Brandon Webb
Lenny Ignelzi  /  AP
Arizona ace pitcher Brandon Webb makes $4.5 million, but the frugal Diamondbacks spent just $52 million on player salaries this year, less than any other team in the playoffs.
By contributor
updated 10/2/2007 8:58:23 PM ET 2007-10-03T00:58:23

If Vince Lombardi's well-worn dictum "winning isn't everything; it's the only thing" were applied to baseball, the New York Yankees are the team most likely to have the phrase inscribed in their locker room — on a cash machine.

The Yankees famously have the highest payroll in baseball at nearly $190 million, but at least principal owner George Steinbrenner can be satisfied that all that spending was enough to earn the Bronx Bombers a playoff spot, albeit only through the wild-card system.

But while the Yankees spent more than $2 million for each of their 94 victories this year — more than any other team — the Cleveland Indians, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies prove you can get the job done for far less, according to our analysis.

The Indians, who won the American League Central division and face off against the Yankees beginning Thursday had one of the league's lowest payrolls and spent just $642,000 for each of their 96 victories.

Similarly the Diamondbacks, who also won their division, spent just $580,000 for each of their 90 victories — less than any other playoff-qualifying team.

The Rockies spent just a tad more at $600,000 for each of their 90 victories including their hair-raising, 13-inning triumph over the San Diego Padres in Monday's one-game playoff. The Padres — who probably would have spent any amount for just one more victory — were almost equally frugal, having spent just $650,000 per victory.

While the eight teams that qualified for the playoffs can be happy that their money was well-spent, the bitterness of some teams that fell short is only compounded by the knowledge that — in hindsight, at least — they overspent.

Consider the Chicago White Sox, who paid out more than $1.5 million for each of their 72 wins and won only the right to spend October at home. Starting pitcher Jon Garland alone cost the team $1 million for each of his 10 victories.

Among those teams who sniffed the playoffs in September before fading, the Dodgers and  Mets have the most to regret financially (and every other way in the Mets' case). Each team spent more than $1.3 million per win to merely tantalize fans, or perhaps enrage them. Other teams that shelled out more than $1 million per win yet failed to reach the playoffs Seattle ($1.2 million), Houston (about $1.2 million) and Detroit (almost $1.1 million).

Among other teams that made the playoffs, the Chicago Cubs spent about $1.17 million per victory — fifth-highest in the National League. Outfielder Alfonso Soriano's $10 million salary appears to have been worth it. The Cubs begin their quest for their first World Series appearance since 1945 — and their first World Series victory since 1908 — on Wednesday in Phoenix against the Diamondbacks.

The Boston Red Sox, with the league's No. 2 payroll, paid nearly $1.5 million per victory, and the Angels, whether you call them Los Angeles, Anaheim or California, spent about $1.1 million in salary for each tally in the win column. The National League Philadelphia Phillies paid a little over $1 million per win, so overall the NL playoff teams appeared to be better money managers than their American League counterparts. (For the NL, the money-management conquest may take a bit of the sting of once again failing to secure home field advantage in the World Series.)

As for the teams that will be mere spectators in this year's playoffs, some of them can take cheer that at least they didn't spend much in their losing effort.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who have had little reason to cheer during their ill-fated existence, can be heartened that the franchise spent less per victory than any of the other 29 Major League Baseball franchises, paying only $365,000 for each of the team's paltry 66 wins. Across the orange groves and the swamps of the Everglades sits the only close contender, the Florida Marlins. The 2003 World Series champs spent less than $430,000 for each winning game.

Marlin executives presumably are happier than their counterparts in Baltimore. The once-proud Orioles tallied two fewer wins than Florida's 71 — and spent close to $1 million more for each victory. The Orioles are moving quickly to fix that grim statistic: On Tuesday, they released starting pitcher Jaret Wright, who earned more than $7 million during an injury-plagued 2007 season while contributing zero victories.

David Sweet, a sports business writer in the Chicago area, can be reached at


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