WASHINGTON — Money can’t buy happiness, or at least that’s what you have been told. In Major League Baseball there has been a hot debate on when and how much should a team spend to improve the team on the field.
The New York Yankees have made it clear that this is the way they do business with more than a decade of evidence. The Yankees late owner, George Steinbrenner, made it his calling card to put the best team on the field that money could buy. You can’t completely dismiss the idea considering the success the Yankees have had, but sometimes less is more.
The idea of spending hundreds of millions to gain an advantage is a nice idea, but most free agents are between the ages of 27-30, and already declining.
The last three World Series winners - San Francisco twice and St. Louis once - have avoided the ultra-high payroll. Instead these teams depend on players developed through the minor leagues and a few perfectly placed free agency signings.
San Francisco has put out big money contracts, but to its own players that they know very well. The practice of shelling out nearly $300 million to Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford only gave the Boston Red Sox a major migraine. The Yankees famously brought in $423 million in new contracts in the offseason prior to the 2009 season, which led to New York’s 27th World Series title.
The two Los Angeles area teams - the Dodgers and the Angels are trying their hand at this, and failing miserably. Since an ownership group led by Earvin “Magic” Johnson bought the Dodgers for more than $2 billion last year, the roster has been treated like a fantasy team.
In the past 12 months, the Dodgers have added Gonzalez, Crawford, Josh Beckett, Hanley Ramirez and signed Zach Greinke for $147 million to help in their goal of winning the franchise’s first World Series since 1988.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers hated rivals, the Giants have won two of the last three World Series with no big free agent signings.
The Angels, also have went on an intense spending spree the last two years also. First the Angels added Albert Pujols for a cool $240 million and Josh Hamilton for $125 million. Putting Pujols, Hamilton and future superstar Mike Trout in a lineup together hasn¹t worked out the way it looked on paper.
The Angels have stolen the Texas Rangers’ top free agent the last two off-season’s in starting pitcher C.J. Wilson and Hamiltion, and still lead the Los Angeles by five-and-a-half games.
None of this spending has yielded even one playoff win. When play ended Wednesday, the two teams had a combined record of 17-23 with a run differential of -34. This doesn’t mean free agent signings are a terrible idea, but you need to pick your spots.
Hamilton and Pujols were both over 30 and already declining when they signed. Those two contracts are a disaster waiting to happen. There’s a very small likelihood that either player is productive in the final year of the contract.
Money can buy happiness, but when it comes to baseball - less is more.