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Can't buy me love (or World Series rings)

Derek Montilla Avatar
October 26, 2021

Say you don’t need no diamond rings and I’ll be satisfied…
Tell me that you want the kind of things that money just can’t buy…

On Saturday, the Atlanta Braves ended the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season with a 4-2 victory, winning the NLCS by the same margin. It was an apropos ending to a season that saw the Dodgers come up just short of their goals and expectations, regardless of the success they achieved.

The Dodgers have proved once again — as they have in five out of the last 10 seasons with one notable exception — that having the biggest payroll in baseball may get you a pile of wins and even a division title, but it won’t get you the ultimate prize.

Los Angeles opened the season as the betting odds favorites to repeat as champions and win the 2021 World Series. In fact, they were still the favorites when the playoffs started despite losing the division to the San Francisco Giants by a game and making it in via the Wild Card.

Their total payroll in 2021 was $267.2 million, which contributed to being odds-on favorites. According to Spotrac, they outspent the New York Yankees, who had the second-highest payroll, by $63 million.

Their payroll was also nearly $100 million higher than the next-highest spender in the NL West, the San Diego Padres. The Friars, whose budget will be much closer to their division rival next season thanks to their big spending, had a total payroll of $178.3 million.

But they still all outspent the Giants, who won the division.

Over the last 10 years, the Dodgers have arguably been one of the most consistently dominant teams in any sport when it comes to the regular season. In that time, they have won the division title eight times, the NL Pennant three times and the World Series once.

It would be crazy to suggest that the last decade was anything but a successful period in this team’s history. However, when you combine the spending with their playoff success, an argument could be made that this team simply underperformed in the big moments.

Now, they face an offseason where their biggest names are free agents and the cost to retain their services may be too high for even the Dodgers. Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Kenley Jansen, Chris Taylor and Corey Knebel are all notable names up for new contracts and more money in most cases.

Not that the Dodgers are ever really in trouble with their deep pockets and even deeper farm system. But their reign of terror over the NL West division may be coming to an end…right around the same time that the D-backs’ window to compete opens up.

It will require spending to supplement their young stars with experienced talent that won’t be cheap. Outside of the Colorado Rockies, the rest of the NL West has shown they have no reservations about spending to compete. They do it now, they’ve done it in the past, and they will continue to do it.

But one thing Arizona has on their side — even though it cost them a truckload of money to win their only World Series title — is being one of the highest spenders hasn’t translated to being the champion over the last decade.

Seven of the last 10 World Series winners were not in the top five for spending. The St. Louis Cardinals in 2011, Kansas City Royals in 2015 and Houston Astros in 2017 weren’t even ranked in the top 10 in payroll.

This D-backs season went the way one would expect it to go for a team that spent $175 million less than a division rival. But much like the Padres, the D-backs could have spent close to that amount and still not reached the playoffs.

Unfortunately, Arizona may need to simply be patient and wait for a prime opportunity when the Dodgers are vulnerable due to their own spending before making any big money moves.

Will spending that money translate to success for the Snakes? The past has definitely proven it’s not what you spend but how you spend it.

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