|AL Dominance: How did we get to this point?|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on August 13, 2008
Over the next few weeks I hope to start addressing these topics to unravel, if not answer, the main part of that question, How did we get from where we were before free agency to where we are today.
Let’s start with the most obvious part: $32 million. More or less, that’s the difference in payroll between the American and National Leagues, with the American League ($1.364 billion v. $1.331 billion) coming out on the higher side of that balance sheet.
And that’s with 50 fewer players on the American League’s rosters (since the NL has 16 teams to the AL’s 14). If we made the erroneous assumption that those 50 players all made league minimum salary (~$400,000, the real league average is $3.3 million), the differential between the leagues actually is somewhere between to $52 million dollars.
That might not sound like much (just about $3.7 million per team) but that fails to take into account the roughly $8 million per DH that the AL pays and brings the difference to about $162 million in payroll (and remember we are underestimating the amount the two extra NL teams pays their players - my figures show the realistic amount as somewhere between that and $265 million (50 players X league average salary of $3.3 million = $133 million PLUS the $32 million in salary difference)).
Now $162 million dollars is an interesting dollar amount; more than the payroll of ANY team in the National League and a number which is only surpassed by the payroll of ONE team – the Yankees. And that is an interesting way of looking at it. Even if you subtract those 50 extra NL players from the equation (say the Pirates and Nationals, neither of whom make much of a blip on baseball’s radar screens at this point), the NL is missing a as a team and a half full of talent when they meet in the All-Star Game, if you include the 50 players in the NL the gap is even wider than that.
But you can also look at the difference as $162 million spent on marquis type players, an A-Rod, a Vladimir Guerrero, Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, Derek Jeter, Victor Martinez, CC Sabathia (before the trade), Magglio Ordonez, Francisco Rodriguez, Mariano Rivera AND Roy Halliday less. And that’s with artificially low figures. If we use the high end of the scale you could add almost the full AL All-Star team to that list.
Even if you just count it as $11 million more per team in expenses, that’s a lot. And that is just part of the reason we’ve gotten to this point – and the next reason is historical, why can the American League afford to spend so much more, that’s the next part of this series and directly tied to the history of expansion, market size, and management decisions.