This evening I was reading a post on Sully Baseball. The topic was parity in Major League Baseball, and Sully's argument was that there is more parity in baseball than most people realize. I felt the need to comment on this post, as I agreed with some of the points and disagreed with others. Well, the comment turned into a dissertation, which I've decided to reprint here in its entirety. Enjoy, and feel free to comment.
Here's my take on this situation. A huge payroll alone cannot buy a championship. However, it creates a significantly longer window of opportunity for the top half of spenders as opposed to the bottom half. Attentive baseball fans like to espouse, "Once you get to the playoffs, anything can happen." And that's the key here.
Let's look at the last ten groups of playoff teams, going back to the 2002 season. In that time, the Yankees have made the playoffs in nine out of ten years. The only other teams to make the playoffs more than half the time are the Angels, Twins, Red Sox, and Cardinals. Those teams, starting with the Yankees, have the 1st, 4th, 9th, 3rd, and 11th highest 2011 MLB team payrolls, respectively. There is a definite correlation between payroll and playoff likelihood. The team with the second-highest payroll, the Phillies, was one of two teams making the playoffs five times during that span (the other being the Braves).
I also made some calculations after dividing the league into 10-team thirds. The top salaried tier can expect to make the playoffs an average of 4.3 times during that ten-year span. The middle year averaged 2.4 times, and the bottom third averaged 1.1 appearances per the ten years.
You're right, the World Series has been won by many different teams in the last ten years, not always by the biggest spender, either. But for teams like the Yankees, Reds Sox, and Phillies, the window of opportunity is ALWAYS open. Small-market teams find themselves having to gamble the future away because their window is closing. Sometimes this gamble pays off (2003 Marlins), but many times it doesn't. Having a huge budget allows the bigger teams to reload in a shorter amount of time, a luxury the smaller teams do not have.
That being said, there remains something to admire about the Yankees. The freedom of spending they enjoy is often paired with good decision making, the likes of which top-10 payroll teams like the Cubs and Mets can only dream about. Money keeps that window of opportunity open. Couple that with smart decision making and a little bit of luck to earn a championship.