Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Brewers’ payroll shows baseball economics

In reference to the Milwaukee Brewers’ payroll for the upcoming season,
which is the first in team history to exceed $100 million, primary owner Mark
Attanasio said it was simply the price of winning, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Unfortunately, he’s right.

For the Brewers, a payroll in the eight-digit range is unprecedented, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It
comes as the result of a few successful seasons, which have catapulted the team
from small market status to the Major League Baseball’s “middle class.” Attanasio asserted to the Wisconsin State Journal that, “We’ve
moved from a small market to mid-market status,” a major transition that has been
made possible by growing attendance, increased media presence and winning
records. General Manager Doug Melvin claims, “When you win, you’ve got to pay
the players. … If you don’t, then you tell people that you may have to take a step

According to Attanasio and Melvin, a sizable payroll is a necessary
measure to remain competitive in the big leagues.
Evidently, Attanasio’s investment in the team is paying off. Since he bought
the team in 2005, the Brewers’ payroll has increased from $27 million to $96
million, and it will continue to grow in the upcoming season. In 2008, the team made
its first postseason appearance in 26 years – last fall, the Brewers won their first
division title in 29 years.


Perhaps money can’t buy happiness, but for the Brewers, a lot of money has gone a long way. In the MLB, the dollar
might be mightier than the Louisville Slugger.
I won’t waste five minutes of your day by complaining about how much
money goes into professional sports. Those arguments are baseless – the fact of the
matter is that professional athletes, managers, owners and networks generate
billions of dollars of revenue. They earn the money.

Those who complain about Alex
Rodriguez’s million dollar annual salary that ESPN has reported on and argue “he’s just playing a game” fail to
realize that as long as fans are willing to pay to watch baseball, the MLB is selling a
product. To complain about the amount of money in professional sports is to
complain about capitalism.
To the extent that MLB teams are considered as competing
businesses, the amount of money that goes into professional baseball is justified.

the other hand, the considerable influence of eight-digit payrolls has been counterproductive for competition for the game of baseball itself. According to Attanasio, “There are 30
teams, and there’s probably 10 that are large market, 10 that are mid-market and 10
that are small or smaller market.”
This is the salary gradient of pro baseball. The unfortunate truth is that
while it’s impossible to buy a division title directly, a large budget greatly increases
the chances of success.

While I have no lack of respect for the Milwaukee Brewers,
I’ll always be a loyal fan of the Minnesota Twins – so I know what it feels like to
cheer for what has essentially been the MLB’s most successful farm team for the
past decade. There’s a growing list of Twins players who have been bought – I mean
traded – to big spenders in the East shortly after they became All-Stars – David Ortiz
and Johan Santana, to name a couple. In this respect I can sympathize with Brewers
fans who have watched the likes of C.C. Sabathia and Prince Fielder leave town for
lucrative multi-year contracts.
The problem with money in baseball isn’t that there is too much money, it’s that the uneven distribution of money is mirrored by an uneven distribution
of talent – hence uneven competition.

Melvin addresses the impact
of money on competition in the MLB, saying, “It’s not always about the money, but
there’s times you have to spend the money to remain competitive and to try to get
to the postseason.” An MLB team is at once a competitive business, and a baseball
club – the business game is all about balancing a payroll and working out deals with
television networks, and the baseball game is, well, just baseball.

Today, these two
pursuits have overlapped completely.
It’s exciting to see a team like the Brewers heading into a promising season
with the momentum of a long awaited division title, but it’s hard to ignore the fact
that the Brewers’ success is directly correlated with the money Attanasio puts
into payroll. This newfound success is evidence of the fact that in professional
baseball, market competition is as important as athletic talent and managerial
strategy. In fact, these financial considerations largely determine which teams end
up with the talent to make it to the playoffs.

Charles Godfrey ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in math and physics.

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