Bang for your ‘Bucs’—NL Central teams spend more than Pirates, but will it matter come September? (May 15)

by Aubrey Bruce, Courier Sports Writer

On March 10, I wrote a column in the Courier titled: “Pirates ownership needs to spend more to win more.”

I asked a few questions such as: “Have the Pirates hit upon a secret with their bargain basement player acquisition approach?” “Have they stumbled upon the motherlode or are they destined to dig up a chest filled with fool’s gold?”

I also took a look at the money spent by each NL Central Division team and I pointed out that: “I was just looking at the MLB NL Central and according to Spotrac, the Chicago Cubs shelled out $206 million to pay their squad for the upcoming year. The St. Louis Cardinals also had some fairly deep pockets as well, kicking up $148 million. The Milwaukee Brewers spent $117 million, a bit frugal compared with the Cubs. The Cincinnati Reds coughed up 95 million ‘duckets’ to oil the fears of ‘The Big Red Machine.’ The Pittsburgh Pirates, as usual, parted with 57 million ‘dead presidents.’”

It is now mid-May. I am going to point out how much it approximately costs each NL Central Division team to compete and also if each team is getting their money’s worth at this juncture in the season.

The Chicago Cubs invested approximately $206 million in player personnel costs for this season. So, based on that number the players on the Cubs roster over a 162-game season earn approximately $1.2 million per game.

Next in line are the St. Louis Cardinals, who are shelling out $913,000 per contest. The Milwaukee Brewers’ spending still exceeded the 100 million mark per game coming in at 117 million dollars coughing up, $722,000 per game. Next in line are the lowly Cincinnati Reds, currently occupying the basement of the division. Their budget is 97 million annually or $598,00 per game fee for their boys to take the field.

Last but not least, the battling Buccos are paying around 57 million per year, just $351,000 for each contest. Whoa, whoa, whoa as my late stuttering friend, Tony Robinson used to say: “taint no use waiting on da train cause, ta, ta, ta, train is gooone…”

Now hear this. The first-place Cubs spend about $919,000 more per game on players than the Pirates, yet only lead the Pirates by 3.5 games. With the Pirates experiencing injuries to multiple members of their starting nine, including two starting pitchers and other secondary players, on paper the Pirates should be languishing and wallowing in the bowels of the division. Yet, with all of the “hurdles” that the team has been forced to overcome, the competitive fire of a few teams would have already been doused and many ballclubs would already be in their “wait until next year” mode.

Again, I ask: “Have the Pirates hit upon a secret with their bargain basement player acquisition approach?” “Have they stumbled upon the motherlode or are they destined to dig up a chest filled with fool’s gold?”

It is a tad less than two months before the All-Star break. The Pirates have approximately 53 games remaining before then. If they win 50 percent of those games, their record at the break will be 47-43. Pretty respectful outing for a team picked by everyone and their grandmother to finish dead last in their division.

The Pirates just went to St. Louis this past weekend and chose not to have “pheasant under glass” but chose instead to dine on “Cardinals under glass.” They won three of four over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

Maybe fool’s gold has been spent by the Pirates’ NL Central competitors, but wait, it’s still too early to tell. Let’s ask the same question in late September.

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