Salaries Are Escalating, but
They Don't Guarantee Winning
Legendary baseball executive Branch Rickey reigned in the golden age of baseball management. “It was easy to ﬁgure out Mr. Rickey's thinking about contracts, ” remarked Chuck Connors, who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers before moving on to a more lucrative career as television's Riﬂeman. “He had both players and money—and just didn't like to see the two of them mix.”
Modern baseball executives, on the other hand, at least a select few of them, have lots of money and seem intent on throwing it at players. The Texas Rangers shelled out $252 million to secure the services of shortstop Alex Rodriguez for the next decade. The Boston Red Sox anteed up $160 million for eight years' worth of outﬁelder Manny Ramirez.
These signings, the mind-boggling totals notwithstanding, make at least a modicum of sense. Rodriguez, at the modest age of twenty-ﬁve, when most ballplayers enter their prime years, has already established himself as perhaps the greatest shortstop of all time. Ramirez, twenty-eight, has driven in 632 runs over the past ﬁve seasons.
But, as maverick owner Bill Veeck commented in the early years of free agency, one rarely overpays a superstar; it's the cost of the supporting cast that most often proves crippling. How, for example, can one explain the $55 million paid out by the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Darren Dreifort? Dreifort, it's true, was the second choice in the 1993 amateur draft, taken just behind Rodriguez. Unlike A-Rod, however, he has yet to fully deliver on his potential. He has never won more than thirteen games in a season, never recorded an earned run average below four, never thrown two hundred innings or struck out two hundred batters in a season.
Time may ultimately prove this a wise investment for the Dodgers. The perennial shortage of even modestly talented pitchers clearly placed a premium on Dreifort's value. The Colorado Rockies reportedly offered him