Thursday, May 1, 2008

Gutter: Cheapskate update - 5/1

It’s a momentous occasion.

The first shake-up in the history of the Cheapskate standings has finally happened: the surging Tampa Bay Rays, who have won 8 of their last 10, vaulted past the stumbling Oakland Athletics to take over second place in the initial standings of the Cheapskate Award, presented annually to the Major League Baseball team that accomplishes the most with the least.

In summation, we’re rewarding value-based mediocrity.

Just to refresh, here are the numbers.

Total salaries (according to this list published by the Associated Press):

Pittsburgh $49,365,283
Oakland $47,967,126
Tampa Bay $43,820,598
Florida $21,836,500

Cost per game:

Pittsburgh $304,723.97
Oakland $296,093.37
Tamp Bay $270,497.52
Florida $134,793.21

An intricate and complicated formula is then applied to determine a cost-per-win to date. The teams are ranked based on who has spent the least per win. The Marlins, with their blue-light special salary, have a considerable advantage, so the other three will have to enjoy extraordinary success on the field to pass Florida.

In addition to holding the top spot in the Cheapskate, the Marlins are also still at the head of the NL East, although that lead is quickly dwindling. Florida has lost two in a row and 5 of their last 8; as a result, the Mets and the Phillies are each within one-half game of the Marlins.

The Athletics, meanwhile, have held strong to the second spot in the Cheapskate and the top spot in the AL West all season, but a two-game losing streak has stripped the A’s of both of those distinctions. Oakland’s problems in the AL West are compounded by the fact that the losses of the past two nights have come against the Los Angeles (nee Anaheim, nee California) Angels, who now sit on top of the division.

The Rays, unlike the other three teams in the Cheapskate, are on fire. After consecutive sweeps of AL East foes Toronto and Boston, Tampa Bay dropped a game to Baltimore. But the Rays bounced back last night with an 8-1 win in Baltimore. Following this series, the Rays head up to Boston for a payback series against the Red Sox, and that stretch could mean the end of Tampa Bay’s surge.

And then there’s the Pirates. Forget yesterday’s bombing of the Mets: the Buccos have still lost four of six and 10 of the last 14. Next they head to the nation’s capitol for a four-game series with the craptastic Nationals. Should be a chance for the Pirates to put some numbers in the win column, but don’t bet on it. That’s exactly the kind of series that the Pirates have perfected over the past 15 years: getting swept by a team that just might actually be a worse franchise.

Record: 15-12
Standing: 1st in NL East
Games back: 0
Money spent per win: $242,627.78

Record: 15-12
Standing: 2nd in AL East
Games back: 1
Money spent per win: $486,895.54

Record: 17-12
Standing: 2nd in AL West
Games back: 1
Money spent per win: $505,100.46

Record: 11-16
Standing: 6th in NL Central
Games back: 6
Money spent per win: $747,958.84

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