Alan Dell

Rays know how to stretch their dollars

Numbers are like pieces of clay. They can be twisted and molded to fit any occasion and get any point across.

But the one thing that seems certain heading into the 2010 Major League season is that few teams get more out of a dollar than the Tampa Bay Rays.

It’s still questionable whether this astute frugalness is enough to carry St. Petersburg’s finest team into the post season. It’s difficult living in the same neighborhood with free spenders New York and Boston, whose checkbooks have no conscious.

The Rays starting rotation is the best buy in Major League baseball. The combined salaries of that quintet are about $7.5 million, which is just a shade more than the average salary of a Yankee.

The disparity might provide a nice piece of motivation for the Rays, though management hopes it won’t backfire in the long run with people heading to greener pastures. That already figures to happen next season with Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano, a likely one-year wonder.

It’s common knowledge the payrolls of the Yankees and Red Sox dwarf most teams, but a recent published report reveals the gap could be wider than anyone thought for New York.

According to sportingintelligence.com, the Yankees are the best paid professional sports team in the world, including European soccer.

Published in papers throughout the world, including London’s Telegraph, the report says the average individual player’s salary on the Yankees is a few bucks short of $7 million, which is almost as much as the Rays spend to feed, clothe and pay their entire starting rotation.

Most of that money goes to Matt Garza ($3.35 million) and James Shields ($2.5 million).

It leaves Rays manager Joe Maddon, an astute conversationalist, the task of rationalizing those numbers to the younger members of his already young staff; Jeff Niemann, David Price and Wade Davis.

Of course, there is enough fuel there to generate some high octane animosity that he can turn to his advantage.

The salary structure for the Yankees starting rotation is enough to make those young arms that belong to the Rays feel like they are standing in the unemployment line. The Bronx Bombers are paying a combined $63.25 million for their top four of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettite and Javier Vasquez and the Red Sox are shelling out $45.75 million for their rotation, according to AmateurGm.com.

Sportingintelligence.com also reported that among the four major sports in the United States (football, baseball, basketball and hockey), baseball had the biggest disparity between the rich and poor.

The highest paid team by average individual salary was 9.7 times as much as the lowest paid team, it said. All data is taken from seasons played or ending in 2009.

Maddon has talked about trying to get 200 innings from each of his five starters, which would be quite a feat in itself and add to the Rays reputation for getting the most out of a dollar.

But with a possible exodus of talent after the season, he made need some of those arms to be a little less battle worn going into 2011, though he has an ace up his sleeve n Jeremy Hellickson, a rock star among the Rays minor league pitchers.

Some argue the time is now for the Rays while others say there is enough young talent and depth to keep this low payroll organization in the playoff hunt for awhile. Eventually, the numbers will sort all of this out.

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