By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
One of the many rallying cries about the Kansas City Royals is how they're a small market and how the large markets in baseball make the economics unfair.
As we start the second half of the season, I was interested to see how the bottom ten teams in payroll for the 2012 season were doing.
From the 21st spot down to the bottom:
21. Cleveland Indians ($78,430,300) - The Indians are currently 45-42 and sit just three games out of the American League Central. They're competing for a Wild Card spot as well.
22. Colorado Rockies ($78,069,571) - Colorado is definitely one of the worst teams in baseball, sitting at 34-53.
23. Toronto Blue Jays ($75,489,200) - Canada's team is 44-44 and a whopping 10.5 games out of the Yankees for the lead in the American League East. To be fair, though, if the Blue Jays were in another three other divisions (ALC, NLW, NCC), they would be within five games. Not bad for a team with a lower payroll. Also, the Blue Jays are just 2.5 games out of the second Wild Card slot in the AL.
24. Arizona Diamondbacks ($74,284,833) - After making the playoffs last season, Arizona's within striking distance of the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers out west. However, both the Giants and Dodgers have a big advantage in pitching and I don't see Arizona doing too much. There are rumors of a Justin Upton trade and if that happens, Arizona's done.
25. Tampa Bay Rays ($64,173,500) - After starting off well, Tampa's faded a bit in the divisional race, trailing the Yanks by 8 games. The Rays are right there in the Wild Card race. They're currently in third place, just a half game out of the lead for the second wild card.
26. Pittsburgh Pirates ($63,431,999) - One of the great stories of the 2012 season, Pittsburgh is in a tie for first place in the National League Central race and sit just one game out of the race for home-field in the National League. Both Cincinnati and St. Louis are charging in that division.
27. Kansas City Royals ($60,916,225) - Our Kansas City Royals, who are 9.5 games out of the AL Central lead and 7.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot. It's too early to throw in the towel I think, but it's time to make a move if there's any hope to make 2012 our time.
28. Houston Astros ($60,651,000) - The Last-ros are 33-55 and 16.5 games out of the lead in one of the worst divisions in baseball. Yuck.
29. Oakland Athletics ($55,372,500) - Like Pittsburgh, here's another fascinating story. Billy Beane's career was supposed to be over. However, the A's sit just 1.5 games away from the playoffs. They won't win the AL West baring another magical second half run like they had in 2000, 2001 and 2002. But they're well within reach of the Wild Card and considering their payroll is at the bottom, that's quite an accomplishment for Beane.
30. San Diego Padres ($55,244,700) - They stink. They're tied for last in the NL West with the Rockies.
Five teams on this list are in legitimate playoff races right now. Tampa Bay, Oakland, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Cleveland are knocking on the postseason door.
Two other teams - Arizona and Kansas City - are hanging around and not quite dead yet. Meanwhile, it's time to go Old Yeller on Houston, San Diego and Colorado.
What does this mean?
- With the second Wild Card spot in place, it means more small markets could squeak in year in and year out. That's a very good piece of news for Major League Baseball. Without that second Wild Card this season, more of these teams would be in trouble or would be closer to death. The second Wild Card being introduced could turn out to be one of the most important decisions ever for small market teams like those in Oakland, Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
- Small market teams are competing - and it's time for Royals fans to stop feeling sorry for themselves because their team is a small market. Small market teams who are winning have done a great job spending the past two years. Meanwhile, the Royals spent $12 million on Bruce Chen, Jeff Francoeur and Yuni Betancourt.
- Unfortunately, this argument could be beneficial to David Glass, who's much maligned in Kansas City for being cheap. It's becoming clear that small market teams can win if there's a vision and money is spent wisely. The Royals Minor League prospects, by all indication, are great. There's some sort of vision there.