Rays have gotten big bang for their buck on way to World Series
Money can’t buy happiness, but with salaries rising all around the league, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that it can by you pennants and World Series rings. That makes it all the more surprising that Tampa Bay, with one of the smallest payrolls in Major League Baseball, is in the Fall Classic.
In fact, if the Rays win the 2020 World Series, they’ll have defeated the three teams with the biggest payrolls in baseball.
Tampa Bay Rays, 28th in MLB payroll, beat No. 1 (Yanks) and now No. 3 (Astros) in payroll to reach World Series. If they should meet & beat Dodgers in WS, they'd knock off No. 1-2-3 in salary. Just sayin', not predicting. Remarkable and worth all the praise they can be given!— Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) October 18, 2020
Rays prove small-market budgets can pay off big
With Major League Baseball shortening the season, salaries were prorated. But even given that, two Dodgers’ pro-rated salaries almost equaled the entire Rays’ payroll.
Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts’ combined pro-rated salaries totaled just over $26,300,000. The Tampa Bay Rays’ entire payroll was $28,773,481. In fact, the Rays’ highest-paid player, Charlie Morton, made $5.5 million. That five million bought Tampa a 0.70 playoff ERA from Morton, by the way.
Who will win the 2020 World Series?
Tampa’s payroll is refreshing to someone like me who was in middle school the last time the Rays won the AL Pennant, and has only known the era of salaries reaching into the stratosphere. Maybe it’s our propensity to root for the underdog that makes rooting for a small-market, small-budget team like Tampa Bay fun. Blue-collar values have always been an integral part of the fabric of traditional baseball. If the 90’s had Cal Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive games, maybe this generation gets a budget-friendly World Series team.
Arozarena has blossomed in the postseason
The Rays have masterfully navigated trades and mastered the minor leagues. And that includes Randy Arozarena. Arozarena became a Ray in January, after being traded by the St. Louis Cardinals. The 25-year-old went on to become ALCS MVP and set the record for most postseason home runs by a rookie, with seven.
Neander has been a key part of Tampa Bay's success
Arozarena has emerged as a young star on this team not built on major star power. And while most baseball fans were busy just celebrating the fact that the Astros’ season ended, Tampa’s triumph was also a huge win for Erik Neander, who helped drop the "Devil" from the nickname and the dollars from the bottom line. Neander was named MLB Executive of the Year last season, and this year he’ll be one of the masked few who get to watch the team they built play for the World Series.