Hoynes' point, which he lazily makes in his off-day notes, is that fixing this mess won't be cheap. Really? He gets paid for that kind of insight? The more salient point, we think, is how the Indians stack up against their divisional rivals. Right now, the Minnesota Twins payroll is around $7 million dollars more. It's interesting to note that the 2005 Twins had a payroll roughly equivalent to this year's Indians and increased it for 2006 by, essentially, the price of a quality pitcher and you can see the results in the standings.
Detroit, another allegedly small-market team, has a payroll of $82 million or approximately 50% more than the Indians. In fact, you have to go back two seasons to get to a payroll that is equivalent to this year's Tribe. Of course Detroit had many lean years where they got little for their money and so, arguably, the difference between their payroll and the Indians is even higher than it otherwise appears. But again, look at the standings.
Forget about Chicago. Their payroll is approaching $110 million, or roughly 100% more than the Indians. But they won the World Series last year and are leading the wild card chase this year. Even if they start to cut payroll at some point, the Indians have no chance of ever getting close.
That leaves the hapless Kansas City Royals. Their payroll is about $8 million less than the Tribe or, again, a quality starting pitcher. Look at the standings and see where they fall--about a quality starting pitcher behind the Tribe.
In other words, while absolute payroll may not be the most relevant statistic, it is illuminating. In the AL Central, it highlights exactly why the Indians aren't competitive and aren't likely to be unless and until the Dolans are willing to fund this enterprise in a competitive fashion. Don't hold your breath. As we've said before, the Dolans simply can't afford to own this team and owe it to the fans to find a buyer who can. If that makes us sound like a broken record, so be it. We won't take it off the turntable until it happens.
We see that Cliff Lee signed a contract extension today, locking up the left hander for another four years. It's a move we support. Lee, inconsistent at times, has more upside then the overhyped, overweight C.C. Sabathia, even if Lee is two years older. But don't be fooled by the signing of another "core" player. As good as this signing is, the Indians weren't poised to lose Lee anyway. He was arbitration-eligible and could have remained the property of the Indians for at least two more seasons anyway without the extension. All this does is preserve the status quo, which is a scary thought. And Shapiro is already setting up Tribe fans for another off-season of disappointment, telling the PD that free agency won't solve all of the Tribe's problems.
Of course it won't, at least the way free agency must be practiced under the Dolan regime. Expect another off-season of trolling the "B" and "C" levels of free agency hoping against hope we get Tiffany quality at Wal-Mart prices. It could happen but isn't likely. Our only real hope is that Kansas City stays as undercapitalized as the Indians.