There is no joy in SoCal baseball fandom, the mighty local teams have struck out.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a more modest payroll of $127,896,250, which still places them as the seventh-highest paid team. Their record through Friday was 14-22, which had them occupying fourth place in the American League West Division.
So much for the myth that larger spending on player costs automatically translates into victory on the field.
The new Guggenheim ownership group, flush with revenue from a staggering Time-Warner local television contract and their own substantial resources set out to make the Dodgers the shining jewel of a franchise they had been in previous eras. They had Matt Kemp singed to an eight-year $160 million contract from 2011. Adrian Gonzalez is on a seven-year $154 million deal. Zack Greinke (six years, $147 million) and Carl Crawford (seven years, $142 million) are also examples of big spending. All of that, and ownership has produced a team of constant injury, pitiful hitting, fielding and pitching.
Arte Moreno, the Angels owner, once again moved boldly to keep his team competitive with the Texas Rangers by signing free agent and former Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton (five years, $125 million) after last year signing free-agent first baseman Albert Pujols (10 years, $250 million).
Hamilton is hitting .207 so far with four home runs and 11 runs batted in, and Pujols is hitting .239 with 5 HRs and 20 RBIs and the team is floundering.
The NBA and NFL have salary caps designed to keep some parity in spending. Baseball allows free spending with a luxury tax. The fear has always existed that cities like New York and Los Angeles and Chicago — the largest media markets generating the most revenues — would field dominating teams that would take all the competitive fun out of the sport.
It is clearly true that teams like the Houston Astros with a payroll of $21,133,500 (last in the MLB) cannot reasonably expect to compete. Neither can the Miami Marlins at $35,720,400. But at a certain level, coaching and team cohesiveness, complimentary skill-sets and lack of injuries play a leveling role.
In 2010, it was the Giants, who spent less than $100 million to the Yankees $206 million.
In 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies won spending less than $100 million to the Yankee total of $209 million.
It would appear that building a strong Minor League system that produces a consistent flow of young, homegrown stars who stay with a team for their careers is a formula which produces more winning franchises than relying on high spending for aging free agents.
This is the formula the Dodgers won with for years and the Angels relied on to win their only World Series in 2002.
LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports.