasional mistake, but the smaller market teams can not afford to overpay players and still compete.  In the end, while not having money can be a huge obstacle, it isn’t as detrimental as poor management.  You can’t buy wins in Major League Baseball anymore; you must make smart baseball decisions.