Can Money Buy Victory?
(MONEY Magazine) – The recent signing of shortstop Alex Rodriguez to a $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers raised eyebrows. Only the richest teams could dream of bidding for A-Rod's services; even baseball commissioner Bud Selig decried "the inequity in this system." Is money killing sports? The cases below argue both sides. --ALEC APPELBAUM AND SCOTT MEDINTZ
COMPETITIVE VENUE BASEBALL
HOW MONEY UNDERMINES COMPETITION Since the players' strike suspended the World Series in 1994, the top-paid New York Yankees have won four of six Fall Classics--and no team from a small or mid-size media market has won since 1991.
ON THE OTHER HAND... ...exceptions abound: The Dodgers' $91 million payroll, second highest in the majors, landed them 11 games out of first in 2000; the bargain-basement Oakland A's, meanwhile, nearly upset the Yanks in playoffs.
[COMPETITIVE VENUE] OLYMPICS
[HOW MONEY UNDERMINES COMPETITION] According to a Yale/Dartmouth study, gross domestic product is "the best predictor of national Olympic performance."
[ON THE OTHER HAND...] ...home-team advantage works too (thus in 2000, Australia took 18 more medals than a strictly GDP-based calculation predicted), as does "forced mobilization of resources by governments," i.e., Soviet-style athletics.
[COMPETITIVE VENUE] BRIDGE
[HOW MONEY UNDERMINES COMPETITION] At this year's Omaha Bridge Club tournament, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates rounded out their team with the reigning world champion and a two-time former world champ.
[ON THE OTHER HAND...] ...this Dream Team failed to place in the top 10 of the 59 four- member teams participating.