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The Lo Down: A Tale of Two Championship Cities

Mike Carlson/Leon Halip, Getty Images

Here we are five days before Opening Day. Spring training battles have played out, rosters finalized and before the ceremonious start I thought I might revisit a concept that came to the surface when I wrote my spring training and Red Sox previews.

Two rivals, the Yankees and the Red Sox, are headed in opposite management directions. We’ve seen this story before and it got me wondering: Is there a distinct better method to win a World Series?

The Yankees big-spending ways, or the Red Sox home-grown team mentality? Certainly both franchises have been equally successful with 8 of the last 10 American League Championships awarded to either Boston or New York. With two franchises moving in opposite financial directions, I ask the question, “What’s the price of a World Series?”

This off-season we saw two rivals with opposite agendas: the Yankees committed to nearly $500 million dollars in contracts this off-season; the Sox committed to $42.5 million dollars, with $32 million of those dollars going towards re-signing Mike Napoli.

Yes, the Yankees old spending ways have returned, and the Red Sox “us against the world” mentality seems to be as close to 2004 as we can expect given that we’ve won three World Series titles in the past 10 years (tough to be labeled an “underdog” with that kind of success.)

But with both teams having reputations for success, I wanted to know exactly how much the Red Sox were saving (and how much the Yankees were spending) to win. Below, are some graphs I created to compare each franchise’s run of success. Assuming that the Yankees’ free agent spending produces the same results as 2009, I decided to compare the six years in between titles from the two franchises, and contrast it respectively to the payroll commitments.

THEO-TWILIGHT YEARS

2007 WS200820092010201120122013 WS
BOS*$143.03$133.39$121.75$168.07$163.00$173.17$170.99

AVG / YR:    $153.34

THE STEINBRENNER WAY

2009 WS20102011201220132014 WS2015
NYY*$201.45$206.33$202.69$197.96$229.00$194.15$0.00

AVG / YR:    $175.94

*Average team payroll in millions

Forecasting a Yankees championship this year, you can see that for the most recent run, when the two franchises were trying to compete equally for high-profile free agents, their annual spending didn’t differ all that much. Sure $20 million is still a fair amount to you and me, but in the world of professional sports, I’m willing to consider $20 million the cost of doing business when you’re the New York Yankees.

To clarify, the Yankees are at a disadvantage before they even reach negotiations. Why?

Their Steinbrenner reputation preceded any negotiations, and for the most part that was true. Their franchise name would be used to inflate negotiations, which is why no matter how few people believed the Yankees’ concern for the luxury tax threshold, it was the only stance any reasonable general manager could have entering this off-season (It’s not your fault, Brian Cashman).

And I don’t fault Theo Epstein for his decisions as general manager, either. Imagine, Theo Epstein riding the coat tails of new found success. You are the GM responsible for breaking the 86 year curse, two World Series championships in three years (2004 and 2007), and then John Lackey and Carl Crawford knock on your door. In the same year, Adrian Gonzalez is available for a discounted rate via trade .

Who’s going to say no? In fact, how about, “Hey everyone, I’m going to get this done early, we can all rest easy, have a nice winter break, see you all in Feb” –Theo Epstein (it’s not your fault Theo Epstein, either).

But well, that 2010 season happened. The Red Sox were terrible and Cherington pulled the trigger on a daring trade that gave the Red Sox their identity back.

So with the Red Sox “identity” rejuvenated, I took my research one step further. With Cherrington in charge and the Red Sox returning to character (with prudent contracts and free agent commitments and developing talent), what does the future hold?

FISCAL GLORY DAYS

2004 WS200520062007 WS
BOS*$127.30$123.51$120.10$143.03

With young rising stars like Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks along with very friendly existing contracts (Did I mention John Lackey has a $500,000 option at the end of this season due to his previous missed time?), as well as reasonable extensions of franchise staples (congratulations David, you earned it with this single swing…or this swing…or this speech). Let’s hope that they’re able to repeat the success we saw during their 2004 and 2007 championship campaigns.

The Red Sox ’04-’07 success was not only more prolific, but at a near $50 million dollar discount.

As a spectator, I’m excited for the return to form because the Red Sox are much better suited to play the role of “bearded underdogs” than expensive-aging favorites.

Plus admit it, no one likes to shave.

Follow Tim on
Twitter: @beardedasian
Instagram: @AsianTimLo
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TimmyLo

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