Originally created 11/10/99

Playoff teams among top spenders



NEW YORK -- Baseball's postseason was only for its high rollers.

The eight playoff teams all were among the 10 top spenders this year, according to figures distributed Tuesday to major league general managers meeting in Dana Point, Calif. The New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves, the team they swept in the World Series, each had the highest payrolls in their leagues.

The Yankees had a record payroll of $91.99 million, about $18 million more than the previous high, set by Baltimore the previous year. Among playoff teams, they were followed by Texas ($80.8 million), Atlanta ($79.3 million), Cleveland ($73.5 million), Boston ($72.3 million), the New York Mets ($71.5 million), Arizona ($70 million) and Houston ($56.4 million).

Proving that money doesn't guarantee success, the top five included baseball's most notorious underachievers of 1999: Los Angeles was fourth at $71.1 million, followed by Baltimore at $70.6 million.

"We think in the new year, we'll make some recommendations," said Sandy Alderson, the executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office. "The commissioner is committed to making some serious changes in the system. I think that's the No. 1 item on his agenda."

Since the end of the 1994-95 strike, just one team not among the top half by payroll has advanced to the postseason: the 1997 Astros, who were 18th among 28 clubs.

The eight postseason teams were among the top 12 in 1998, the top 14 in 1996 and the top 12 in 1995.

Since then, the 10 World Series teams all have been among the top 10 in payroll, including six among the top three and eight among the top five. The Yankees' payroll was more than six times that of the lowest team, the Florida Marlins ($14.65 million).

"What am I going to say? For me, the only thing I'm concerned about is trying to repeat in 2000," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

After signing outfielder Shawn Green to an $84 million, six-year contract Monday, the Dodgers have two players (Green and pitcher Kevin Brown), whose average annual salaries total $29 million -- more than the entire 1999 payrolls of Florida, Montreal, Minnesota, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, the Chicago White Sox and Oakland.

"I'd prefer we were all operating on the same plane financially," Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone said. "I would like to see all 30 clubs on a level playing field. That would be good for the fans, it would create more competition. I think it would be great for baseball if there was a floor and a ceiling."

Arizona, which won the NL West, had the most dramatic increase, going from 21st at $31.6 million to ninth.

San Diego, 10th at $53.1 million when it won the NL pennant in 1998, dropped to 15th at $45.8 million.

"Obviously it's getting greater every year," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's more a case today where clubs know they don't have a chance to compete. You're going to have a team occasionally that can compete, can contend, like the Reds this year. Now it's to the point where you only have a chance if you spend the money."

Cincinnati, with a $38 million payroll that ranked 20th, was in contention until the final day of the regular season, losing a wild-card tiebreaker playoff to the Mets.

Florida continued its astounding drop. The Marlins were fifth at $53.5 million when they won the World Series in 1997, dropped to 27th at $15.1 million as they went 54-108 the following year and were dead last this year, as they went finished a league-worst 64-98.

Montreal, last in 1998 at $8.3 million, nearly doubled its payroll to $15 million and moved up to just 29th.

"Cleveland, Ohio, in the late '80s was at the bottom," Indians general manager John Hart said. "Several factors have changed that. We're still a middle market. We have large revenue fueled by the new stadium and a good product. Part of the American way is to be creative. It's an issue."

Payrolls include salaries, performances and prorated shares of signing bonuses and other guaranteed income, but not award bonuses, which have not yet been tabulated.