The 20% Solution, Prepare To Be Amazed
Want to know a secret about how much is too much? How many times have you wanted your favorite organization to sign that one big free agent that will put them over the top? No matter what the cost, sign that one “difference maker” and go from contender to Head of the Class.
If you read our earlier post “Discover 3 Keys of World Series Champions” you know that one of the important factors in building a roster is never pay one individual more than 20% of your total payroll. We found 117 cases over the last 17 seasons that one player has started the season with a contract more than 20% of his team’s total payroll and in this post we will show you the results of our research. Eye opening!
Of the 117 instances just 17 times has the individual made the post-season.Of course numerous individuals breach the 20% plateau on more than one occasion. A great player like “King Felix” has been over the mark 4 times in his career. Same with Barry Bonds.
Todd Helton 5 straight seasons with the Rockies was over the 20% mark. In 2017, Joe Mauer is working on his 7th consecutive season being able to violate the rule with the Twins. He’s the local boy they had to keep to fill the new stadium but the Twins were under 2 million fans last season and they are staring at a 7th consecutive decrease in attendance.
Helton, Bonds, Hernandez, Mauer are all great players and they are not alone. “Junior” Griffey (4) with the Reds, Bagwell (2), Alex Rodriguez (3) with the Rangers, Mike Sweeney (4)…wait, what? Our research says beginning with the year 2000 these 8 players alone were over the 20% barrier a combined 32 times, making the playoffs just 5 times. Bagwell and Helton twice each and Bonds once.
Of the 17 individuals to cross the 20% line and make the post-season just 4 have made it to the World Series during their “violation year.
The Astros of 2005 had both Bagwell and Roger Clemens making $18,000,000 apiece, together just under half of the teams $76,186,763 total payroll (according to Cot’s). The year 2007 saw Todd Helton make the World Series earning $16,600,000. That’s 27% of the team total. Michael Young of the Rangers in 2010 was at $16 million of the $74+million the organization shelled out to the team.
So three teams in 17 seasons have defied the odds and each team got beat in the World Series.
What is going on here? At what point does an owner step in and say, “You want to give how much to who?”
We use pencil and paper here in The Sauna, so our numbers might be a little off or we may have an oversight somewhere. These are the days of the “number crunchers” and “bean counters” hired specifically to find value. What about good old financial balance?
In 2003 over 59% of the Rays total payroll went to two players, Rey Ordonez and Ben Grieve. The combined WARP is just over 1.25 and the $/WARP is over $22 million (Baseball Prospectus). That’s how you win 63 games folks.
Zach Greinke ate up over 34% of the D’backs payroll in 2016. They got 69 wins, a stadium half-empty, and a lot of people fired.
The previously mentioned Joe Mauer saw his sixth season over the 20% border in 2016 and he gave the Twins a 0.03 WARP and a staggering $796,840,000 $/WARP and the Twins saw a sixth straight season of attendance decline. Best of all, he’s got a full no-trade. Borrowing the words of Sammy Davis jr., “Ouch Babe!”
Fans will not come to see one particular player unless you have a Fernando Mania situation or the league allows cartoon characters to resume play.
Do you know what you don’t see on the list? Yankees. Because they share the wealth, the Yankees have not had a losing season since 1992.
Wasn’t that when Ross Perot ran for President? Wow! Twenty-five years ago. if Someone has an explanation for why teams constantly pay one individual such a high percentage of the payroll, I’m all Ears. Couldn’t resist.
Just one Dodger, Manny Ramirez in 2009. They made the playoffs. Manny is also the only Red Sox player on the list, also making the playoffs in 2003. That year we also see Bobby Higginson make the list for the Tigers. Their only representative.
No Cardinals. Not a Nationals player unless you count Vlad with the 2002, 2003 Expos. He might have been worth it since his WARP was three times higher than his $/WARP but that’s a story for another time.
The Mariners rarely go a season without one. Ichiro, “King Felix”, Cano are fine players. No playoff game for Seattle since 2002.
For the What Were You Thinking file: Rather than spend like Paris Hilton with a new charge card teams now look for value more than ever but we still have the Padres.
Remember when they were signing seemingly every player with an 8-figure contract? Then, depression set in as the losses accumulated and the rebuild of the rebuild began.
No playoff since 2006 so let’s spend. They finally eclipsed the $100,000,000 mark in 2015 and carried that into the 2016 season. But after finishing with 74 and 68 wins they have now closed the purse strings and the payroll currently sits at around half the 2015 total. Now, just over $53,000,000. Here it comes!
Of that $53,477,500, more than 65% in 2017 goes to 4 players no longer with the team. The Friars are on the hook for Melvin Upton $16,050,000, James Shields $11,000,000, Hector Olivera 6,000,000, and Jedd Gyorko $2,000,000.
Someone screwed up!
There it is. Make sure no player receives more than 20% of total year-end payroll and you give yourself a chance. We think Vlad was worth the contract he had but there just wasn’t enough talent around him.
We like the effort the Padres made to put together a winner but we question the team that was put together considering the personalities, histories, and contracts. Easy to say now isn’t it.
If you are going to break the rule going into the season, you need to add quality around the guy and get that percentage down or you will not win the last game of the Major League Baseball season. That’s the goal isn’t it?
Scott Hortness February 10, 2017
Money photo by Purple Slog https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Cashman and Mauer photos by Keith Allison https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
Ross Perot-Adrian Fenty photo by David https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/