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The Ownership Question: Part II

Posted on November 27, 2007 at 11:22 AM
Filed Under: Ownership | St. Louis Cardinals

In Part I, we looked at payroll in relation to other payrolls at the time and as a percentage of total MLB payrolls. Today, let's take a look at payroll in relation to market size.

There are different ways to look at market size. Here's a study that measures it by television households. As you can see, this way puts the Cardinals 26th, just after Colorado and right before Pittsburgh. There is also a listing at with population that shows the Cardinals close to the bottom as well, this time ahead of Colorado but trailing San Diego.

Granted, the market size is probably neither of these, when you take into account how far-flung Cardinal Nation is. It probably looks more like this map. However, using the St. Louis area is probably the best for any kind of analysis. While some of us here in Arkansas are big Cardinal fans, we may not get to a game in two to three years and can't be counted on a regular basis. Besides, we need numbers to do some of this, so the Baseball Almanac report will do.

While the population figures are for the year 2000, they'll work for us on a general basis. Most likely all populations have grown somewhat, but I don't think there have been many major shifts.

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OK, so let's see how much each team is spending on players. Being that we only have one population figure, it wouldn't show us anything more than how payrolls have gone up and down to take each year from 1995 to 2007 and divide it by the population number. So let's look at it this way. Let's take the total spent in that time period by each team and divide it by the population, to see how much people have spent in the last decade+ per person in their market. For markets that have two teams, I divided the population in half and gave each of them one of the slices.

You can see all 30 teams here, but let's just look at the top 5.

Team Total Payroll Population $/Person
St. Louis $867,087,785 2,603,607 $333.03
Cincinnati $624,094,651 1,979,202 $315.33
Milwaukee $500,687,075 1,689,572 $296.34
Kansas City $471,984,584 1,776,062 $265.75
Colorado $676,904,364 2,581,506 $262.21

So, from purely a population standpoint, the Cardinals have spent more per person over the span of this ownership group than any other team in baseball. If the Yankees spent this much per person in their market, their payroll over this span would have gone from $1.6 billion to $3.5 billion!

Obviously, this is just a rough metric, but it does give a feel for how ownership has been dealing with payroll. They could have easily been the Astros, who rank 19th on this list at $164 a person. The population is bigger in Houston, sure, but they also had Clemens down there at big bucks for a few years, which would have bumped up their total payroll.

So what has been the relationship between payroll and attendance? Has there been one? Has ownership kept things in check, knowing people would show up anyway?

You can see that, even with attendance being pretty constant (over the span it's averaged 3,026, 518), payroll has continued to increase.  Even with the tapering off the last year or two, it's still on a slight upward climb.  If what Mozeliak says is true, it's possible another big bump could come next year.

Just for a point of reference, here's the average salary per average win in the time period.  There are two schools of thought here.  One side would say that it is proof people are spending money.  You can see that each win cost the Yankees $1.2 million.  The Cardinals fall 10th with $764K.  The other side of that, though, is that you would rather see an efficient use of money, especially in this market, than just dollars spent to spend.  For example, ranking fifth on this list is the Baltimore Orioles, who have spent $902K per win in this period.  The problem is, they haven't had that many wins.

How do we stack up against our divisional rivals, our closest competition to getting into the postseason?  I know I said I'd discuss that today, but I think that can keep for tomorrow's entry.


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