The Cardinals' Missing Millions: Gordon Gaffes on Team Payroll in Column

Mar 6, 2009 at 3:26 pm
You know, I ordinarily try to avoid putting too much weight into anything I read about baseball in the mainstream media, non-Derrick Goold division. It just seems like if you want even halfway competent analysis on the sport, you have to look at a baseball-only outlet these days. Not sure why, but that's just how it seems to be going. 

Sadly, as part of my employment here at the RFT, I do have to do a fair amount of research, poring through the local publications, as well as various nationals, in order to both generate story fodder and gauge the climate around the sporting world. 

As part of said research, I recently came across this little gem from Jeff Gordon of the local daily. Normally, I'm not a fan; I realize that you have to write to a certain level in order to avoid going over the heads of certain sections of the audience, but Jesus. 

Anyhow, the column in question is actually pretty well put together, and, somewhat surprisingly, takes an intelligent, defensible position. Then, right around the middle, there's a bit of a problem. 

"[The fans] accuse [DeWitt] of using this national economic downturn as an excuse to slash costs. Rather than build a payroll exceeding $100 million, as originally planned, the Cards could take the field with a $75 million team this season."

Do you see the problem? It's right in that last sentence there. It's a number. Starts with a seven, ends with a five. That's the one. 

"Hang on a tic," I said to myself when I read that sentence. "The Cardinals' payroll is only going to be $75 million this season? How in the hell did that happen? And how did I miss it?" 

So I did what I always do in these situations: I consulted someone smarter than me. In this case, I just headed over to Viva El Birdos, and checked out the handy-dandy roster matrix that DanUp was so kind as to put up, following the Cardinals and Ryan Ludwick coming to terms on a deal. And what did the roster matrix tell me? 

The Cardinals' payroll, as it stood on the 17th of February, was slated to be just a hair over $92 million. 

Now, I'm forced to wonder: just how hard was it to check those facts? It took me all of literally 45 seconds or so to determine that $75 million isn't even close to right; how is it that this kind of work wasn't done in the Gordon piece? 

Thanks to the always-wonderful Cot's Contracts, you can look at the Opening Day payroll for the Cardinals for this decade. That payroll figure hasn't been at $75 million since 2002. It hasn't dipped below $80 million since, and was a couple bucks short of $100 million to begin 2008. Now, is the '09 payroll going to be lower? Yes. Yes it is. It will not, however, drop by one quarter. 

See, the thing is, I thought that Mr. Gordon made all kinds of excellent points in his column, about the realities of the economic situation that we're living through right now, as well as the fact that the Cardinals are attempting to shift into a significantly different paradigm altogether, as far as player development and acquisition goes. The problem, though, is that by refusing to do even the most basic bit of research and get his facts straight, Mr. Gordon shot his own case right in the head. 

Look, I'm not a big researcher myself, to be honest. Hell, that's why I just used the VEB roster matrix numbers instead of adding up everything on the books myself. But when you're putting out bad info like the $75 million number, that's just not good enough. You have to at least be close to being right on things like this.

So was it laziness that led to that number, or was it subtle pandering to the very faction that was ostensibly being decried? Honestly, I have no idea. I've never met Mr. Gordon, so I am unable to offer any insight. Either way, though, the fan-base in St. Louis deserves better than that.