The A's went 88-74 in 2014, tied for the eighth best record in the majors. Oakland is an outlier, though, by reaching the playoffs with the sixth lowest MLB payroll at $83.4 million.
The Dodgers have the league's highest payroll at $235.3 million and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. The Yankees have the second highest payroll at $203.8 million and failed to reach the postseason.
In a recent Forbes article, A's owner Lew Wolff revealed some interesting details about how Oakland's baseball team is managed. Here is a collection of his quotes:
We’re a sort of David-against-Goliath kind of team. There’s no magic here. We’re a team that tries to balance performance and profit. We wouldn’t feel good if we were winning games and losing money. We don’t necessarily care about making a lot, but we don’t want to buy victories.
In the world that we’re in, of the teams in our division, we have the fourth lowest salaries. We don’t give long-term contracts because we can’t afford it, but we’ve been quite successful by being competitive.
There’s a competitive balance in baseball that we’re trying to achieve, so while the Yankees and the Dodgers probably have a payroll two or three times ours, we’re very well-placed in terms of our number of wins. Our players are not as famous as others but, working in a team framework, they seem to produce more than the norm.
Our business is run like any other business. We have very strict budgeting. The budget emanates from major league salary. That’s our major expense and we try to keep it at or below 50 percent of our projected revenue. Everything else flows from that.
The ultimate goal is to get into the World Series and then hopefully win it, but each day is a pleasure here, even when we lose because we’re always thinking about the next day.
This business is one where you have a commissioner who has to deal with 30 of the most successful people in the country. They all have their own success stories but the common goal is how to win on the field and many of the owners are not in it for the internal rate of return. They’re in it for their community or their family or generation -- all kind of motives.
Every time someone makes that kind of ego-driven purchase, it does raise the ships in the harbor -- we just don’t know by how much.
Most of the owners I know like to win and they’re not necessarily looking for the last dollar of profit. They’d rather be in the World Series.
Despite a perceived lack of resources, the A's possess one of the richer ownership groups in Major League Baseball.
Wolff led the group that acquired the A's for $180 million in 2005. But it was majority owner John J. Fisher who staked most of the money. Fisher, heir to the Gap clothing fortune, had an estimated net worth of $2.8 billion in September 2013.
The A's have reached the playoffs in four of 10 seasons under current ownership.