Braves beat writer David O’Brien lists five low-payroll teams that beat the financial odds.
1. 2003 Marlins (World Series)
Their $54 million payroll was $110 million lower than that of the American League champion Yankees, but the National League wild-card winners prevailed. After beating Barry Bonds’ Giants in the division series and turning back the Cubs in the NLCS, the Marlins, with their youthful roster and 72-year-old manager Jack McKeon, capped an unlikely run with a six-game series victory against the tradition-rich (and rich, period) Yankees.
2. 2002 Angels (World Series)
They had only three players making as much as $7 million and a $63 million payroll that ranked 15th in the majors. Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus had 59 homers and 234 RBIs for the Angels, who beat the Yankees and Twins in the playoffs before taking a seven-game World Series against the Giants. With their famed Rally Monkey on the scoreboard, the Angels overcame a 5-0 deficit in Game 6.
3. 2010 Rangers (AL pennant)
Their payroll would more than double by 2012, but in 2010 it was about $55 million and ranked in the majors’ bottom one-fifth. Players acquired from the Braves in the 2007 trade for Mark Teixeira, including closer Neftali Feliz and shortstop Elvis Andrus, had crucial roles for the Rangers, who beat the defending World Series champion Yankees in the ALCS before losing to San Francisco.
4. 2008 Rays (AL pennant)
They were the poster boys for frugal success, with a $43.8 million payroll that ranked 29th of 30 teams and was a staggering $165 million below the division-rival Yankees. Former Rays first-round picks B.J. Upton (44 steals) and Evan Longoria (27 homers) played big roles. The Rays won 97 games and the AL East, then beat the White Sox and Red Sox before losing to Philadelphia in the World Series.
5. 2007 Rockies (NL pennant)
Only five teams had payrolls lower in 2007 than Colorado’s $54.4 million. After going 76-86 in 2006, they improved to 90 wins (in 163 games) and captured the NL wild card, finishing on a remarkable roll that extended to the postseason. They won 21 of 22 games including playoff sweeps of Philadelphia and Arizona, but “Rocktober” ended abruptly with Boston sweeping them in the World Series.