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Does money really buy World Series championships?

Written By | Feb 26, 2014

LOS ANGELES, February 26, 2014 — The Los Angeles Dodgers are projected to have a payroll upwards of $222 million for the 2014 season, which is projected to be the highest in baseball. Last year, the New York Yankees spent over $228 million and the Dodgers spent about $216 million, but neither team won the World Series.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers and Yankees, outspending the rest of the league does not equate to World Series titles every year, but it definitely helps.

Let’s take a look at the last 19 World Series winners and where they rank in the majors in total player payroll. Teams ranked in the top five in payroll have won the World Series nine times. The 2013 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox were ranked fourth in MLB in payroll. Thirteen teams ranked in the top 10 have been the winners of the fall classic.

Eighteen of the last 19 World Series winners have had a payroll in the top 15. In the last 18 years, only one team has been able to win the World Series without being ranked in the top 15 for payroll. That team was the 1997 Florida Marlins. They ranked 25th out of 28 teams.

Now, let’s see where the loser of the World Series ranked in payroll over the last 19 years. Six teams were ranked in the top five. Eleven of the last 18 losers have been ranked in the top 10 for player payroll.

Sixteen of the losing teams were ranked in the top 15 in baseball. The 2013 World Series loser St. Louis Cardinals ranked 11th in payroll. Only three teams ranked outside of the top 15 in player salary have managed to make it to the World Series and then lose.

The 2010 Texas Rangers were ranked 27th when they lost to the San Francisco Giants who ranked 10th. In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays were ranked 29th out of 30 teams. They lost to the 12th ranked Philadelphia Phillies. Finally, the 2007 Colorado Rockies were the ranked 25th and lost to the Boston Red Sox, who ranked second in player payroll.

In the last 19 years of World Series, the team with the highest player payroll has won four times, all of them have been the New York Yankees. They did it in 1996, 1999, 2000, and 2009. The second ranked teams in player payroll have won the World Series three times in the last 19 years. The New York Yankees won in 1998 and the Boston Red Sox won in 2007 and 2004.

The team with the highest payroll has lost in the World Series two times in the last 19 years. Both times it was the Yankees in 2003 and 2001. Never in the last 19 years has a team ranked second in player payroll made it to the World Series and lost.

However, three times the loser of the World Series was ranked third in player payroll. The Cleveland Indians, in 1997, lost to the 25th ranked Florida Marlins. The Atlanta Braves did it twice in 1999 and 1996. The Braves were ranked fourth in payroll in 1995 when they won the World Series.

If you can afford to be the team with the highest payroll, do it. Do it now and don’t look back. The Dodgers’ new television contract with Time Warner kicks in this year to the tune of $210 million and escalates each year. Los Angeles can definitely afford their new payroll. If they win the World Series just once it makes it all worth it. If they never win, at least the fans know it was not for a lack of effort.

By no means does a high payroll guarantee anything as far as winning World Series titles. It does, however, get your foot in the door. There are many factors that come into play when winning the World Series.

Teams getting hot at the end of the season is one such factor. The St. Louis Cardinals, in 2011, got hot in September and went from dead team walking to World Series champion. Just as important as teams getting hot are teams that turn ice cold at the wrong time.

Again in 2011, the Boston Red Sox seemed to be a lock for the playoffs and poised to make a solid run at the World Series in August. The Red Sox ended the season by losing 18 of their last 24 games and played themselves out of even making the playoffs.

In baseball, luck, both good and bad, is almost as important as talent. Just ask the 1997 Florida Marlins or the 1997 Cleveland Indians, for that matter.

Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities and also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music, and food. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball

Kevin Wells

Kevin J. Wells was born and raised in the Los Angeles area in a town called Montrose. He is the Sports Editor and a baseball and punk music columnist at Communities Digital News. He also writes for New Noise Magazine and currently plays guitar for and is a founding member of the Los Angeles punk rock band, Emmer Effer.