The 2012 MLB All-Star break has arrived. The least-surprising bit of information is that the New York Yankees have MLB's best record. With a 52-33 record, the Yankees currently lead the Texas Rangers (52-34) by one-half of a game. They have a seven-game advantage over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East.
The Yankees' dominance should be expected when one considers their league-leading team payroll that is reportedly hovering around $200 million. That's almost twice as much as most franchises. A small-market club could rely on a budget that uses approximately one-fourth of that on team payroll.
It's difficult to compete with that. However, it's not impossible. The Tampa Bay Rays ($41,053,571) and Arizona Diamondbacks ($53,639,833) were amongst the lowest team payrolls in 2011. The Yankees and Rays were both eliminated during the American League Division Series (ALDS) The Diamondbacks were ousted in the National League Division Series (NLDS). Since 2008, the Rays have won two division titles and an American League pennant.
Who has gotten the most bang for their buck in 2012? These five teams started this season with payrolls that were reportedly around $80 million or less. They all have a .500 record or better heading into the All-Star break. One of them is winning their division. All financial data is from USA Today. It can be found here.
Cleveland Indians ($78,430,300; 44-41 record)
The Cleveland Indians are in second place in the American League Central. They trail the Chicago White Sox (47-38) by three games. However, there's a run-differential of 92 between these teams. The Indians have surrendered the second-most runs in the American League (414). Their pitching must improve if they're going overthrow the White Sox or hold off the surging Detroit Tigers (44-42).
Toronto Blue Jays ($75,489,200; 43-43 record)
The Toronto Blue Jays have the misfortune of being stashed in an American League East division that includes the Boston Red Sox, Orioles, Rays and Yankees. The Blue Jays and Red Sox are currently in the cellar of the division with 43-43 records. The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by 9.5 games. They'll need more from Ricky Romero in the second half.
Tampa Bay Rays ($64,173,000; 45-41 record)
The third-place Rays are currently one-half game behind the Orioles and 7.5 games behind the Yankees in the American League East. The Rays continue to win with one of MLB's lowest payrolls. They've also had to overcome injuries to Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce, to name a couple. The Rays would currently be one-half game out of the final wild-card berth.
Pittsburgh Pirates ($63,431,999; 48-37 record)
The Pittsburgh Pirates are winning the National League Central with a 48-37 record. They won 10 of their past 12 games heading into the All-Star break. Andrew McCutchen is having a MVP-caliber season. The Pirates have one of MLB's best eighth-and-ninth-inning duos with Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan. Their 29-14 home record is best in baseball.
Oakland Athletics ($55,372,500; 43-43 record)
The Oakland Athletics are trying to survive in an American League West division that features the Rangers (52-34) and Los Angeles Angels (48-38). However, they're currently 2.5 games out of the final wild-card berth. The Athletics will have a difficult time remaining in this race unless they can get some more offense. They've scored an AL-worst 319 runs. The Seattle Mariners are the closest with 337 runs.
Worst Teams With Payrolls Exceeding $100 Million
Philadelphia Phillies ($174,538,938; 37-50 record)
Boston Red Sox ($173,186,617; 43-43 record)
Miami Marlins (118,078,000; 41-44 record)
Joshua Huffman grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula as a Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs enthusiast. He immediately gained an admiration for Cubs fans after watching numerous games on WGN during the mid-90s. His favorite Cubs moment was Kerry Wood's(notes) 1-hitter, 20K extravaganza that was only denied of a no-hitter by Kevin Orie's defensive blunder. As a Packers and Cubs fan, he suffered through Steve Bartman and "4th & 26" in a span of three months. He can be found on Twitter HERE.
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