How Much Did You Pay For That?

by KC Baker | Posted on Sunday, June 28th, 2015
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You finally make it to the big time; through hard work and business acumen, your company becomes a rousing success. You drove an old V-8 Ford Mustang for 89,567 miles as you clawed your way to the top. All the while, you pined for the day when you could wrap your ass in an elite internal combustion chariot, one that offered real speed and prestige. A car that was but a dream because you couldn’t afford it while your company struggled.

Your neighbor runs a business too but he’s still not big timing. You expanded your reach to 47 states; folks not only buy your products, they even wear caps and t-shirts and cover their car bumpers with stickers bearing your company’s logo. Your neighbor’s business is pretty regional if not local. Only those within AM range appreciate and praise his products. He loves your Mustang; he digs the power of the V-8 and cannot understand why you would want to part with it. So you sell it to him and haul it down to the BMW dealership.

You peruse the 5 and 7 Series but turn up your nose; they are still just sedans. They ain’t fast enough, either. And you don’t want to settle for one of Bavaria’s “better” models. You are at the top of the heap dude and want a car to match your achievement and surpass the performance and style of every automobile in your neighborhood. You go with the M6. It is beyond the financial reach of your neighbor’s wildest fantasy. Hell man, that car cost more than his company’s first quarter overhead. The dealership treats you like a king, acknowledging just how damn awesome you are and just how perfect that bad ass new M6 is for you. It’s fast. It’ll turn heads and generate envy. Few can afford it. It’s an elite car for elite people. You pay the elite price tag and drive if off the lot.

You cruise toward home in your sleek ride. People do indeed turn and comment. “Wow; how much did that machine cost?” they say. “I bet it’s fast as hell,” they say. “I wish I could afford one of those,” they lament. You quickly become the envy of the town.

One day, you pull up to a red light on Main Street, top down as the tunes from your youth rise up from your premium stereo announcing your presence with authority. As you bask in blatant riches, your neighbor pulls up next to you in your old Mustang. He’s buffed up the finish on the old ride. He did some research and found that for a little money, he could vastly improve its performance. With some cheap headers, a used supercharger and some better gears in the rear end, he’s ready to hit the streets. But your M6 is much newer, much sleeker, cost ten times more and it’s a BMW, dammit. It has to be faster too because it’s the fastest BMW had to offer. The 18 year-old ego compels you to rev your motor and challenge. He responds with a healthy roar from his American V-8 and you both put plastic to the carpet when the light turns green. And he eats your lunch and half of your dinner.

A young man on the curb sees the Stang pull away and make the next green light as you slam on the brakes at the yellow’s warning. He throws his head back and laughs yelling “Hey mister, how much did you pay for that piece of crap?”

Most of you hear the analogy coming down the interstate. The Houston Astros’ cobbled together line up is literally $145 million less—that’s $145,000,000.00–than the New York Yankees; yet the Bronx Billionaires couldn’t win a series against my beloved home team. They had to settle for a split. The Astros have the lowest payroll in the majors at $70 million give or take a few hundred grand. The Yankees are second only to the Dodgers in MLB payrolls. Aren’t you supposed to get what you pay for? Sure, sure the Yankees are battling for first place but why the hell do they have to battle at all with the mound of dough they laid down? And look who they are battling: The Tampa Bay Rays with the third lowest payroll in the majors at number 28—26 teams down from the opulent New York club. Who else is trailing the Rays? The dead last Boston Red Sox with the fifth highest payroll. The Phillies broke out the checkbook too, shelling out $167 million for their number 8 ranked payroll and their season is pretty much in the old slopper waiting for the flush.

Yeah, yeah, I know the Dodgers are rocking with the highest, bank-busting salaries, exceeding NY by $60 million (ironically a difference that would almost cover the Astros’ entire payroll). Maybe the Bugatti that the LA Dodgers drive is just a little, tiny bit faster than New York’s M6. Yet at this writing, LA’s winning percentage is only slightly higher that the frugal Houston Astros–for only $200 million more! (where’s Ron Popeil when you need him?). They paid $60 million for performance options, I guess. But there’s a bigger point. Your team can spend like the Sultan of Brunei who just had his first taste of Jack Daniels and rarely does it guarantee success. In fact, it seems an incredibly shallow, lazy and dumb way to shoot for a World Series. As I’ve said many times before, the game is not math. It’s baseball man.

Admittedly, I’m guilty as blood red sin of gloating. My Stros were tossed aside seasons ago as a backdrop for the “better, more important, bigger market” teams. It didn’t matter if we played in the AL, the NL or the West Cuba Semi-Pro League as far as ESPN was concerned. Hell, they probably still don’t pause to enjoy the exciting play that is routinely put on the field by my mighty mighty Stros. And I no longer care or bear a molecule of bitterness (okay I still have a gallon or two of that to spare). Winning is everything and spendthrift teams aren’t consistently winning. If the Yankees owner was in town for the series with the Stros, I would have made my way to the edge of the Diamond Level when it was over and yelled at him:

“Hey mister, how much did you pay for that piece of crap?”

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KC Baker
About the Author

K.C. Baker is an old school Astros fan, spending many a hot summer day in the cool confines of the Dome. He just finished his 28th year as a practicing attorney and likes to spend all of his spare time in New Braunfels, Texas with his wife of 29 years and their three children. Follow him on Twitter @KenCBake

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