The issue of the small-market, lower payroll teams came up on Tuesday with the Indians and Tampa Bay Rays squaring off tonight in the American League Wild Card Game at Progressive Field.
But Rays manager Joe Maddon said there is another issue at play when it comes to the apparent parity in baseball.
“For several years now I thought the level playing field with a solid drug testing program would always benefit us,” Maddon said. “The elimination of PEDs in the game permits teams with the lower payrolls to compete and win. I’ve thought that since 2006. We’ve done pretty well since 2008.
“I don’t think one time I’ve ever mentioned we don’t have the payroll some of these other teams do. That’s never been a concern for me. The concern has always been that we play well, that we play it right, that we play hard. It doesn’t hurt that you have great scouting and development with some young pitchers like Alex (Cobb) here. You can’t do it without great pitching.”
The Rays advanced to the playoffs for the fourth time in the past six seasons. Only the Phillies, Yankees and Cardinals have the same number of appearances in that span.
Of the teams that qualified for the post-season Sunday, only four of then ranked in the top 10 in spending as of April 1, 2013. They were the Los Angeles Dodgers (No. 2, $216 million), the Boston Red Sox (No. 4, $159 million), the Detroit Tigers (No. 5, $149 million) and the Texas Rangers (No. 8, $127 million).
Four ranked among the bottom nine. They were the Indians (No. 21, $82.5 million), the Oakland A’s (No. 26, $69 million), the Pittsburgh Pirates (No. 27, $66 million) and the Rays (No. 28, $57 million).
Also advancing were the St. Louis Cardinals (No. 11, $117 million), the Cincinnati Reds (No. 13, $111 million) and the Atlanta Braves (No. 18, $89 million).
“I know people make a lot of this money deal and I understand it, but for me it doesn’t matter,” Maddon said. “In order to survive with less money you have pitch really well. There’s no other way to get around it. You just can’t bludgeon other teams to death. We pitch well, we play defense well.
“I really don’t care what everybody else spends. We’re able to do this with pitchers like Alex and David (Price), what you saw him do (Monday) night, our defense and a great front office and ownership.”
Indians manager Terry Francona also seemed unaffected by the Indians' budget.
"Once the game starts, dollar signs go out the window," Francona said. "I know it's a little more helpful in the winter when you're trying to sign guys. I've immensely enjoyed this team and that has nothing to do with money. It's the characters and the character on this team."