Paying more…not always the answer

It’s commonly thought that if one pays more money in business, the results will be better. Along those lines, many StL fans rip the DeWitt’s for not spending enough on their team. Well…those thoughts may or may not be true as one checks out the payroll vs other MLB teams & post-season results.
….1st an overview– the Cards fan base….like all fan bases….want the owners to spend more money…to spend it all on highly productive players who will lead us to a long playoff run. With Bill DeWitt Jr listed as the 3rd wealthiest owner in the MLB in an article 3 years ago, it feeds our “raise the payroll” feelings. We’re all willing to spend freely ..with someone else’s money.. so that we may entertained watching winning baseball. Getting into the playoffs repeatedly- 7 of the last 10 seasons and 14 of the last 21 seasons has really spoiled this loyal fan base. Recently the bar has been elevated even more… only World Series Championships seem acceptable to some. There are 30 teams in the MLB. The battle between paying high enough to get good players and over-reaching in spending.
…in 2020, the Cards were 7th in the MLB in salary and made the playoffs. which ballooned to 16 teams (53%). 10 of the 16 playoff teams had smaller pay scales than the Cards. 4 of the top 10 teams…6 of top 12.. on the MLB pay scale… did NOT make the playoffs. Yet, #28 on the pay scale (of 30 teams)-Tampa Bay made it to the World Series. The Series Champions were the #2 team in pay scale—LA Dodgers. The #3 team, Red Sox didn’t even reach the playoffs.
…2019 saw the #7 (in pay) Washington Nationals win the World Series. 3 of the 5 highest paid teams did NOT qualify for the post season. The Cards were in the playoffs as #6 in the MLB in payroll for 2019. Unbelievably, the highest paid team (Boston) didn’t see post season. Also falling short of the playoffs- #3 Cubbies (break my heart),#5 Giants, #9 Angels and #10 Phillies. Boston, Cubs and Giants had all “loaded up” in earlier seasons to “go for it all”. The Cubs & BoSox did win 1 title to break a long hiatus from the WS crown. Now…2-3 years later, they have post-Series hangover. These same players have now aged, declined in skill but still carry along their high salaries.
…in 2018, the. #1 Boston beat #3 LA for the World Series title. 10 teams qualified for the playoffs and StL Cards were #8 in the league in spending @ $163m but failed to qualify for the playoffs. In fact, 5 of the 10 highest paid teams did NOT qualify!
…2016 the 2 teams with the best records in the league –#6 Cubs & #23 Cleveland played in World Series and only 3 of the 10 highest paid teams failed to make post-season play. But, the Cards were the exception —#9 on pay scale but no post season.
….Down to 2012. 5 of the top 10 payroll teams DID NOT make the playoffs. SF Giants (#8) beat #5 Detroit in world Series. #9 Cards lost in LCS.
…in 2011, the World Champion St Louis Cardinals were #11 in payroll. The Cards beat Texas #13 in the World Series. The #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8 and #9 highest paid teams DID NOT make the playoffs. The #10 & #17 lost the league championship series. The #1 NYY & #2 Phils lost the league division series along with the #29th paid team (who else?)-Tampa Bay and #25 Arizona !!
…in another Cardinal Championship year, 2006 the Cards #11 on payroll scale beat #15 Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Losers of the League Championship series were the NY Mets #5 and Oakland A’s #21. The #2, #3, #4 #7, #8 and #9 teams(6 of the top 10 paid teams) did NOT qualify for the playoffs
…Soooo…. What I’m seeing is that the Cardinals ARE paying enough for their players. The DeWitt’s are spending enough They remain in the top ½ of the teams in payroll. Cards have been between #6-14 in payroll for at least a decade now.
…The MLB needs a new, tight salary cap. Currently the penalty to the teams over the cap is easily brushed aside. MLB must find a way to eliminate “tanking”-not signing good players so that a team loses then gets high draft choices-it’s bad for the game. As I’ve mentioned previously, the current cap system favors the huge metropolitan cities. I believe that the MLB wants these cities to succeed to boost TV rating & earnings. Consider closely @ the NFL & NBA systems. See how it may be adapted to fit the MLB. For example, compare the two KC teams….in the MLB, the Royals have been in 9 playoff seasons in 51 years with 2 WS Championships- 1985, 2015. By contrast, in the NFL, the Chiefs drafted wisely, have an excellent coach Andy Reid in his 22nd year with a 215-129-1 record! They have been in post-season play 22 different years with 3 Super Bowl appearances. Same city…totally different results due to tight league salary cap, coaching, draft.
There are other factors–
1) Sure there are injuries—if multiple key players or if it occurs to a superstar for the 1st time—can’t help it..and your season is in jeopardy. But… if a player has been injured previously with long IL time, the team must realize 1 injury oft leads to another and another…etc. Is he worth it? If a pitcher continually ends up on the DL…oops…IL,..I would eventually think that his arm will never be the same. Trade him…did you say Carlos Martinez? Side-note—I feel like players on the IL should receive a reduced salary while missing games. Any other entertainer who misses a concert, acting engagement doesn’t get paid. MLB players are entertainers on the field. Let the players take out their own insurance to cover these missed games.
2) Long multi-year contracts OR long 5 year extensions (Carp, Fowler) to 30+ year old players for mega-bucks often detour the team as they get “stuck” with these aging players. Current examples of 2 superstars, Bryce Harper-Phils…or Mike Trout-Angels– neither has the supporting cast to go deep in playoffs. With a team of 3-4 very good, highly paid players, a team must keep finding young, cheap productive players to contribute in the other 4-5 field spots. These role players must be good to great defenders, some speed, make contact with the ball , get on base, be durable, bat .250ish.
3) You can bet that the MLB will stay with the 16 team playoff format($$$). Once a team reaches the playoffs, anything can happen (like 2011). For lowly seeded teams, winning 4 consecutive series may be a hurdle too high to jump..often. However….there will always be those exceptions!
4) Good, well trained, healthy pitching will carry you a long way… Tampa Bay & Cleveland are current examples. The Cards 2020 bullpen was very strong…one must wonder, however, could they last for 162 games (instead of 60) at that same high level. Going 3-5 relief pitchers almost every game will take a toll on these arms both in a season & over a career.
5) Keep out spending the other teams in your division! Winning the division will ALWAYS get you into the playoffs. Generally, the Cards have always out spent Milwaukee, Cincy, & Pittsburgh. The Cards have outspent the Cubs the vast majority of years….up until this decade.
6) The coaching & evaluation at all levels, development of players beyond being “MLB” players, signing the right prospects, acquiring “super” players for limited number of years, structuring the roster so everyone knows …. and accepts…their role (I think that this has been lacking badly the past few years)—all must be scrutinized by the Cards. Meanwhile, we fans have to remember that this is a business…..the team MUST make money.
Your thoughts…..I’ve heard about this topic for a many years now….so many of you have your thoughts…please share them—on facebook (Bob Ryan), website—www.bobryansportsblog.com or send it directly to me to be posted

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