This past weekend, I got into a debate with some Yankees fans about the importance of payroll in baseball. They argued that the success of a team like the Rays proves that payroll isn't as important as I do. I believe, as you've read many times, that payroll is far and above more important than anything else, and here's why: today, the Rays and their $65 million payroll trotted out Jeff Keppinger and Brooks Conrad as their 3-4 hitters. Evan Longoria's injury means that Brooks Conrad, he of the career .218 average, is all of a sudden a cleanup hitter. The Yankees, by contrast, have survived Brett Gardner's elbow injury by plugging in Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez. The two have combined for nearly 700 career home runs and despite being past their primes, they are still solid major league players. The Rays have no margin for error, they are one injury away from Brooks Conrad hitting cleanup. The Yankees or Red Sox can easily plug their holes with accomplished veterans. Teams like the Rays can survive with cost efficient young players, young starting pitching in the case of the Rays, and hope to string together a bullpen of retreads and rookies. The Yankees spend about $35 million on their bullpen.
The moral of the story, is as always, that rooting for the Yankees (or fuck it, the Red Sox) is like rooting for the house in blackjack. Baseball needs a salary cap god damnnit.