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The View Beyond Pluto: Why the Indians Needed to Cut Payroll

Erik Drost/Flickr
The Indians are cutting payroll after steadily increasing it since 2011

As the Indians get close to wrapping up spring training, our sports commentator Terry Pluto caught up with team owner Paul Dolan to talk business. The team has steadily increased payroll from $49 million in 2011 to $135 million in 2018. Pluto says for 2019, the payroll will be around $120 million.

"Dolan says for the last several years they've been deficit spending. And if you look at how the Indians spent compared to Kansas City, Pittsburgh or Cincinnati, or other teams in their market size, they outspent them."

Pluto says last year the Indians ranked 22nd in attendance and 15th in payroll. "Generally, that's a sign that there's going to be some deficit spending."

'Baseball's economics are broken'

Pluto says part of the issue is that unlike other sports, Major League Baseball doesn't have a salary cap. "That allows teams such as the Dodgers, Red Sox and Yankees to spend three times as much as teams on the bottom end, like Tampa Bay, and it really is an unfair game."

"I've had fans emailing me saying, 'Well if you can't play poker at that kind of level, then you ought to leave the table.' If every owner in baseball who couldn't play with the Red Sox or Yankees and the rest left the table, that would leave about a five-team league."

"Baseball's economics are broken, and I don't know when they're going to fix it, but it does create this whole subtext  that the Indians can't compete. And then the weird thing is, in the last six years over the regular season, the Indians have had the best record in the American League."

The Indians are also favored to win the Central Division again this year.

"The fact is, the Indians are a well-run team with a strong manager and a strong front office. And they have a really good starting rotation."