The Mockingbird

Shooting Griffins in a Barrell

with 5 comments

He’s back…and so is my Fire Joe Morgan (R.I.P) routine. One piece after wading into the dangerous ground of ‘OBA’, Dick Griffin is doing more research and analysis. The results may shock and surprise you. Or they may just make you dumber. Time will tell.

Are the Jays spending enough on team payroll to realistically compete for a playoff spot in 2009? The simple answer is “yes,” judging from payroll data related to win-loss records from the most recent season.

Well, that is a simple answer! Obviously a use of the term simple of which I was previously unaware:

Simple: (botany); of leaves having no divisions or subdivisions

Hold on, I thought that said “leagues”, not “leaves”. Because there’s no way that anyone would just completely ignore the current state of the division the Blue Jays are in…

The Jays need to stay in the top 10 to 15 ranking of team payrolls, which last season was from $100 million (all figures U.S.) down to $80 million. In dollar figures supplied by Associated Press they ranked 12th in payroll.

…and just lazily imply that being in the top half of teams is enough to “realistically” compete for a playoff spot, right? Maybe I should see if there’s another definition for simple.

  1. Having or manifesting little sense or intelligence.
  2. Uneducated; ignorant.
  3. Unworldly or unsophisticated.

Ah.

But nothing with the Jays is simple. They need good health and career years from key players to overcome the mega-payroll depth of the Yankees, Red Sox and others.

Oh, wait. I’m sorry, Dick. You’re totally aware of the elephants in the room and the fortune bordering on divine intervention that it’s going to required to get past them, and are holding back the crux of the argument. I can wait.

The competitive issue for the Jays is not the fact of an $85 million payroll, down from $98 million. A salary breakdown of all 30 teams from ’08 tells an encouraging story. You don’t have to be rich.

You have no idea how honestly I am looking forward to the first truly encouraging story of the off-season. Not to mention how having a hole blown through your rotation and absolutely no ability to do anything about it is not a “competitive issue”. We need a win, Dick. Bad. Do it!

The Jays were in the top dozen spenders, but considering there are only eight teams that make the post-season, hang-dog thinking would have you believe the eight playoff teams should come from the top 10 payrolls

I’m not going to look up “hang-dog”, because I’m pretty sure it’s the kind of thinking where you just publish the first thing that comes into your head on the AP. Because not only would nobody ever come close to thinking that in a game where the best team wins 6/10 games, it would be literally impossible with the way the AL is stacked.

I mean, if the Yankees and Boston are going to make it in, then there goes the wildcard. That means two of the Tigers, White Sox, Angels, and Mariners are gone. So in fact, the maximum number of teams in the top ten of payroll that could have made it in last year would be six. But ok, set up that straw man and then knock him down hard.

The truth is that fully half of the top-10 big-money teams did not make the post-season: the Yankees (1), Tigers (2), Mets (3), Mariners (9) and Braves (10).

WO!!! A maximum of six, and only five made it in?? Well, that proves it. Money means nothing. PLAYOFFS!!!

The World Series-champion Phillies ranked 13th in payroll, one spot behind the Jays, while the AL champs, the Rays, were 29th overall, ahead of only the Marlins. In fact, if your team ranked from 11 to 15, you were a winning squad with a shot at a division or wild-card playoff spot. In truth, that’s all the ’09 Jays want or need.

The emphasis is mine, because there is indeed one thing those teams also have in common that is all the Blue Jays want or need to make the playoffs. THEY’RE IN THE GODDAMN NATIONAL LEAGUE. Where 92 wins (like the Phillies) gives you an excellent shot at winning the wild card. It hasn’t happened in the AL since 2000.

Wins the Wild Card Was Won With
Year AL NL
2008 95 90
2007 94 90
2006 95 88
2005 95 89
2004 98 92

Even at the lower team payroll, the Jays will still rank in the group from 11 to 15.

The Cardinals, with baseball’s 11th-highest payroll, ended 86-76. They were followed by the Jays (86-76), the Phils (92-70), the Astros (86-75) and the Brewers (90-72). The 11 through 15 group won at least 86 games each and were a combined 71 games above .500. So it can be done.

Yep, slightly above .500 can be done with slightly above average payroll. Hell, you can even win your division with 83 wins and fluke out the Whole Damn Thing. IF YOU PLAY IN THE GODDAMN NATIONAL LEAGUE (CENTRAL).

However, it remains important to be in the top half of spending. Of the lowest 15 payrolls, only the Rays made the playoffs.

The bottom 15 combined to go a depressing 151 games below break even, with only the Indians (16th), D-backs (23rd), Twins (24th), Rays (29th) and Marlins (30th) at .500 or above.

The easiest explanation is those teams are not spending enough to provide the depth to weather the injuries that inevitably come with a 162-game schedule.

Now my easiest explanation would be that those teams aren’t spending enough to get players who are as good. I’m not saying that I couldn’t explain how bottom-feeders like the Marlins and the Nationals are mainly suffering from economically-induced problems with “depth”, but it would be pretty damn complicated. I would have to baffle you with arcane numbers and statistics, destroy your logic circuits with circular reasoning and devious fallacies, and slowly break down your mind piece by piece until you don’t even know who the hell you are any more. Wouldn’t be easy. But I could do it.

Despite the positive results of this unsophisticated payroll study, there is a palpable air of gloom and doom emanating from citizens of Jays Nation.

Please don’t say that again. We know who the stupid “Nation” is. What is this, Stockholm syndrome? I’m not kidding in any way or putting on my funny voice here. If you say that again and it catches on, I will find you, Dick. I’ll find you and shave you. Don’t try me.

While the Yanks and Red Sox have been up to their usual winter tricks, bobbing and weaving, jabbing and moving to counter one another, the Jays contented themselves with signing a 40-year-old Japanese pitcher, inviting in a 38-year-old former replacement player and extending invites to a couple of banged-up pitchers who promised to bring their latest X-rays to camp.

While New York and Boston were battling over guys like CC Sabathia, John Smoltz, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira, the Jays’ biggest off-season issues were who will president Paul Beeston find to replace himself, and did Worcester Willie (a.k.a. GM J.P. Ricciardi) see his shadow when he ventured north for the state of the Blue Jays get-together, which meant another four weeks of winter before heading south to Dunedin, Fla.

There are still some one-time free-agent pitching bargains on the market and some proven, short-term candidates for the DH out there, but the Jays apparently closed their free-agent bank account before realizing there was some cheap help to be had. However, if they struggle this season, it won’t be because they weren’t spending enough.

Bloody anticlimatic, but I’ve made you read the rest of the article, so you may as well get the mandatory boxing metaphor, latest lame nickname, and the utterly vague and contradictory ending. Apparently the Jays are being left behind by not spending any money while the rest of the division is bobbing, are completely content with some farcical players (what kind of pitcher gets injured??), and missing out on some sweet, nameless opportunities – but if they struggle, that’s not why.

Written by halejon

February 7, 2009 at 12:17 am

Posted in Seriousness

5 Responses

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  1. If you say that again and it catches on, I will find you, Dick. I’ll find you and shave you. Don’t try me.

    Beauty.

    Epic post. Looking forward to another season of The Mockingbird.

    eyebleaf

    February 7, 2009 at 12:49 am

  2. While I have enjoyed reading your blog, I don’t think the following statement is correct:

    I mean, if the Yankees and Boston are going to make it in, then there goes the wildcard. That means two of the Tigers, White Sox, Angels, and Mariners are gone. So in fact, the maximum number of teams in the top ten of payroll that could have made it in last year would be six. But ok, set up that straw man and then knock him down hard.

    We can still have:

    AL EAST: either – NYY (1) or BOS (4)
    AL CENTRAL: either DET(2) or CWS (5)
    AL WEST: either LAA (6) or SEA (9)
    AL WILDCARD: one of: the 3 teams that lost out from their division races.

    NL EAST: NYM (3) or ATL (10)
    NL CENTRAL: CHC (7)
    NL WEST: LAD (8)
    NL WILDCARD: NYM or ATL, whichever team that loses out in NL EAST.

    The maximum number of teams in the top ten of payroll that could have made it in last year would still be eight.

    Also,

    Yep, slightly above .500 can be done with slightly above average payroll. Hell, you can even win your division with 83 wins and fluke out the Whole Damn Thing. IF YOU PLAY IN THE GODDAMN NATIONAL LEAGUE (CENTRAL).

    Did you mean NL West? (the Dodgers won it this year with 84 wins; the Cubs won NL Central with 97 wins, though they did it with 85 wins in 07 and the Cards did it with 83 wins in 06. Then again, SD won the NL West with 82 wins in 05- so there have been some lucky winners last few years from both divisions)

    Jaybird

    February 8, 2009 at 12:49 pm

  3. Yeah, apparently I’ve been using Griffin’s fact checker. *guzzle* I was thinking that at least 2 of the top 10 teams get doubled up, but obviously that should be 10-2 not 8-2. It’s still dumb to say that “only” 5/10 teams in the top 1/3 making the playoffs is a sign of parity, though. ~60% of playoff teams coming from the top ~30% of payroll teams sounds pretty damn weighted to me.

    I was thinking specifically of the Cards with the (CENTRAL) because they won the Whole Damn Thing with that 83 win season. But yeah, it’s not the only NL division where you can make the playoffs with mediocrity.

    halejon

    February 8, 2009 at 3:10 pm

  4. Epic post indeed. First post of yours I’ve read since November. I have a lot of catching up to do..

    SP

    February 8, 2009 at 8:30 pm

  5. Not as much as you might think…

    halejon

    February 8, 2009 at 11:50 pm


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