Wed, May 19, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Some teams start to refuse to blow big bucks on stars

AP , NEW YORKAP, NEW YORK

As umpire Kevin Kelly, far left, looks on, the Rockies, from back left, Mark Sweeney, Todd Greene and Royce Clayton join the rest of the team to welcome home Vinny Castilla, front center, after Castilla hit a two-run home run on against Phillies relief pitcher Tim Worrell in the ninth inning to give the Rockies a 7-6 win in Denver, Monday.

PHOTO: AP

Several of the biggest beneficiaries of baseball's revenue-sharing plan have among the lowest payrolls in the majors, spending the money on prospects, not stars.

Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, the teams with the three lowest payrolls in the major leagues, all received huge increases in revenue sharing last year, according to figures obtained by AP.

All three teams, unsuccessful on the field in recent years, have chosen to invest the money in their futures.

"We're not going to spend US$10 million on one player," Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy said. "It's not going to get us to the World Series, although it might make some people feel better. We had the largest winning percentage in the minor leagues last year. For us, that's the only way we're going to compete, with our minor league system."

Under baseball's new revenue-sharing system, which changed formulas to help middle-market teams, high-revenue clubs gave up US$220 million last year to their low-revenue competitors, up from US$169 million in 2002.

Milwaukee got US$16.6 million, up from US$8.5 million, according to the figures, which were provided to the AP by a major league team executive.

Pittsburgh's share doubled from US$6.4 million to US$13.3 million, and San Diego's went from US$6.2 million to US$13.3 million. Tampa Bay's increased from US$14.6 million to US$20.5 million.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said his team's low payroll has led some to conclude that the team isn't spending money.

"It's not only the fans," he said. "I don't think players understand. I don't think employees in our organization understand the money that goes into player development and scouting. I have to educate them on that."

Montreal, owned by the other 29 teams, received the most revenue-sharing money last year (US$29.5 million), followed by World Series champion Florida (US$21 million), Tampa Bay and Kansas City (US$19 million).

Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar went with youth after watching Greg Vaughn sign a big-money deal and become a bust.

"We've taken giant steps over the last several years," he said.

All teams' locally generated revenue, minus ballpark expenses, is put into a pool and divided 30 ways.

The AL champion New York Yankees paid a major league high US$52.7 million, up from US$26.6 million, and Boston's bill increased to US$38.7 million from US$17.9 million. Seattle paid the third-most (US$31 million), followed by the New York Mets (US$21.5 million), San Francisco (US$13 million) and Chicago Cubs (US$16.7 million).

Figures from 2003 haven't been audited and the 2002 numbers, while audited, still are pending final adjustments.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner occasionally has criticized teams for not spending their revenue-sharing money. Giants owner Peter Magowan has no problems with the way low-revenue franchises are using the money.

"People tend to focus only on using the money to spend at the major league level," he said. "Teams like Pittsburgh and Milwaukee vastly improved their minor league systems through judicious investment in minor league players."

Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, says it appears the new system is working. He cited San Diego, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Kansas City as among the teams with young talent.

Major League Baseball will provide more than US$1 million in pensions to former Negro Leagues players through a new charitable program.

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