Articles By Scott Henry
Skilled, potentially dominant big men are very difficult to find in basketball these days. Dwight Howard’s had years to develop something resembling an offensive repertoire, learning from one of the last talented inside scorers, Patrick Ewing. Shaquille O’Neal’s sheer physicality made up for any lack of moves, as defending him was much like posting up a CSX freight train.
It’s for this reason that the NBA is highly likely to miss Yao Ming. Listed at 7’6” and admitting to 7’3”, the NBA’s first Chinese star is still considered a better ambassador than player. This despite a career that saw averages of 19 points, nine rebounds and two blocks per game. Should the numbers have been greater? Perhaps.
Still, why is the bar set that much higher for Yao than it is for, say, Bill Walton? Is it simply based on the extra four inches of height? Walton did produce more as a rebounder and shot-blocker despite being “only” 6’11, but otherwise, the two men possessed several similarities.
Both were very gifted passers for pivots and possessed better scoring range than most of the brutes that they guarded night in and night out. When it came to scoring, Yao was as skilled as any center since his Houston predecessor Hakeem Olajuwon.
His career free throw percentage is second only to Dirk Nowitzki among seven-footers. Yao’s 2006-07 season put him in fast company when he averaged 25 points per game. Only seven other seven-footers have recorded a 25-ppg season, and you may recognize some of the names: Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain, Ewing, Nowitzki, O’Neal, Olajuwon, Robinson. All of them are or one day will be Hall-of-Famers.
Yao’s decision to truncate his career rather than hang on as a spare part, as Walton did in backing up Robert Parish in Boston, is likely to be held against him, because he never got to wear a ring. Walton is still in the Hall of Fame despite the foot problems that ravaged his stat sheet even worse than Yao’s.
Walton is likely in the Hall even more for his dominance in college than for his all-too-brief moments of NBA glory. Yao proved capable of performing on the game’s biggest stage, and his impact in putting the NBA product in front of the world’s biggest consumer market should more than trump anything Walton did at UCLA. Perhaps Yao’s not bound for Springfield on the first ballot, but it’s absolutely possible, and advisable, that he get there.
--Scott Henry (Twitter: @4QuartersRadio)
The MLB All-Stars have been selected, and there is no shortage of debates on the merits of the players who made the mid-summer squads. Most of the candidates, though, have some merits to debate.
This piece is not about those players.
Here, we turn a harsher spotlight on the players who have suffered through difficult first halves, offering little to no evidence to support a case for All-Star votes. In contrast to the stars that get to shine out in Phoenix next Tuesday, the following men will be referred to as the Dim-Star Teams. Make no mistake, there are a few legitimate stars on these rosters, but it’s hard to convince anyone of that based on their first-half lines.
(All statistics through games of July 6th.)
C—Jorge Posada, Yankees (.236 avg., 9 HR, 29 RBI, .324 OBP)
Hip-Hip-Jorge finally began to heat up in June, but he still rates a place of shame for asking out of a game, suffering from little more than a bruised ego. When he threw a tantrum after being asked to bat ninth on May 14, he was batting .165. He’s hit .308 since, reminding us that motivation is a very mysterious thing.
1B—Derrek Lee, Orioles (.233 avg., 7 HR, 24 RBI, .293 OBP, .351 SLG)
Last year was the first time since 1999 that Lee failed to bat .270, and his weak start to this year seems to show that 2010 was less an aberration and more Father Time making his inevitable rally. The slugging average is especially disturbing from a guy who slugged .521 from 2000 to 2009. Even Lee’s usual 30-plus doubles can’t be counted on at his current pace.
2B—Aaron Hill, Blue Jays (.242 avg., 4 HR, 24 R, .281 OBP, .341 SLG)
Hill’s 2009 power explosion seems like it happened a decade ago. He’s making himself somewhat useful on the basepaths (10-for-10 in steals), but unlike Posada, he didn’t make a June rally. All of his averages dropped from May to June, and the only real bright spot so far is that he’s batted .294 against the Jays’ AL East opponents.
3B—Chone Figgins, Mariners (.183 avg., .231 OBP, .244 SLG, 9 SB, 6 CS)
As an Angel, Figgins was one of the most dangerous offensive players in the game, batting over .290 and stealing 40 bases per year. Since the Mariners paid him handsomely, he’s struggled to get that mojo back. This season, he’s forgotten how to hit any breaking pitches, the kind of problem that gets a player shipped back to Triple-A if he’s not raking $8.5 million.
SS—Reid Brignac, Rays (.187 avg., 9 RBI, .233 OBP, 3 XBH in 160 AB)
Brignac’s never been known for a booming power bat, but many major league hitters could take a bratwurst to the plate and get three extra-base hits in 178 at-bats. Only the fact that his backup, Elliot Johnson, is batting .204 and striking out every third at-bat keeps Brignac in the lineup.
LF—Carl Crawford, Red Sox (.243 avg., 6 HR, 31 RBI, 33 R, 9 BB/46 K, .275 OBP)
Crawford’s rallied after a hideous April in which he batted .155 with one homer. Still, for a $14 million salary that’s going to balloon over $20M next season, Red Sox Nation was wondering what took so long. His hamstring injury could scarcely have come at a worse time. Still, if he ever remembers how to hit lefties (.151 through June), the streaking Boston offense might never cool down.
CF—Alex Rios, White Sox (.216 avg., .266 OBP, .315 SLG, 6 HR, 20 RBI)
Like Crawford, Rios was terrible in April (.163 with 15 strikeouts) and is having serious issues with a particular pitching hand, batting .190 against righthanders. Unfortunately for Rios, there are a lot more righties than lefties in this game. He appears to be letting it get to him, as he’s now incurred Ozzie Guillen’s wrath (I know, join the club) for a lack of basepath hustle.
RF—Shin-Soo Choo, Indians (.244 avg., 5 HR, 28 RBI, 65 K in 266 AB)
Choo batted .250 in April, a decent start by most players’ standards. Then, a DUI arrest put him in a funk that he wasn’t able to pull out of before breaking his thumb a couple of weeks ago. One has to expect that Choo’s luck should get better when he returns. After all, the only way it could get worse is if the South Korean government decides to revoke that military exemption.
DH—Adam Dunn, White Sox (.166 avg., 8 HR, 32 RBI, 110 K in 253 AB)
South Side fans had visions of Dunn stroking 35-plus home runs at the Cell just like he did in Washington and Cincinnati. Instead, they’ve watched him do little more than strike out at a rate that makes Rob Deer look like Joe DiMaggio. He hit lefties so badly that last week, a mere single (only his second off a southpaw this year) touched off a sarcastic standing ovation. Dunn was concerned that he would need to get used to not having to play in the field, but who knew that reducing a player’s workload would end up like this?
SP—Fausto Carmona, Indians (4-10, 5.78 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, .275 BAA, 15 HR allowed in 104.1 IP)
Carmona’s season looked salvageable through April and May. Opposing hitters were batting a reasonable .253 against him, and he was allowing a home run every 36 batters. Then, in June, the Indians’ early-season magic started to wear off and Carmona’s hole only got deeper. His OBA jumped to .336, and he allowed six homers to 128 batters, an average of one every 21.3 hitters faced.
RP—Chad Durbin, Indians (7.01 ERA, .329 BAA)
The Indians were fast out of the gate, but they’ve come back to Earth in June. Durbin’s done the same, just much faster, sort of like a skydiver with a moth-eaten parachute. April was ugly, but he rallied in May (2.84 ERA, .260 BAA). June, however, was a nightmare for Durbin. Hitters lit him up for a .415 average and his ERA was a voluminous 10.38. In his defense, however, he didn’t allow a tater all month and only walked one batter outside of a disastrous game at Yankee Stadium on June 10.
C—John Buck, Marlins (.213 avg., 9 HR, 31 RBI, 60 K in 268 AB, .292 OBP)
Buck’s .281 average with Toronto is now looking like an aberration, as he’s lapsed back into his comfortable .220 range in Florida. His power’s been consistent month to month, as have his frequent strikeouts, but his average jumped to a still-shaky .244 in June. Luckily for him, he’s now in Miami, where he’s seemingly only whiffing in front of 200 or so people per day.
1B—Lyle Overbay, Pirates (.238 avg., .311 OBP, 6 HR, 34 RBI)
Overbay is the typical Pirate free-agent signing, a second-tier player willing to join a downtrodden team for middling money. While the team has made a near-miraculous move up to .500, Overbay has muddled through, stroking the occasional double and being otherwise quiet. Pirates fans may soon be seen at games wearing a No. 37 jersey with a “p” in place of the “b” in Overbay. The less mature may substitute a “g” instead, but let’s not speak of those people.
2B—Dan Uggla, Braves (.183 avg., 14 HR, 32 RBI, .256 OBP, 77 K in 323 AB)
It’s common knowledge that Uggla’s glove is about as soft as a frying pan, but this year, his bat’s been as strong as a dish towel to boot. His strikeout rate is about the only thing that’s rising as the season wears on. If a pitcher throws him a fastball, he’ll kill it, but asking him to hit anything else is like asking a basset hound to speak Latin. A .210 mark against curveballs is the best he’s managed so far.
3B—Miguel Tejada, Giants (.236 avg., 3 HR, .269 OBP, .322 SLG)
Remember Tejada’s days as a 30-HR hitter? Don’t feel bad, neither does anyone else. This season, Miggy’s been nothing but distracted by pesky baserunners, batting only .226 with runners on base and .222 if they’re in scoring position. This one looks like another case of age overtaking ability.
SS—Ian Desmond, Nationals (.216 avg., 3 HR, 22 RBI, .259 OBP, .298 SLG, 79 K in 305 AB)
Odd that Desmond has stolen 20 bases thus far, since it barely seems like he’s been on base 20 times. Desmond has the speed to be a leadoff man, but he’s barely on a nodding acquaintance with the strike zone, chasing a lot of bad cheese outside. Hanley Ramirez got some consideration here, but his .355 and seven RBI in Jack McKeon’s first eight games as manager could be the first signs of his switch being flipped.
LF—Raul Ibanez, Phillies (.236 avg., 10 HR, 40 RBI, .285 OBP)
For a career .280 hitter, this season’s production has been a major letdown. Raul’s been a roller coaster for Phillies fans, suffering through a horrible April, lighting pitchers up in May, then scuffling through June again. He only knocked in five runs in all of June, a figure that he’s almost equaled in the first week of July alone.
CF—Chris Coghlan, Marlins (.230 avg., 5 HR, 22 RBI, 7 SB, 6 CS, .296 OBP)
Coghlan’s 2010 season ended when he tore up his knee trying to give Wes Helms the Cream Pie of Doom. Now, he’s blaming that same knee for his struggles in May and June. Coghlan was strong in April, batting .287 and driving in 16 runs, but he’s batted a flat .200 since and currently sits on the DL rather than at Triple-A New Orleans, where the Marlins were trying to put him.
RF—Jayson Werth, Nationals (.218 avg., 10 HR, 30 RBI, 84 K in 312 AB)
Year One of the Nationals’ “Hell No, We’re Not Cheap” campaign is going reasonably well in the standings, but the team’s not getting a great return on their massive investment in Werth. He hit .287 in May, and looked like he was on his way back from a tough start. The month of June did not stick to that script, seeing Werth slump to a .154 average with 25 strikeouts in only 91 at-bats. The carnage is bad enough that he’s begun to get mental health days, which we could all use every now and then.
SP—Jake Westbrook, Cardinals (7-4, 5.34 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, .301 BAA, 40 BB/52 K in 97.2 IP)
Westbrook’s another player who looked like he was rallying after a harsh April. Hitters batted only .250 off him in May, and he didn’t allow a home run in five starts. When the calendar turned, though, so did Westbrook’s season. The hitters’ average ballooned to .358, his ERA kept hovering around five, and no one was missing anything he threw. As long as Tony LaRussa keeps him away from the Cubs, Nationals, and Padres, he might be okay.
RP—Ryan Franklin, Cardinals (8.46 ERA, 1-for-5 saves, 1.84 WHIP, .367 BAA, .700 SLGA)
Speaking of keeping a pitcher away from somebody, the Cards have decided to keep Franklin away from everyone, as they finally had enough and released him last week. He started badly, blowing a save against the Padres on Opening Day, then never got any better. He faced 133 batters and allowed 20 extra-base hits. Sports psychologists nationwide are probably blowing up Franklin’s cell as you read this, and he might be a difficult patient.
Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey passed away Wednesday at the age of 69. His blend of size, speed, and strength made his position a weapon in the NFL’s increasingly sophisticated passing game, expanding the tight end’s role from that of a glorified sixth lineman.
In addition to his contributions on the field, Mackey served four years as NFL Players Association president from 1969 to 1973. A brief 1970 strike led to $11 million in improvements to player pensions and benefits, according to the Baltimore Sun.
He also led litigation that forced the elimination of the “Rozelle Rule,” which limited free-agent signings by mandating that a team losing a free agent must receive equal compensation. The courtroom victory helped pave the way for the free-agent system from which today’s players benefit.
The rigors of Mackey’s career, however, left him with dementia, an increasingly common side effect from the constant hits absorbed by NFL players. The NFL and NFLPA collaborated on the so-called “88 Plan,” which provides $88,000 per year for nursing home care to ex-players suffering from dementia, and $50,000 for home care.
The NFL lockout sometimes gets oversimplified to two groups of rich guys arguing over who gets how much of the league’s nine-billion-dollar revenue pie. What’s often lost is the issue of care for the players who put the NFL in position to rake in those amounts of money. Retired players have filed a grievance demanding a larger voice in the lockout negotiations, attempting to make sure that they’re not left out in the cold as owners and today’s players battle over the spoils of the game.
The negotiations appear to be warming up as the planned start dates of NFL training camps approach. It would be sad if the deal was sidetracked by both sides being reminded that they have not adequately provided for the NFL’s retirees. If it is, though, so be it, because making sure that players from John Mackey’s era can live their final days in dignity vastly outweighs the need for today’s stars to buy another house.
A marriage proposal should carry a large romance quotient. At the very minimum, a nice dinner should be involved, some candlelight, being in the same room…you know, the basics.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams dispensed with all of that foolishness, deciding that nothing says romance like a U.S. Postal Service Express Mail box containing a $76,000 ring and a DVD. The recipient, former Miss Texas Brooke Daniels, was strangely unmoved by a proposal from a man who couldn’t even make the trip in person to deliver the ring.
It’s understandable to be nervous about a proposal. Men worldwide struggle to get the words out, fumble the ring, sweat through their suits, etc. That’s part of the secret for having one accepted. Even if a woman is iffy about spending her life with you, she may give you credit for getting through the proposal without vomiting on her shoes.
Sending a video of yourself in your comfortable gear in your comfortable home takes all the daring out of a proposal and makes it reek of selfishness. If a man won’t make a woman feel like she’s worth the discomfort of dropping to a knee and spitting the words out, she’ll forever wonder, “What am I worth to him, exactly?”
Roy Williams’ last several years have been based around taking the easy way out. He tried to convince everyone that he was still the Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver three games into the explosive Miles Austin era. His 2010 season ended with five catches in his last four games, and his response was, "I was the go-to guy in Detroit…coordinators can make who they want to make the star."
Everything is someone else’s fault. In Roy’s mind, Daniels probably refused the proposal because the mailman slipped her his phone number. Either way, he now feels the need to press legal action to get the ring back. All the legal fees could have been saved if he’d ensured that the ring never left his possession in the first place.
Learn a lesson from Uncle Roy, kids. No “how Daddy/Grandpa proposed” story should ever include the words “postage due.”
Check out Brooke Daniels' Gallery here.
--Scott Henry (Twitter: @4QuartersRadio)
With the NBA Draft in the rear view and a little time to digest the selections, here are the selections of which teams did their homework and which ones had theirs eaten by the dog.
Washington Wizards—Jan Vesely (picked at No. 6) looks more prepared to be an NBA contributor than any of the three players picked ahead of him. The praise for his athleticism is already off the charts, and analysts already expect his fast breaks with John Wall to be poetry in motion. That may not occur immediately, but Vesely will be a steady presence sooner than Enes Kanter, Tristan Thompson, and certainly Jonas Valanciunas. Chris Singleton (No. 18) was the draft’s highest-rated defensive player, and the Wizards desperately need someone with a jones for the grunt work. Add Shelvin Mack as a caddy for Wall and occasional small-ball off-guard, and the Wizards found three players with definite roles to play on next season’s roster. Most teams struggled to find one.
Utah Jazz—While I’m still not sold on taking a guy at No. 3 who’s been cooling his heels for over a year, Enes Kanter seems a solid prospect. His defensive ability should still be in question, as scouts are iffy on it based on high-school and Turkish league tape, and NBA defense is a whole different animal. The Jazz already have a big man who can’t play defense, and you can call him Al. (Cue Chevy Chase trumpet solo.) At No. 12, the Jazz got a potential high-potency scorer in Alec Burks, who could be a 20-PPG player if he works to improve his shot. Even if he doesn’t, Gordon Hayward should see lots of open looks off of Burks drives.
Denver Nuggets—Kenneth Faried got onto a lot of people’s radar screens after making people who picked Louisville to lose their first 2011 NCAA Tournament game look like geniuses, this writer included. Then, he proceeded to slip down the draft board as people wondered if he could do anything aside from rebound. Considering a guy who brought little but rebounding, defense and energy (okay, and he looked decent in a wedding dress) just got voted to the Hall of Fame, taking a guy like Faried at No. 22 is good business. The Nugs can afford to play hardball with Wilson Chandler, a restricted free agent, after also parlaying the grumpy Ray Felton into Texas gunner Jordan Hamilton. The one big issue with Hamilton will be to remind him that sometimes there is such a thing as a bad shot, since he appears to have no clue in that area.
Boston Celtics—This may be the thinly veiled bias of a lifelong Purdue fan, but the additions of Boilermaker seniors JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore fit very well into Boston’s team concept. The Celtics have a top-heavy salary structure and many spots to fill after free agency, so they needed players who could make the team at inexpensive rates. Johnson would get broken in half inside, but he could make a fine stretch four to reduce rebounding competition for Jermaine O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, and Glen Davis. Moore will be unlikely to ever start an NBA game, but if he can pick up the nuances of the pro point guard position, he could be a serviceable backup for Rajon Rondo.
Miami Heat—Norris Cole played at Cleveland State, and that is the sole reason he was still available at No. 28. Give the Heat credit for making a move to ensure they could get him in the fold. With this addition, the Heat would look more likely to retain Mike Bibby as a mentor than to shell out large coin to keep restricted free agent Mario Chalmers. Either way, Cole should be a starter in two years, and if he improves his shooting, he should benefit immensely from defenses ignoring anyone on the court not named Wade, James or Bosh.
Los Angeles Lakers—It’s hard to convince people you had a good draft without scoring one of the glam prospects in the first round, but the Lakers really did well on the cheap. Darius Morris may be the only point guard in the draft who’s ready to actually be a point guard in the NBA right now. He’ll have a couple of years to learn veteran tricks from Derek Fisher. Andrew Goudelock is a conscience-free gunner who could provide instant offense off the bench. Think Eddie House or Boobie Gibson.
Toronto Raptors—You’re an NBA general manager who’s presided over his team losing one of the three biggest players his team has ever had. Your residual goodwill from your 2007 NBA Executive of the Year award has rapidly dwindled, and calls for your job are beginning to ring among what remains of your fan base. What do you do? If you’re Bryan Colangelo, apparently you play Nero and keep fiddling while Rome burns. Jonas Valanciunas could be the best player out of this draft in three or four years. Or, judging by the way he played against what little strong competition he found in Europe, he could flop. He averaged 8.2 fouls and 3.8 turnovers per 40 minutes in Euroleague play last season, so he’s still very raw. He would have made a decent selection for Utah at No. 3, a team that can afford to wait for him. Toronto, however, is not Utah, and they needed help now.
New York Knicks—Drafting a defensive specialist at No. 17 is a decent idea, unless you’re trying to sell said defensive specialist as your point guard of the future. Iman Shumpert was so underwhelming as a floor general in college that he was made the scapegoat for teammate Derrick Favors’ slow start and inconsistent play. Later, he simply took over the entire offense and began raining shots regardless of spot or defense. He’ll have one year to work under Chauncey Billups, and perhaps not even that depending on the length of the lockout. Oh, and they also bought a guy who’s most famous for having the nickname “Jorts.” Josh Harrellson was, for my money, the most important piece toward Kentucky’s Final Four run last season, but in the NBA, he’ll be six fouls a game and little more. Meh.
Memphis Grizzlies—The front office has apparently bought into Lionel Hollins’ ability to contain and mentor headcases. Josh Selby might have been able to own high school talent, but he couldn’t even pretend to be motivated to handle college ball, let alone the life of a college student. An ego-tripping player with knee issues is a major red flag, since there’s always the risk that he’ll try to milk that injury into a few months of free paychecks. If Hollins gets this guy to play as much within a team concept as he did Zach Randolph and O.J. Mayo, it may be time for the coach to go work for the United Nations, since he may just have all the secrets for world peace. Thankfully, the pick was mid-second-round, so the risk involved in simply waiving Selby in camp is non-existent.
Cleveland Cavaliers—Yep, that just happened. I will continue to maintain my stance that a No. 1 pick should have a little more of a resume than 11 games and a near-terminal toe injury. Kyrie Irving played a selfish brand of basketball when he came back for the NCAA Tournament, then showed up fat and content at draft measurements. He’s expected to be a top-10 point guard in the league, so let’s see it. No. 4 pick Tristan Thompson is a roughneck rebounder and defender, but less than 50 percent at the foul line means that he’ll need to check out at about the five-minute mark if the Cavs want to win any close games. And they need all the help they can get in that regard.
The 2011 NBA Draft isn’t considered to be stacked with talent, but there is plenty of intrigue. The Cavaliers have two of the top four selections as the universe tries to help them fix their karma. The Utah Jazz add two top-12 selections to a borderline playoff team. Meanwhile, the New Jersey Nets prepare for their move to Brooklyn armed with little more than pick number 27. Even part-owner Jay-Z’s legendary swagger won’t carry weight around Bed-Stuy with the current talent level.
The draft is always packed with wild cards, but here’s Athlon’s prediction of how the deals will go down.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers—SF/PF Derrick Williams, Arizona
The consensus No. 1 is Duke’s Kyrie Irving, but after Dan Gilbert’s oft-ridiculed Comic Sans rant and the miserable season that followed, can the Cavs afford to draft pure unproven upside? They need reliable production and the ability to stay healthy. Williams showed both in his two seasons at Arizona. He won’t be a serious defensive force early on, but he’s got the face-up game to pull power forwards away from the basket and the wide body to bully small forwards when he posts up. Cleveland fans would love to have another strong scoring threat to get behind, and Williams might be just the guy.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves—PG Kyrie Irving, Duke
David Kahn seems bent on drafting 100 point guards before he gets fired, and he may be close to halfway there already. Even with Ricky Rubio joining up next season, there are great concerns about the fact that he wasn’t a terribly productive player in Spain, so why not hedge the bet a little? Irving skipped workouts at the combine, but did get measurements taken, including coming in around 10 percent body fat. This suggests a player who either couldn’t work out because he isn’t totally recovered from the injury or simply feels he has nothing left to prove after his dominant 11-game run at Duke. None of this, however, will scare away David Kahn, who never met a point guard he wouldn’t draft.
3. Utah Jazz—PG Brandon Knight, Kentucky
Speculation about the Jazz going big here and waiting to snag Jimmer Fredette at No. 12 may be just that. It’s not like the Jazz need Jimmer to sell tickets, as they’re the only game in town and the fan base is dedicated as long as the team is competitive. GM Kevin O’Connor is said to have been a big Knight fan all season, and it’s hard to bet against the latest product from the John Calipari Guard Factory. This probably means Devin Harris will end up continuing his nomadic ways, unless Ty Corbin is interested in seeing what Harris can do off the ball. Knight needs improvement as a distributor and ballhandler, but at age 19, there’s time for him to learn.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers—PG Kemba Walker, Connecticut
As mentioned before, the Cavs need to put some exciting talent on the floor, and there are few players in this draft more exciting than Kemba. Much is made about his lack of height, but he stood a legit 6-1 in pre-draft measurements. Players like Raymond Felton, Chris Paul, and Allen Iverson are comparable in height, while Walker actually stands taller than players like Aaron Brooks, Jameer Nelson, and Ty Lawson. So, it wouldn’t be unprecedented to see Kemba succeed as a pro point guard. He’ll need work in a structured NBA offense after playing in lots of isolations at UConn, and there will also be times where he’ll go off the reservation and try to strap the team to his back. Some of those times, however, could be successful, and that hope is what the Cavs will try to sell if they draft Kemba.
5. Toronto Raptors—SF/PF Jan Vesely, Partizan Belgrade (Czech Republic)
Vesely will probably spend most of his time facing the basket since, despite his 6-11 frame, he’s not a tremendous post-up player. His shooting range will make him a matchup problem, since he’ll be able to shoot over small forwards and outrun power forwards on pick-and-rolls. He’s also a willing and capable defender, which is something Toronto could certainly use. The Raptors could also use a serious center like Enes Kanter or Jonas Valanciunas, but does Bryan Colangelo have time to draft one or the other and then wait out their lengthy development time (or the money to pay an enormous buyout to Valanciunas’s club team)? Vesely may be in a better position to help immediately.
6. Washington Wizards—SF Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State
The Wizards have a very interesting decision here between Leonard and Turkish center/Kentucky spectator Enes Kanter. Leonard’s offseason workouts have been geared toward making him a more explosive wing player, and the Wizards could certainly use a capable replacement for Rashard Lewis. Rumors had the team shopping center JaVale McGee, and if a deal of that nature came about, it would certainly indicate that Kanter is their boy. However, the Wizards have tried to shoot down those rumors, and they may be sticking with the duo of McGee and Andray Blatche inside.
7. Sacramento Kings—PG Jimmer Fredette, BYU
The Kings’ highest need is at small forward, where they’d love to add Vesely or Leonard. But, both of them are gone here, so the spotlight turns to finding a point guard to officially send Tyreke Evans to the two. If Kemba or Knight were here, they’d be holding up the purple-and-black jersey, but they’re gone, too. So, Kings fans get to learn how to Jimmer. The Maloof brothers are said to love him, his name appeal from this past season will help put people back in Arco Arena, and his anywhere-in-the-zip-code shooting stroke will help draw defenders out of the lane, helping Evans drive and DeMarcus Cousins operate down low.
8. Detroit Pistons—C Enes Kanter, Kentucky
The best player on the Detroit roster appears to be last year’s top pick, Greg Monroe, who played well in the post as a rookie. The Pistons would love to get another low-post option, and they still have Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, and dark-horse defensive stopper Bismack Biyombo still on this board. Kanter offers the best inside scoring ability of the three. Defensively, and on the boards, his effort appears to range from indifferent to uninterested. One year getting hammered in practice by veteran bruiser Ben Wallace should either increase that effort greatly or pound him into Jell-O.
9. Charlotte Bobcats—SF Marcus Morris, Kansas
Morris won’t exactly make up for the departed Gerald Wallace, but he could step into the starting lineup on day one. He’s got a good enough shot to keep defenders from sagging onto Stephen Jackson. He may not turn into a dominant All-Star caliber player, but at this point, Michael Jordan and new general manager Rich Cho are just looking for players less likely to bust. Jordan’s surely tired by now of hearing about Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison.
10. Milwaukee Bucks—C Jonas Valanciunas, Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania)
The Bucks don’t consider themselves a lottery team, as an ungodly convergence of injuries ravaged their roster last season. Part of the carnage was the loss of center Andrew Bogut for 17 games. If Valanciunas slides this far, he creates a very interesting dynamic. He’s not a pressing need for the Bucks, and they may not need to extend themselves to bring him in, given the large buyout it would take to spring him from his club team. They could be in a position to let him stay in Europe one more year while they see if Bogut can make it through a full season.
11. Golden State Warriors—SG Klay Thompson, Washington State
The Warriors are rumored to be shopping Monta Ellis, indicating that it may be time to simply hand the keys to Stephen Curry and let him run the team. Even if Ellis is still on the team, Thompson will provide a spot-up shooting threat and kick-out option for whichever starting guard is slashing to the basket. At 6-7, he can also spell Dorell Wright at small forward. Biyombo’s often linked to the Warriors here, but it seems awfully soon to be giving up on Ekpe Udoh. Besides, the two would be fairly redundant together.
12. Utah Jazz—SF Chris Singleton, Florida State
Singleton’s a weak ballhandler, but that’s probably not what the Jazz would draft him for. With his defensive skills in the fold, the team can bid happy trails to longtime fixture Andrei Kirilenko. The biggest question Singleton needs to answer is how effective he’ll be coming back from a broken foot.
13. Phoenix Suns—PF Tristan Thompson, Texas The Suns are trying to put more focus on the defensive end of the floor, rather than trying to outscore the opponent. Thompson appears to be NBA-ready on defense, but his raw offensive game and iffy rebounding ability could paint him as a situational stopper. Working with Steve Nash will give him many chances to show his ability to score on quick cuts to the basket.
14. Houston Rockets—C Bismack Biyombo, Baloncesto Fuenlabrada (Spain)
Ancient Brad Miller and undersized Chuck Hayes are the Rockets’ options at center, depending on whether or not Yao Ming’s career comes back from the dead. While Biyombo’s offensive game is rawer than chicken that’s still breathing, he’s considered a defensive warrior.
15. Indiana Pacers—SG Marshon Brooks, Providence
The main need for the Pacers is a shooting guard who can create some offense on his own, and both Brooks and Colorado’s Alec Burks qualify. Both can do a great job getting to the basket, and both operated extensively in isolation in college. Brooks gets the edge here because his jump shot is a bit more reliable than Burks’.
16. Philadelphia 76ers—PF Markieff Morris, Kansas
The Sixers could trade out of here and into a higher pick if they want to move Andre Iguodala, but who takes over at SG then? Evan Turner? Not a great call just yet. If Philly stays here, a capable PF to learn under and eventually replace Elton Brand seems like a good call. Morris is rugged inside, NBA-built, and high-energy. If he were just three inches taller, he’d probably be gone in the top seven or so.
17. New York Knicks—SG Alec Burks, Colorado
Burks likes to explode to the basket, which is the kind of game that screams New York playground. He’s already had workouts this offseason with fellow ex-Buffalo, and current Knick, Chauncey Billups. The Knicks could even work with Burks on point-guard skills in case the new CBA rules short circuit the planned 2012 swoop for Chris Paul. They really need him to work on his shot so he can benefit from all the doubles on Anthony and Stoudemire.
18. Washington Wizards—SG/SF Jordan Hamilton, Texas
The Wizards can certainly use a shooter at shooting guard. Jordan Crawford can do a lot of things, but he’s yet to prove he can rain from long range. Hamilton’s a bomber who can certainly benefit from John Wall kickouts. He’s just as certainly not one who likes to get to the basket and take pounding himself, so he’ll need Wall there to create for him.
19. Charlotte Bobcats—C Nikola Vucevic, USC
Vucevic is probably the only legitimate center coming out of an American college this season. He’s not a great athlete in the post, which will hinder him defensively. His offensive game, however, is the most polished of any big man in the draft. The differences between him and Enes Kanter aren’t as substantial as their draft position would have you believe.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves—PF Donatas Motiejunas, Benetton Treviso (Italy)
Can he play center in the NBA? At only 224 pounds, that’s sort of doubtful. But, if the Wolves can keep the fire lit under him at all times, there’s not a whole lot else that he can’t do. He’s got a perimeter shot which he can create for himself, good athleticism to perform in transition, and a strong handle for his size. He will, however, struggle in defending the low post, so he could be better used as a stretch four to back up Kevin Love.
21. Portland Trail Blazers—PG Reggie Jackson, Boston College
The Blazers could undeniably use a legit center prospect that can make it through a few games here and there without getting hurt. They haven’t had one of those since Kevin Duckworth, it seems. Point guard is a need, as well, with Andre Miller aging and set to become a free agent in one more year. Jackson will need a little time and seasoning, sort of like a Jeff Teague. If the Blazers can drum a pass-first sensibility into him, his athleticism could be a ticket to a long career.
22. Denver Nuggets—PF/SF Tobias Harris, Tennessee
Harris is going to be saddled with the dreaded “tweener” label, lacking the bulk to bang with power forwards and the quickness to guard more athletic small forwards. He’s a good ballhandler and solid low post scorer, but needs to work on a mid-range shot. He’ll also need to add muscle, as the Nuggets may press him into service quickly if they lose Kenyon Martin or Nene to free agency.
23. Houston Rockets—PG Darius Morris, Michigan
In all honesty, Morris is probably the point guard most ready to run an offense right now. Most of the rest seem to be sawed-off shooting guards. Morris is already a good passer and floor leader, and the Rockets may have the option to bring him along slowly if they feel Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic can hold the position down for another year. Or, Daryl Morey could package both their picks and get into the top 10. One never knows with him.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder—SG/SF Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA
The Thunder don’t have any pressing needs, and this leads a lot of mocks to predict them stashing a European player (Nikola Mirotic is the popular name) overseas for a couple of years. This is highly plausible, but unless Mirotic bulks up substantially, he seems that he would be a redundant player with Kevin Durant. Honeycutt also needs to add bulk, but he’s already a defensive playmaker with an improving shot. Sam Presti may keep an eye down the road and cast Honeycutt as his replacement for the Thabo Sefolosha/Daequan Cook platoon.
25. Boston Celtics—PF Justin Harper, Richmond
The popular pick is Jeremy Tyler, but it’s hard to see the Celtics grabbing a player who needs two to three years of seasoning when their window for a championship is so nearly closed. Harper affords the C’s another jump-shooter to draw eyes away from Ray Allen, and further open up the interior for Kevin Garnett and Glen Davis. When Garnett hangs up the jersey for the last time, Harper will have had time to strengthen his frame and could fit right into the position.
26. Dallas Mavericks—PG/SG Nolan Smith, Duke
One would expect Mark Cuban to move boldly to try for one more championship run before players like Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion age to the point of being liabilities. Smith may not step in and dominate immediately, but as a future replacement for Kidd, he could fit well. A year to learn under the master could result in Smith taking the Dallas point away from the undersized J.J. Barea sooner rather than later. As for the short-term championship run, it’s safe to say Smith has pressure game experience.
27. New Jersey Nets—SF Kyle Singler, Duke
This low in the first round, it’s often best-player-available, but the prospect of going into the 2011-12 season with Travis Outlaw as the starter at the three should fill the Nets’ brass and fans with terror. Singler is a competitor and a winner, two things that should play well in Brooklyn. He’ll have a hard time creating offense for himself, but working with Deron Williams should see him open for a ton of good perimeter looks.
28. Chicago Bulls—PF JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
The Bulls could use another jump-shot threat to open the lane for Derrick Rose’s daring drives. Johnson developed his shooting range out to NCAA three-point land as a senior. While he’s not likely to replace a lunchpail banger like Carlos Boozer, he could manage a lengthy NBA career as the next Channing Frye.
29. San Antonio Spurs—SG Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech
Shumpert got a lot of justifiable flak for his shot selection in college. A couple of years with Gregg Popovich will make him a more judicious shooter quickly. He’ll also need a lot of work in moving without the ball, but if he learns it well, he could be a very dangerous replacement for Manu Ginobili in a few years.
30. Chicago Bulls—PG/SG Shelvin Mack, Butler
Mack could work behind or alongside Rose, providing some instant offense off the bench. He’s no stranger to clutch situations, the kind in which the Bulls plan to find themselves frequently over the next several years. As a bonus, taking Indiana college products Mack and Johnson could stick the knife even deeper into the division rival Pacers after Bulls fans took over Conseco Fieldhouse in the playoffs.
“You’ve got to spend money to make money.” It’s a phrase that’s made millions of businesspeople rich. It’s also a motto that’s had millions of others moving back in with their parents, or possibly into refrigerator boxes.
Major League Baseball’s economic model demands a similar mentality. The rich can throw money at the young talent bubbling up from the farm systems of the poorer teams. Those poorer teams continue to do the heavier lifting of scouting, drafting well, and maintaining partnerships with effective minor-league affiliates.
The difference between a successful business and a liquidation sale is an understanding that smart spending is more important than heavy spending. Toward that end, Athlon Sports has built a formula to measure not just how much a team spends, but how much return they get on their investment. We’ll call it the Financial Responsibility Index. Here, in a nutshell, is how it works.
Teams are ranked over a 10-year period (in this case, 2001 through 2010) in terms of both total wins and total payroll spending. The payroll is based on Associated Press opening-day figures for each season. Total spending is then divided by wins to get the average amount each team spends to win a game.
Postseason Success is factored in, as well:
(0.1 x playoff trips) + (0.5 x World Series titles) = PS
From there, the formula looks like this:
(Average per win/$1,000,000) x Wins Rank – (PS)
The lower the index, the better a team is spending its money. Think of it as how much a team spends to get one dollar's worth of production. Therefore, a 1.00 FRI should be treated as average.
Teams winning games on shoestring budgets get more credit here than ones that lose cheaply. The worst thing a team can do, however, is lose expensively, as the lower-ranked teams here prove.
Here’s how the Index ranks the 30 MLB teams:
30. New York Mets, 7.99 FRI
--#17 in wins, #3 in payroll, $1,416,212/win, 1 playoff trip
As said before, losing expensively is the worst thing a baseball team can do. When it comes to bad spending, the Flushing Meadows boys flush money like no one else. The Mets never ranked lower than sixth in payroll over the past decade, as they’ve simply been unable to compete wisely in free agency. 40-year-old Moises Alou, the remains of Tom Glavine, and the great unknown that was Kaz Matsui are all blunders that the team has finally managed to get out from under. Now, if they can just escape Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay.
29. Chicago Cubs, 3.10 FRI
--#13 in wins, #5 in payroll, $1,214,489/win, 3 playoff trips
On the North Side of Chicago, player costs have ballooned since the back-to-back division titles in 2007-08. The Cubs paid through the nose for the likes of Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Derrek Lee, not to mention the enormous contract given to Carlos Zambrano. In return for those investments: inconsistent production and the occasional demolished Gatorade cooler.
28. Los Angeles Dodgers, 2.53 FRI
--#9 in wins, #4 in payroll, $1,169,769/win, 4 playoff trips
The Dodgers join the Mets as two of only four teams to have spent a billion dollars in payroll during the past 10 years. No points for guessing who the other two are. They’ve gotten eight winning seasons for their efforts, but back-to-back five-game NLCS losses are as good as it’s gotten in the postseason. The 2009 youth movement, jettisoning Jeff Kent, Derek Lowe, and Andruw Jones, added 11 wins to the ledger but still couldn’t get the team to a World Series.
27. Detroit Tigers, 2.16 FRI
--#25 in wins, #13 in payroll, $1,125,619/win, 1 playoff trip
The Tigers were actually on the cheap until they ponied up for Magglio Ordonez and Kenny Rogers in back-to-back years. Since then, keeping the homegrown talent has gotten expensive, as did the "good news, bad news" trade with Florida that brought in Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.
26. Seattle Mariners, 2.12 FRI
--#15 in wins, #8 in payroll, $1,139,640/win, 1 playoff trip
The Mariners dominated early in the decade, including the 116-win year in 2001. They haven’t seen the playoffs since, but they’ve still spent heavily, ranking outside the top 10 in payroll only once. Ichiro, of course, gets more expensive every year, but players like Bret Boone, Jamie Moyer and Richie Sexson also collected increasing salaries for wildly fluctuating production.
25. Baltimore Orioles, 1.81 FRI
--#28 in wins, #16 in payroll, $1,035,698/win, zero playoff appearances
The Orioles have tried to make some free-agent noise, but gambled on players who were past their prime (Javy Lopez), may have had other “performance” issues (Miguel Tejada), or just were never very good to begin with (Sidney Ponson).
24. Texas Rangers, 1.17 FRI
--#19 in wins, #15 in payroll, $925,268/win, 1 playoff trip
Early in the decade, the Rangers tried to slug opponents into submission, but the only people really afraid were the team’s accountants. Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Pudge Rodriguez and, of course, Alex (I Got Paid More Than the Minnesota Twins) Rodriguez had the Texas payroll in Yankees-Red Sox-Mets territory. Once A-Rod left, the payroll deflated faster than Denise Richards’ chest. Also once A-Rod left, the team had a winning season. Go figure.
23. Arizona Diamondbacks, 1.02 FRI
--#20 in wins, #17 in payroll, $904,627/win, 3 playoff trips, 1 World Series win
If these rankings are done again next season, the D-Backs will take a huge hit in the postseason success figures. After playoff trips in 2001 and 2002, Arizona saw the writing on the wall when Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson began breaking down, and a payroll that was north of $100 million in 2002 was down to $70 million by the time the bottom fell out in ’04. Since then, the Snakes have been operating on the relative cheap, even after winning a surprising division title in 2007 and re-signing the Big Unit soon after.
22. Kansas City Royals, 0.91 FRI
--#30 in wins, #26 in payroll, $791,148/win, zero playoff appearances
The Royals are fully aware of their place on the food chain. Their few excursions into free agency have been frightening. First came the inexplicable $53 million deal with Gil Meche, then $36 million to Jose Guillen. Much like sticking one’s hand on a lit stove burner, the Royals appear to have learned their lesson.
21. Colorado Rockies, 0.89 FRI
--#22 in wins, #20 in payroll, $819,764/win, 2 playoff trips
It seems odd to suggest that the Rockies, the team that went absolutely mental on signing pitchers like Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton, have gotten their money's worth. Larry Walker, though, never really saw his production dip in Denver, and the Rockies also got good production out of young players like Todd Helton and Juan Pierre, leading them to enough wins to at least offset the goofy pitching deals.
10. Atlanta Braves, 0.66 FRI (Financial Responsibility Index)
--#5 in wins, #7 in payroll, $1,043,001/win, 6 playoff trips
Since the Braves had their epic string of division titles snapped in 2006, they’ve spent a bit more conservatively. Liberty Media’s not been nearly as inclined to hurl cash at the team as Ted Turner was. The trade for Mark Teixeira at the 2007 deadline was the last "big-money" move the Braves have made. Even Tim Hudson took a pay cut, coming off an injury-shortened 2009 season.
9. San Diego Padres, 0.56 FRI
--#21 in wins, #25 in payroll, $673,683/win, 2 playoff trips
The Padres made it a rule not to overpay for more than three or four players at a time, and guys like Phil Nevin, Ryan Klesko and Brian Giles propped up the lineup while young pitchers like Jake Peavy and Chris Young developed. The Fathers managed five winning seasons in the decade, as many as the New York Mets for less than half the money.
8. Boston Red Sox, 0.55 FRI
--#2 in wins, #2 in payroll, $1,348,865/win, 6 playoff trips, 2 World Series titles
Perhaps the masterpiece deal that any team made in the past decade was the one-year, $1.25 million offer to an underachieving Minnesota Twin whose primary value was as a designated hitter. Over the next five years, David Ortiz hit .302 with 208 home runs, finished in the top five in every season’s MVP balloting, and helped the team win two World Series. Knowing when to let go has been another strength of the Boston brain trust, cutting loose icons like Nomar Garciaparra and Johnny Damon when other palatable options present themselves. The Sox have built the kind of track record that makes the occasional clunker (Keith Foulke or Julio Lugo, anyone?) forgivable.
7. Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels, 0.51 FRI
--#4 in wins, #6 in payroll, $1,040,185/win, 6 playoff trips, 1 World Series title
The Angels were toward the cheap end back in 2001, but the additions of Kevin Appier, Aaron Sele, and Brad Fullmer spurred the team to a World Series title, and from there, it was champagne and caviar all the way. The signing of Vladimir Guerrero in 2004 shot the Halos past the $100M barrier, and they’ve yet to look back. Of course, they did win five division titles in that time, so there’s been substantial return on the biggest investments.
6. Tampa Bay Rays, 0.50 FRI
--#26 in wins, #29 in payroll, $564,439/win, 2 playoff trips
By mid-decade, the Rays and Marlins both seemed to be owned by Ebenezer Scrooge, so tight-fisted they were with the cash. The Marlins at least had their once-a-decade championship/fire sale. The Rays didn’t even get that, but they’ve come on strong the last three years, building on young talent and still surviving the first wave of defections (Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza).
5. New York Yankees, 0.43 FRI
--#1 in wins, #1 in payroll, $1,827,760/win, 9 playoff trips, 1 World Series title
Say what you want about the Yankees throwing money at their problems, but the fact remains that we can almost automatically pencil them into the playoffs coming out of spring training. Having one’s pick of free agents and the wherewithal to make any deadline deal keeps a team relevant no matter what else happens. 1998 was the last time anyone else led the majors in opening day payroll, although the Red Sox were within a quarter-million in 2001. Of all the big-money moves since 2001, only Jose Contreras and Carl Pavano could be said to be real duds, and few teams in baseball can claim that low of a failure rate. Besides, the $72 million that was offered to those two is the kind of coin that Hank Steinbrenner can fish out of his office sofa, so they weren’t exactly crippling blows.
4. Florida Marlins, 0.20 FRI
--#14 in wins, #30 in payroll, $478,818/win, 1 playoff trip, 1 World Series title
The Marlins are the prototypical punchline: a team that never spends any money because they never make any money because they play in front of about 48 people a night (or so it seems). Still, the amazing part about the Fish is that even on such a shoestring, they only had one 90-loss season in the past 10 years. Equally amazing is that that 71-91 season was not the one where the payroll dipped below $15 million. Seriously, in 2006, Mike Mussina, Todd Helton, and Chan Ho Park were among the 12 players making more than the entire Marlins team. It’s only a matter of time before Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton, Josh Johnson and the rest of the young Fish become free agents and head out for greener pastures, so we’ll see if the Marlins can send them out the way they did their other fire-sale teams.
3. Oakland Athletics, 0.19 FRI
--#8 in wins, #24 in payroll, $614,759/win, 4 playoff trips
In 2007, Oakland’s payroll ballooned to almost $80 million. And why not? 1998 was the last time they’d failed to win at least 87 games. The “Moneyball” craze was still in full effect, but the A’s were feeling flush. They couldn’t afford to keep Barry Zito on their side of the Bay, but they used some spare coin to bring in veteran Mike Piazza. 86 losses later, Piazza was retired, Jason Kendall’s hefty contract had been traded to the Cubs, and it was back to belt-tightening mode. The A’s have stayed one of the five cheapest teams in the game since then, but the wins have yet to return.
2. St. Louis Cardinals, 0.18 FRI
--#3 in wins, #10 in payroll, $956,505/win, 6 playoff trips, 1 World Series title
The Cardinals have never been comfortable rubbing shoulders with the real high spenders in baseball, only once ranking in the top six payrolls. That was in 2005, when they kept Larry Walker and his $12.6 million salary on hand to try to reach a second straight World Series. Since then, they’ve kept the wages quite steady around $90 million, even while the number of nine-figure payrolls continues to balloon. For their efforts, they’ve only struggled to one losing season out of the 10. They bought low on players like Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, while snagging players like Skip Schumaker, Brendan Ryan, Colby Rasmus and Yadier Molina in the draft. Now, of course, the supreme test comes when they have to decide what they can afford to offer Albert Pujols.
1. Minnesota Twins, 0.15 FRI
--#6 in wins, #22 in payroll, $658.679/win, 6 playoff trips
At 15 cents on the dollar, we'd all like to see such returns on such relatively miniscule investments. The Twins’ worst season since 2000 was the 79-83 mark in 2007. In that time, the only year they ranked higher than 18th in spending was last season, when they upped payroll by nearly 50% from the year before. Genius-level drafting, with the likes of Michael Cuddyer, Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau, has kept Minnesota winning on the cheap, and the new ballpark has kept fans pouring in to pay for the homegrown talent’s extensions. Signings like Orlando Hudson and trades for Delmon Young and Francisco Liriano have worked out well, and the Target Field magic even helped revive the sputtering career of Carl Pavano.
20. Cincinnati Reds, 0.86 FRI (Financial Responsibility Index)
--#23 in wins, #21 in payroll, $792,136/win, 1 playoff trip
Cincinnati’s rarely nosed deep into the top 20 payrolls. Their big spending was largely concentrated on Ken Griffey Jr., who earned his money once upon a time, and extending young hitters like Adam Dunn and Sean Casey. Finding pitching was usually an adventure, with the likes of Eric Milton and Paul Wilson getting sizeable, but not extreme, contracts to give up lots of hits.
19. Chicago White Sox, 0.84 FRI
--#10 in wins, #11 in payroll, $997,435/win, 2 playoff trips, 1 World Series title
Unlike most teams, the White Sox didn’t spend heavily to win a World Series, they spent heavily to defend it. The signings of Jim Thome and Javier Vazquez didn’t get them back to the playoffs until 2008, and it wasn’t until that ALDS loss that they trimmed some fat and got back under $100M.
18. San Francisco Giants, 0.83 FRI
--#11 in wins, #12 in payroll, $979,826/win, 3 playoff trips, 1 World Series title
The Giants were consistent top-10 spenders in the middle part of the decade, but not seeing great return after the 2002 pennant and 2003 division title. They flirted with austerity after getting out from under Matt Morris, Armando Benitez, and Barry Bonds. Then, the Edgar Renteria signing and extensions for the young starting rotation sent the tab upward again, but those investments paid off with championship rings.
17. Houston Astros, 0.81 FRI
--#12 in wins, #14 in payroll, $969,987/win, 3 playoff trips
The Astros nudged into the $100M club in 2009, just in time to finish 74-88 when the entire infield missed at least 30 games each (except Miguel Tejada, who had left his home run swing in Baltimore).
16. Milwaukee Brewers, 0.80 FRI
--#24 in wins, #23 in payroll, $768,612/win, 1 playoff trip
The Brewers' “big” signings came after the 2006 season, in the persons of Jeff Suppan and Bill Hall. Their payroll’s held steady the last few years, and they’ve been winning games. Ryan Braun’s hefty extension and the trades for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum will quickly drive the expenses north and the FRI ranking south unless they can reach the playoffs again this year.
15. Toronto Blue Jays, 0.77 FRI
--#16 in wins, #18 in payroll, $860,744/win, zero playoff appearances
The Jays were spending large on guys like Raul Mondesi and Carlos Delgado, then replaced them with new signings like Troy Glaus and large extensions for Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett. They’ve rarely been terrible, but they’ve never been great, either. Still, the payroll fluctuates wildly.
14. Cleveland Indians, 0.75 FRI
--#18 in wins, #19 in payroll, $799,149/win, 2 playoff trips
By 2003, the Indians’ payroll got down to 40% of what it had been two years prior. By 2008, they were handing out extensions like candy in the wake of a 96-win season, and guys like Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner were laughing their way to the bank. Unfortunately, both made side trips to the hospital, and the Indians bottomed out again.
13. Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, 0.69 FRI
--#27 in wins, #27 in payroll, $691,973/win
After the last gasp of hope for Montreal died, the Nationals tried to draw some customers with the Alfonso Soriano trade. Once that failed, the payroll was purged and it was time to wait on draft picks. Contracts like Jayson Werth’s, however, aren’t likely to be helpful if the index is updated next season.
12. Philadelphia Phillies, 0.685 FRI
--#7 in wins, #9 in payroll, $1,008,911/win, 4 playoff trips, 1 World Series title
For the Phillies, winning has become a habit, and so has spending the cash. Keeping guys like Ryan Howard and adding pieces like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee is expensive, but those guys keep winning games (and championships, too). Hard to believe that in 2001, the Phils ranked 24th in opening-day payroll. Their worst season? 2002, at 80-81.
11. Pittsburgh Pirates, 0.678 FRI
--#29 in wins, #28 in payroll, $654,457/win, zero playoff appearances
Strangely appropriate that the two Pennsylvania clubs should rank so close together, despite their radically different approaches and results. The Pirates have been one of the five cheapest teams in baseball every year since 2003. Coincidentally (or not), that’s the last time they finished higher than fifth in their division.