Are the Yankees Smart Spenders?

Bloomberg Businessweek has an interesting piece out this week ranking what they consider to be the “smartest spenders” in sports. Basically, they looked at every MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL team over the last 5 seasons and determined exactly how much the teams paid for each of their wins over this time period.

I say the study is interesting (because it is), but it certainly doesn’t prove anything about the correlation between spending money and winning. When you consider that the ultimate goal of each of these teams is to win a championship, the “smart spender” aspect of this study is pretty much debunked.

For instance, under this study the Marlins ($520K/win) are the smartest spenders in all of MLB, while the Tampa Bay Rays ($560K/win) are right behind them in second place. But as Businessweek points out, though the Marlins have had the lowest average payroll in MLB between 2006 and 2010, it bought them exactly zero postseason appearances. The Rays, on the other hand, had MLB’s third-lowest payroll and made it to the postseason three times. Conclusion: the Rays are actually getting a lot of bang for their buck; the Marlins are simply cheap and getting exactly what they pay for.

This point is further driven home when you look at the Phillies. As Businessweek points out they pay much more per win than the Marlins (approximately $786K more), but the Phillies were in the playoffs every year and won a World Series.

So where do the Yankees rank? The Bronx Bombers come in at #121 on the list, second to last in all of sports only to the Detroit Lions, and dead last in all of MLB. But over the five seasons Businessweek analyzed the Yankees won an average of 95.6 games per year and paid an average of $2.11M for each of those wins. During that time the Yankees made the postseason 4 times and won the World Series once.

At the end of the day, just like much else in sports, you need to look beyond these raw numbers to determine their actual significance. Yes, the Rays are legitimately smart spenders; they consistently manage to make the most of a very small payroll. But to say that teams like the Marlins and Pirates are smarter spenders than the Yankees and Phillies simply because they pay less for each of their wins is erroneous and laughable. The wins that truly matter are the ones in October, and the “smart spending” Marlins and Pirates certainly aren’t racking up any of those.

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