How about a replay for the Rays’ accountant?

by Gary Shelton on July 20, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays


The Rays fight quarters with nickels./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 4 a.m.

Let's hear it for the beancounters. There aren't a lot of beans, mind you, but so far, the counting is impressive.

The accountants have remembered to carry the one. They have made sure Column A adds up to Column B. They have their calculators working extra innings.

Oh, if only we celebrated balancing the budget. In that case, the Tampa Bay Rays would be the talk of major league baseball.

It isn't so much that they win.

It's that they do it cheaply.

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Yep, give it to the Rays. They fight quarters with nickels and turn double-plays on a dime. They are Crazy Larry and, man, do they have a deal for you.


So far this season, the Rays are second in major league baseball at the average cost per win. If they can continue to win at their current pace, they will finish the year by spending $1.8 million per victory. That's second only to the Oakland A's, who are on a pace to spend $1.5 million per win.

No, not much is fair about baseball, which operates with less revenue sharing that most sports. That leaves the Rays, who according to, are spending $91,575,108 (is it that much?) this year. With 49 wins, thats the sale of century.

By comparison, Baltimore, Kansas City and Detroit are spending more than $5.3 million per victory. It's an easy formula. Just divide the team's  salary by its number of victories, and you get evidence for which team is getting the most bang from its buck. Spending a lot is okay if you win a lot, but not if you're trying to avoid mediocrity.

Other spend-at-large teams include San Francisco ($4.4 million per win), the Mets ($4.4 million per win), Toronto ($4.1 million per win) and Washington ($4.1 million per win). The Cubs and St. Louis are spending roughly twice what the Rays are ($3.6 million per win), while the Dodgers ($3.5 million per win before adding Manny Machado) and Red Sox ($3.4 million per win) are close to doubling it. Boston has the league's largest payroll.

The thing is, nobody cares. We go to the ballpark to forget about finance. No one wants to calculate what a pitcher's win costs a team. No one wants to buy Sno-Cones for the teams that get the most (but not enough) victories per dollar.

You watch. At the end of the season, New York or Houston or Boston or the Dodgers will win the World Series title, and a lot of the scribes will write about heart and hustle and scrappiness, never mentioning that they outspent most of the league.

The logical answer, to the fan, is a salary cap to put teams on an even field. But that won't happen (It wouldn't happen with the NFL if it introduced a salary cap these days. There is just too much money).

George Steinbrenner used to ask the question all the time. "Why I should I give money to another team so it can sign a shortstop who will try to beat me?" It's a hard position with which to argue. The big-market teams bring in most of the money. They want the advantages  that go with it.

Of course, this is all old discussion. Teams these days buy their chances at a title. Every $100,000 or so increases the number of Lotto tickets they can buy.

Meanwhile, the small market teams continue to swim upstream, hoping they can get a bunch of talented players on their first contracts to sneak into the playoffs.

Oh, the money-counters stay up nights to try to find an alternative to money.

Somehow, there should be more.




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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller July 20, 2018 at 3:25 pm

Great article Gary. You have your fingers on the pulse of how the Rays front office thinks. I’m sure they are well aware of that win per million stat and will be trying to beat the A’s next year.

I could be wrong but I think the $91 million payroll figure includes dead money like what they sent to the Giants to take Longoria’s contract plus a couple of others. So the actual payroll is much less. But like you said who cares. You can bet the teams in contention will be spending millions more at the trade deadline to get players who they hope will put them over the top.

Baseball is a big market, rich team game. Now and then a team like the Rays will get lucky and put it all together but it’s rare. I don’t think that’s good for the overall health of baseball but rich teams like it that way so nothing is going to change.


Gary Shelton July 20, 2018 at 6:01 pm

I’m not sure what Spotrac includes and what they do not. I know when Denard Span came over, he was making $11 million a year. Is that figure included? But with contracts soaring, they’re probably spending more than we think but less than we’d like.

Long term, little changes. There are teams (Oakland this year) that have mini-rises and falls, but nothing that will last. I’ve said it a lot: It’s hard to be a Rays fan (or Royals or Padres or Twins).


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