3 Bottom Payroll Teams in Final 8

Tuesday, October 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Hey, big spenders: The playoffs no longer are your private club.

After five postseasons dominated by the high rollers, three teams from the bottom half of the payroll chart made the final eight this year, including the Oakland Athletics, just 25th in spending among the 30 major league teams.

``If nothing, the A's have proven that it can be done,'' Oakland infielder Randy Velarde said Monday. ``When you look around this room, half of these guys came up through the system. That's the key. That's how this team got it done.''

The New York Yankees, Velarde's former team, entered the playoffs with a record payroll of $113.4 million, according to figures compiled by the commissioner's office and based on Aug. 31 rosters.

Among the other playoff teams, Atlanta is second ($95 million), the New York Mets fifth ($89.8 million), St. Louis eighth ($72.4 million), Seattle ninth ($62.6 million), San Francisco 18th ($54.2 million), the Chicago White Sox 21st ($36.9 million) and Oakland 25th ($32.7 million).

``The game is played on the field and not on paper,'' White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said. ``You can't measure some things. You can't measure how guys will jell or how they will pull for one another. Some things, you can't scout, and money has nothing to do with all that.''

While the Yankees limped into the playoffs by losing 15 of 18, the A's finished 14-3.

``We did it by building within,'' Oakland co-owner Steve Schott said. ``We've got a core of players that are outstanding, especially Jason (Giambi). It's a real thrill to see these guys perform.''

In the first five seasons after the 1994-95 strike, only one team not among the top half by payroll made the playoffs: The 1997 Houston Astros, who were 18th, were swept in the first round.

``At our level of spending, it's different than many clubs that have had success for a while now,'' Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. ``To keep good players or attract good players, you obviously have to be willing to spend or spend wisely. I think it's a testimony to decision-making as well as player development and scouting.''

Last year, the eight postseason teams were all among the top 10 spenders. In 1998, the playoff teams came from among the top 12.

``One of the questions that comes to mind is were the larger-income clubs able to weather the strike better, which is what you expected,'' players' union head Donald Fehr said. ``What you had was the industry coming back, and it takes time to rebuild teams.''

Big-money busts this year included Los Angeles (third at $94.2 million), Boston (fourth at $93.9 million), Arizona (sixth at $80.8 million) and Cleveland (seventh at $78.7 million).

``It is an aberration,'' commissioner Bud Selig said. ``Jerry Reinsdorf and the White Sox, the Oakland people, they said to me, 'See us next year. How are we going to perpetuate this? We don't have a chance.'''

The nine biggest spenders all had winning records.

The five teams with lower payrolls than the A's — Pittsburgh ($31.9 million), Montreal ($28 million), Florida ($25.9 million), Kansas City ($24.5 million) and Minnesota ($15.9 million), all had losing records, going a combined 361-448.

The top five spenders combined to go 447-362.

``The Mets are in the playoffs, the Yankees are in the playoffs, Atlanta is in the playoffs, and on and on and on,'' said Selig, who argues the game's economic system needs changes.

For the first time in modern baseball, no team won 60 percent or more of its games and no team lost 60 percent or more.

The .198 difference between the best winning percentage (San Francisco at .599) and the lowest (the Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia at .401) was the smallest in major league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, baseball's statistician.

The previous mark was .201 in 1959, when the White Sox were at .610 and the Washington Senators were at .409.