In sports, as in politics, spenders win.
But not every time. The Oakland A's, with the second-lowest payroll in Major League Baseball, just played their way into the playoffs. So they had a better year than the Philadelphia Phillies, third in their division, out of the playoffs, second-highest payroll in the MLB. Better than the Los Angeles Angels, third in their division, out of the playoffs, fourth-highest payroll in the MLB.
People are saying this team is more "Moneyball" than "Moneyball"—referring to the book/Brad Pitt flick about general manager Billy Beane using his superpower (spreadsheets) to pick up productive players on the cheap:
[A] team with the lowest payroll defeated a team that has represented the American League in the World Series over the last two seasons and a team that spent over a quarter of a billion dollars in free agency this winter. In fact, Albert Pujols’ salary covers the A’s payroll from the last four seasons.
In the original "Moneyball Year," 2002, the A's were the third-lowest spenders in the league, spending $41 million or so on their payroll. The biggest spenders that year were the New York Yankees, at $125 million. The A's won their division. This year, the A's spent about $55 million. The Yankees? About $198 million. Phillies? $175 million. The Texas Rangers, division rivals defeated by the A's this week? $121 million.
Even more incredibly, last year, the A's spent around $67 million and finished far worse—third in the division with 74 wins, which is 20 fewer than they've got this year, with a handful left to play.
So again this year, the A's spent their money wisely and the team played well and they clinched the American League West title, as a friend posted on Facebook, on a BART $2 Wednesday—Bay Area Rapid Transit's title-sponsor deal offering tickets to A's games on Wednesdays for just two of your wrinkliest dollars.
So yes, that's an affordable sporting event co-sponsored by public transportation. Are the Oakland A's the unofficial team of GOOD yet?
People always say things like "So-and-so is the New York Yankees of so-and-so" to mean that somebody's dominant—or that they spend a lot and buy up players, resources, whatever.
Can we start calling people the Oakland A's of things? I know a couple that is the Oakland A's of getting apartments—spend little on fantastic places. Totally awesome.
Hey, who wants to watch "Moneyball" with me this weekend?
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.