What Shouldn't Need To Be Explained

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Every so often, I'll begin a post, and then after one or two sentences I'll stop and think "why are you writing this, this is so obvious, you don't want to insult your audience." It's as if I were writing a post to point out that Kyle Seager led the 2012 Seattle Mariners in home runs. Okay, we knew that, what else? Sometimes I'll stop and sometimes I'll continue ahead because it turns out I don't mind insulting my audience. Hey audience, you smell!

This is a post that shouldn't need to be written, and indeed maybe this is a post that doesn't need to be written, but I'm writing it anyway because what the hell else do I have to write about right now? The Mariners' exhaustive search for a recycled veteran to coach their hitters? Here's how that's going to go: the Mariners are going to hire someone you knew but had forgotten about, someone whose name sounds vaguely familiar, and then we're going to have literally zero idea how good that guy is at his job until he's dismissed and replaced by someone else vaguely familiar. This is a post about money.

Time and time again, people have wanted to talk about the Mariners' payroll. People have also long wanted to talk about the Mariners' home stadium dimensions, but at long last, those are changing. The subject of the Mariners' payroll remains in play, and it will always be in play, no matter what it is relative to the rest of major league baseball.

We've heard and read arguments that the Mariners don't need to spend more, or much more, in order to put out a successful product. The Tampa Bay Rays are proof enough that you can build a sustainable ~winner by just being shrewd and efficient. No, the Rays haven't won a World Series, but that isn't the goal, even though technically that is the goal. That's the goal of the players; the goal of the front office is for the team to be more good than bad.

We've heard and read arguments that the Mariners need to spend more, plenty more, if they want to keep up with the Angels and the Rangers and the rest of the league. The Rangers have come into some money, the Angels have come into some money, and the Mariners are in danger of being left behind, with insufficient resources. If the Mariners aren't willing to spend, the argument goes, then the Mariners aren't serious enough about having consistent success.

This is all so very simple, and I swear I'm not trying to insult anybody's intelligence. It is not impossible to succeed, and succeed often, with a low payroll. It is not impossible to not succeed with a high payroll. Money is not the one answer to everything. Money is among the many answers. Money is important, and as with all things, this comes down to probability.

There is a correlation between payroll and success. Countless studies have been done, but I don't need to link to any of them, because it's intuitive, it's self-evident. To argue otherwise would be to argue that it makes no difference whether a team spends $30 million or $300 million. Of course there's a correlation, a strong one, but the correlation isn't perfect. There's noise and fluctuation, because there always is.

On average, a team that spends X more dollars will win Y more games. This is absolutely indisputable. Say that your goal is making the playoffs. With every additional dollar spent, you are in theory increasing the team's odds of qualifying for the playoffs. Of course the biggest issue is where all those dollars are invested, but right now we're talking theory, we're keeping everything on paper.

There is enough randomness and unpredictability in baseball -- and there always will be -- that teams with high payrolls will underachieve, and teams with low payrolls will overachieve, relative to expectations. You can't predict who's going to be the next Jose Bautista, and you can't predict who's going to get injured. Progress is being made, but the human body will always surprise us, meaning it'll always surprise front-office executives.

But I have this theory that we're gradually approaching the point where the only difference between teams is how much money they spend. We'll never actually get there, but over time, things will even out. Thanks to the new CBA, the draft got kind of evened out, and international free agency got kind of evened out. Amount of knowledge in the various front offices will even out as everybody learns more about everything. As the playing field away from payroll levels, the significance of payrolls will increase. So the correlation between payroll and success should get stronger, though it'll never be anywhere close to 1.

The Mariners, and indeed every team, would be better off bumping payroll. You can't just spend willy-nilly without regard to consequences, like "can we actually afford this," but most generally, more payroll good, less payroll bad. Nobody who thinks the Mariners would be better with a higher payroll is wrong, even if their particular argument is poorly structured. It's good, obvious sense.

And nobody who thinks the Mariners could be successful with a lower payroll is wrong, either. It's a possibility, and you just have to think about the odds. Odds of success increase along the curve from a low payroll to a high payroll, but the odds never reach 0%, and the odds never reach 100%. There's always going to be room for other things to play a role.

Jack Zduriencik has acknowledged that he's going to have some extra resources available this offseason. That is good news, on its own. The matter then becomes how those resources get invested, and that's what's important, because efficiency is always always always a priority. A higher payroll reduces the importance of efficiency, but efficiency is always important if you want to max out your payroll. The name of the game has always been about spending wisely, and a higher payroll just means more money with which a team might try to spend wisely. Any fan should always want for his team to increase payroll (to a point); any team should carefully explain why payroll can't be increased, if it can't be increased. Sometimes it isn't reasonable or responsible, but there's nothing wrong with fans wanting teams to spend more. The problem is just when fans want teams to spend for the sake of spending.

From this post, I hope that you have learned nothing. Now let's all get back to whatever we were doing before. Or let's begin a new activity. I don't know, kind of depends on the activity, and I'm not the boss of you, yet.

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