BALTIMORE -- Commissioner Bud Selig might have trouble getting owners to determine his successor, but he's certainly savoring his final season, euphoric that teams with massive payrolls no longer guarantee success.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, with a record player payroll of $248 million, are the only first-place team in baseball with a payroll exceeding $140 million, according to salary documents obtained by USA TODAY Sports.
The payrolls, according to documents distributed to Major League Baseball clubs used for luxury tax purposes, includes team's 40-man rosters, trades and acquisitions completed by Aug. 7, and all cash transactions.
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The Dodgers, with 11 players earning at least $10 million, are the lone team among the top five payrolls that would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today. The Washington Nationals, ranking sixth at $140 million, have the next highest payroll among first-place teams.
No other team ranking in the top five in payroll is within six games of first, led by the San Francisco Giants, who have the fourth-highest payroll at $169.9 million. The New York Yankees, who entered Wednesday third in the American League East, have the second-highest payroll at $214.8 million. The Philadelphia Phillies (third-highest, $182.8 million) and Texas Rangers (fifth, $144 million) are in last in their divisions.
And for the first time since 1993, the Yankees and Boston Red Sox could miss the playoffs in the same year.
The things we set out to do in the '90s, that was the objective, Selig says, to provide hope and faith in as many places as possible. And we've done that.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, the Oakland Athletics and Kansas City Royals are first-place teams with payrolls that rank among the lowest 10 payrolls in baseball.
The A's, with the seventh-lowest payroll at $89.8 million, entered Wednesday with baseball's best record at 73-46. Their payroll is $72 million less than the division rival Los Angeles Angels and ahead of only the Houston Astros in the AL West.
We walk around pretending we're David against Goliath, A's owner Lew Wolff tells USA TODAY Sports. We have some pretty big payrolls in the division.
The Royals, who entered Wednesday leading the AL Central, are 10th-lowest at $94.2 million nearly half the payroll of the Detroit Tigers' $171.5 million. The Pittsburgh Pirates, with the third-smallest payroll at $76.3 million and the lowest in the National League Central, are in second place, 1 1/2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers. In fact, six of the teams with among the lowest 10 payrolls are within six games of a playoff berth.
When you look at all the evolution of the economic changes, Selig says, it's led to really wonderful competitive balance. That is what we set out to do, and baseball is better off as a result of it.
The Dodgers have the largest future salary commitments on their ledger at $737.15 million, including $650.4 million through 2018. The Yankees, who for the first time since 1998 won't have baseball's highest payroll, have the second-highest future commitments at $604.1 million.
MLB, projected to generate close to $9 billion this year, will see its teams pay a record $3.6 billion in salaries this season and face a future commitment of $9.4 billion through 2021.
Yet, while the sport has never been more prosperous, Selig remains most proud of its parity. Just four of the 30 teams haven't made the postseason since 1994, and the teams with the longest playoff droughts the Royals (1985) and Toronto Blue Jays (1993) are each contending. The Seattle Mariners, who have never reached the World Series and last made the postseason in 2001, would also be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
This is the happiest I've ever seen Bud, says Wolff, his college fraternity brother at Wisconsin. This is such a nice final chapter as commissioner.
Now, if baseball can only find themselves the next commissioner.