Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And to think there was no All-Star Game in 1860...

This being the all-star break in baseball, it's time to share an interesting tidbit involving America's government and America's pastime. Here are the major league clubs ranked in terms of payroll:

The top ten, if you don't care to click:

1. New York Yankees $209,081,579
2. Detroit Tigers $138,685,197
3. New York Mets $138,293,378
4. Boston Red Sox $133,440,037
5. Chicago White Sox $121,152,667
6. Los Angeles Angels $119,216,333
7. Chicago Cubs $118,595,833
8. Los Angeles Dodgers $118,536,038
9. Seattle Mariners $117,993,982
10. Atlanta Braves $102,424,018

Four of those clubs are in first place in their division at the break (Red Sox, White Sox, Angels, Cubs) and both New York teams are well over .500, so teams that spend a lot obviously also benefit in the standings. (On the other hand, the Mariners are now have 37 wins and 58 losses; making them one of the worst teams in baseball. Nobody in 2008 has spent more and gotten less except maybe Hillary Clinton.)

In 1860, the entire federal budget was sixty-three million dollars (Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1988, p. 23). Out of the thirty major league baseball teams, only seven have payrolls in 2008 that are lower than what the entire U.S. government spent right before the Civil War.

Or how about looking at it this way: the 2008 Washington Nationals payroll, one of the lowest in baseball, is within ten million bucks of the 1860 Washington national expenditures. The New York Yankees of today pay their players more than three times what the Yankee government spent 148 years ago. Probably a few of their men slept with Madonna, too.

Alas, the age of low American budgets was ending in 1860, thanks to the Civil War. As Foner notes, the federal budget grew to over a billion dollars by 1865.

And you know what? A billion dollars is still less than what teams 1 through 8 in the list above, added together, are spending on their 2008 payrolls.

I just hope the Cubs make the World Series this year. It's an exaggeration to say they've not been there since the Civil War, actually it was right after World War II that the fall classic last came to Wrigley Field. But it's still a long, long, time; I hope the big payroll at Wrigley finally pays dividends.

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