It's a sad rule of thumb in baseball today: The teams that spend the most, win the most. A cursory examination of World Series victors over the last two decades confirms this depressing fact.
There have been 19 World Series played over the last 20 years (In case you have chosen to repress the memory, the '94 Fall Classic was cancelled due to a major fiscal dispute). In that span, the teams ranking among the top 3 in terms of payroll have emerged victorious 53% of the time. If you expand the statistic to include teams ranking among the top 10, the percentage increases to 68%.
So, what's different this year?
With the playoffs rapidly approaching, the Yankees (#1), Tigers (#5), Rangers (#6), Giants (#8) and Cardinals (#9) are all in contention. But there are some scattered instances of poetic justice as well (at least from the perspective of those who resent big market clubs). The 3rd ranked Red Sox--with a bloated payroll of $173million are floundering in fourth place with a 68-85 record. The 7th ranked Marlins are last in their division. The Phillies--second only to the Yankees with an obscene $174 million payroll--are scrabbling for a Wild Card spot as time is rapidly running out. They've been surging as of late and actually stand a chance, but at the All-Star break, they were well below .500 and sitting in last place.
The Feel Good stories this Year?
The lowly Washington Nationals, ranked 20th in terms of payroll have clinched a playoff spot. So have the Cincinnati Reds with a ranking of 17. Defying the odds in the city where Moneyball was created, the Oakland A's, with a modest payroll of $55 Million were second in the AL West and 2nd in the Wild Card race at the close of play on Sept. 22. Similarly, the no-name Orioles at #19 were breathing down the necks of the top-heavy Yankees, who shell out 15% of their payroll to fading superstar Alex Rodriguez.
This is fun to watch and good for the sport.
...Time to root for the underdogs!