Andrew Friedman & Co.: Eat the Rich

Being in the city of a winning sports team is a great feeling. To win the American League East for the second time in three years against storied teams like Boston and New York on a fraction of their payroll, for me, this is what gets me fired up. (Not that I'm not opposed to winning the World Series). I was a skeptic when Stu Sternberg purchased the Rays. I was happy for the improved fan experience, but I did not believe it possible to compete in the same division with Boston and New York. Billy Beane winning the West is a nice story and all, but this is where the big boys play. This group sure proved me wrong, and in the process taught me a great deal about building a quality baseball organziation as well as basic real life business principals.

What Andrew Friedman and company have done is incredible. The first title served as a wakeup call to the "big boys". New York and Boston became smarter, and stepped up their games while still employing what feels like bottomless pockets. Yet here we are on top of the ALE in 2010, with a 25-man playoff roster that may have 13 new faces compared to the 2008 squad (Rocco Baldelli, Chad Bradford, Cliff Floyd, Gabe Gross, Michel Hernandez, JP Howell, Aki Iwamura, Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir, Trever Miller, Dioner Navarro, Fernando Perez, and Andy Sonnantstine could be or are on the outs).  Below is a look at the payroll of each team to qualify for the postseason out of the gauntlet that is the AL East going back to 2000 (Cot's Baseball Contracts):

ALE

Sal

WC

Sal

Outside

Sal

2010

TB

$72.8

NYY

 $    213.4

BOS

$168

2009

NYY

 $    201.4

BOS

 $    121.7

2008

TB

 $       43.7

BOS

 $    133.4

NYY

$209

2007

BOS

 $    143.0

NY

 $    189.6

2006

NYY

 $    194.7

2005

NYY

 $    208.3

BOS

 $    123.5

2004

NYY

 $    184.2

BOS

 $    127.2

2003

NYY

 $    152.7

BOS

 $       99.9

2002

NYY

 $    125.9

2001

NYY

 $    112.3

2000

NYY

 $    107.6


 

Stuart Sternberg stepped up and increased payroll in 2010 despite poor numbers at the gates.  Even still the Rays managed to beat out a team with more than twice its payroll. Every year at the trading deadline, we hear the cries for the Rays to add a few major pieces. While certainly the front office is exploring every option, they have refused to trade away key pieces of the future for a rental. Going back to the 13 fresh faces, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and Reid Brignac were a few of the names talked about in 2008. All were key contributors in 2010.

Every offseason, or last season late in the year the Rays are accused of orchestrating a salary dump due to perceived cheapness. After 2008 it was Edwin Jackson and in 2009 Scott Kazmir was moved. Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez have become key cost-controlled contributors in 2010. This front office scoffs at the knee-jerk reactions at the water cooler and instead keeps their eye on maintaining the pipeline, developing pitching talent within, while always keeping their eyes open to improve the team in the present. While Boston and New York are able to sign starting free agent pitching talent, the Rays stay the course and draft and develop their own. While the Sox and Yanks can get every switch-hitting slugger free agent talent out there, the Rays continue to exploit the market inefficiency of platoon players with positional flexibility and outstanding defense.

This is small market baseball and this is what I love.

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