The Red Sox (89-73) can be excused for not making the playoffs with such a hefty payroll. They were decimated with injuries all season long and still managed to put together a very solid season.
The White Sox (88-74) and Cardinals (86-76) also had solid seasons and both look pretty good for next season. It looks like Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan will be back for a 16th season, so the Cardinals aren't going downhill any time soon.
Ozzie Guillen looks like he's returning for an 8th season with the White Sox and they too aren't going downhill any time soon. Between LaRussa and Guillen, they have taken their teams to the World Series 3 times in the past 7 years, winning 2 championships, so these two teams are in pretty good shape.
The 2 big budget busts (as usual) are the Cubs (75-87) and the Mets (79-83). I think both Cubs fans and Mets fans share in the blame because both are just TOO loyal. Sometimes too much loyalty is not good because ownership takes it for granted and makes a half-hearted effort to put a good product on the field. I mean why should they? They're making a bundle anyway.
Mets fans, however, have started to realize this and the Mets are taking a beating in attendance. Attendance went from 4.04 million in '08 to 3.2 million in '09 to 2.6 million in '10. Now Mets ownership are holding press conferences promising a complete overhaul. I think yesterday was the first time in 30 years of following the Mets that I saw owner Fred Wilpon's face. I mean the guy is the Howard Hughes of baseball owners. So that in itself is a promising start because when Wilpon shows his face in a lengthy press conference it must mean things are dire.
The Cubs, however, drew over 3 million once again and I have to give them credit-- they are an attendance machine. But that's a totally different situation out there. The 102-year thing has become a part of the allure. I guess, seeing them lose is just as big as seeing them win. Who knows? It's a one of a kind situation out there and I think ownership has taken it for granted. Also, something tells me that out-drawing the White Sox is some sort of moral victory for the Cubs faithful. It sounds logical.
Kudos to the small payroll (under 80 million) teams (Rays, Rangers, Reds) who made the playoffs. And kudos also to the ones who didn't make the playoffs but had great seasons anyway.
Yes, San Diego, that means you.
Payroll stats courtesy of CBSSports.com