NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball’s playoffs no longer are an exclusive club of high rollers.
Pittsburgh, 26th among the 30 teams with a $73.6 million payroll, rolled past Cincinnati on Tuesday night and into an NL division-series matchup against St. Louis.
Oakland, 27th on the spending list at $71.1 million according to Major League Baseball’s latest figures, won the AL West and faces Detroit. And Tampa Bay, 28th at $65.6 million, plays the wild-card game on Wednesday night against Cleveland, 21st at $88.6 million.
“We’ve created things that have really helped our sport. They’ve really helped us in a myriad of ways,” Commissioner Bud Selig said with pride Tuesday. “The economics — they were archaic. I used to joke that we were still in back in the Ebbets Field-Polo Grounds days. What I call the reformation of the economic system certainly created a lot of this, there is no question.”
Sure, some of the big spenders found their way into October. The Los Angeles Dodgers raised their spending to $236.8 million during the season and are currently about $100,000 behind the Yankees. (Final figures may change depending on award bonuses and revisions).
Despite a No. 1 payroll, the Yankees finished tied for third in the AL East following an injury-filled season.
Boston is third at $174.1 million, Detroit fifth at $153.4 million, St. Louis 11th at $119.3 million and Cincinnati 13th at $113.3 million.
But half the playoff teams are from the bottom 50 percent in spending, with the A’s, Rays, Pirates and Indians joined by Atlanta (16th at $95.3 million).
Increased revenue sharing has helped. But a team must make good draft picks and be prudent with contracts and clever with trades.
Oakland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay have found success with youth. Only Houston ($29.3 million) and Miami $42.3 million had lower payrolls than the Rays, and they jettisoned veterans in favor of young players. While they endured terrible seasons — the Astros were 51-111 and the Marlins 62-100 — they hope a young core will transform into a contender in a few years.
“If you place that type of faith in them, a lot of times they’ll come through for you,” said Athletics manager Bob Melvin, who works under Billy Beane, the general manager who made “Moneyball” famous.