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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Sox Payroll & the CBA
Setting themselves up for the next labor negotiation?

by
Jim Laffer
 

The Major League Baseball (MLB) off-season is rapidly drawing to a close. The pitchers and catcher report in just a little over 2 weeks and shortly thereafter the season itself returns with meaningful baseball and the hope of champagne showers in October. Fans all over the country are gearing up for another 7 month marathon baseball season and hoping their team’s latest acquisitions will be the difference makers for their favorite boys of summer.

 

Then there are Sox fans. We Sox fans have sat through a long, boring, painful fall and winter waiting for the team to do something – anything and they actually did. They let their entire crop of 2003 free agent acquisitions walk away. In most cases it was a small amount of money or an extra year on the contract that prevented them from retaining the services of the player in question and in every case, the Sox failed to step up to the plate.

 

Most Sox fans are distressed about this phenomenon, but some of them cling to the hope that the young kids who will replace the aging free agents will come up big and drive the team to the Promised Land. Several of them are of the opinion that it is better to be prudent and not go for long term contracts. They think Jerry Reinsdorf is justified in not ponying up some dough for longer bigger deals as it will surely cost the team down the road. However, what are the actual chances of a team that is rapidly separating itself from veteran players and long term contracts to succeed? Is the willingness to sign long term deals a measure of success? Can teams succeed without signing long term deals? With the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the union and the owners in MLB set to expire at the end of the 2006 season, what is the status of Sox contracts beyond that point in time and how does that compare to the rest of the league?

 

Currently MLB has 23 teams with at least one player under contract through 2007. Some of those teams only hold options on the players in question – like the Sox with Mark Buehrle and Carlos Lee – and have very little actual money committed to those salaries. Other teams – like the Yankees and Braves – have several players and millions of dollars committed to their team past the end of the current CBA. 

 

With the exception of Toronto and Philadelphia, all of the teams with at lest 2 contracts that run through 2007 have made the playoffs since 1995. Of the 6 teams that have made the playoffs, half of them have won a World Series title and those 3 teams own 6 of the possible 9 Championships and 11 of the 18 possible Pennants since 1995.

 

The teams with no long term contracts however are in a different boat. 4 of those teams (out of 7) have never even made the playoffs and none of them have won a World Series. The sole two pennants belong to Cleveland. They skew the results a bit with 6 playoff appearances – though only once in the last 4 years.

 

The teams with a single player under contract through 2007 are a mixed bag, though in general the teams with more money under long term contract have outperformed the teams with less money under long term contract. For example, the top 15 teams in terms of payroll under contract through 2007 average almost $23 million still signed past the end of the CBA and have made the playoffs 46 of a possible 72 times since 1995. The bottom half of the league averages just over $2 million in long term deals and has made the playoffs only 26 times. The two World Series titles in this second group are owned by Florida which currently has 1 player signed for $8M (placing the team 17th out of 30 in that category), and they are at the low end of World Series winners. The 5 teams that have won the last 9 World Series have an average of almost $30 million committed to players in 2007.

 

So, what about our Sox? Well, the Sox have 2 players under contract for 2007. Sort of... They hold options on Mark Buehrle and Carlos Lee for that season and can buy them both out for $1 million total. If the players get traded the contracts become guaranteed, but the Sox can walk away free and clear if they choose to. No surprise that the Sox have made the playoffs once since 1995 when you look at their lack of commitment to long term stability.

 

So once again, where does this leave us Sox fans? On the outside looking in. As other teams snap up big name players for big time prices over long periods of times, JR and his management team sits with their hands self-tied by the $58 million budget of their own design and choosing. For good or bad, the Sox have set themselves up to be lean and mean come time for the new CBA. What that will mean for the team only time will tell. One thing is for certain. Long term deals lead to continuity and in theory more chances to win it all. The teams that aren’t afraid to commit to longer deals seem to be more successful than the teams that don’t. With JR refusing to sign players for more than 3 years at a time, it may be a long time before the cycle of mediocrity gets broken.

 

TEAM

Total Number of Players under Contract Post CBA

Playoff Appearances Since 1995

2007 Payroll under contract

NEW YORK YANKEES

5

9

$62.45

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

3

0

$42.00

ATLANTA BRAVES

3

9

$33.00

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

3

0

$24.03

ANAHEIM ANGELS

2

1

$27.50

BOSTON RED SOX

2

4

$23.25

ST LOUIS CARDINALS

2

4

$14.25

NEW YORK METS

2

2

$5.50

TEXAS RANGERS

1

3

$23.00

COLORADO ROCKIES

1

1

$18.60

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

1

3

$16.00

HOUSTON ASTROS

1

4

$15.00

SEATTLE MARINERS

1

4

$13.75

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

1

2

$13.00

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

1

0

$12.50

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

1

0

$11.00

FLORIDA MARLINS

1

2

$8.00

CINCINNATI REDS

1

1

$6.00

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

1

4

$5.00

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

1

2

$1.10

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

1

1

$1.00

SAN DIEGO PADRES

1

2

$0.55

MINNESOTA TWINS

1

2

$0.00

CLEVELAND INDIANS

0

6

$0.00

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

0

4

$0.00

CHICAGO CUBS

0

2

$0.00

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

0

0

$0.00

MONTREAL EXPOS

0

0

$0.00

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

0

0

$0.00

DETROIT TIGERS

0

0

$0.00

 


Jim Laffer is a lifelong Chicago sports nut living on the North side of Chicago.   He was raised in Hyde Park and graduated from UIC in December, 2000.  He grew up in a house famous for developing insights into economic phenomenon.  Thus he doesn't believe it when the White Sox start crying poor.

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