Open Note to Ken Rosenthal Re: Cards Payroll

The final straw has been broken regarding misreporting of the Cardinals' payroll in 2006 compared to 2005. Once again, we try to set the record straight, this time on the national stage.

It is one thing to be upset about the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals' performance on the field or even in the dugout. It is another to be critical of the general manager for not spending his team's money wisely or for making questionable trades.

Especially given where the team is right now, all of that is understood and expected.

But, over the last season, the most common target of attacks from inside and outside The Cardinal Nation has been team ownership over their alleged tight-fisted approach to the team's player budget.

I am not the only one who continues to assert those claims are inaccurate. In this letter/article, the point is backed up by work not done by me, but instead by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Cardinals beat writer Joe Strauss. As he covers the team full-time, Strauss' credibility is surely not under question.

Despite that, other members of the media, even columnists at Strauss' very own paper, continue time and time again to "report" the decline in team payroll without attribution as if it was fact. Through their misinformed sound bites, some of these saber-rattlers almost seem to enjoy furthering the perception that ownership has neglected the team.

All year long, in our little corner of the Nation here at Scout.com, I and others also enlightened on the subject have tried over and over again to explain the reality to doubters on our fine Message Board.

Sadly, some just don't get it or simply refuse to.

Unfortunately, we now have to add FoxSports.com Senior Writer Ken Rosenthal to the list of the misinformed. But, in this case, the stakes are higher, given Rosenthal's considerable national audience.

Following is the email I sent Rosenthal on Wednesday. It is self-explanatory.

Hello, Ken.

I am the editor of stlcardinals.scout.com. Scout.com is owned by Fox Interactive Media.

I am contacting you regarding a comment in your story "Cardinals' free fall could lead to disaster" and this sentence specifically:

"And ownership reduced the Opening Day payroll from $92.1 million last season to $88.9 million this season, in part due to the debt it incurred by financing much of the new Busch Stadium."

I am curious as to the source of your data and your conclusion, as I believe both to be patently incorrect.

The salary data you used looks like it was directly sourced from USAToday's Salary Database.

The problem with that data, openly acknowledged by its owner and known by most knowledgeable people who use it, is that players' salaries paid by other teams are credited 100% to the current club. That means it is dangerous to make comparisons like you did without understanding the underlying data.

Specifically, what that means in this case is that Larry Walker's entire 2005 salary of almost $13 million was assigned by USAToday to St. Louis, when in reality, the Colorado Rockies were on the hook for a vast majority of it. In fact, the Cards' paid just $5.5 million of Walker's 2005 compensation. That alone would drop the Cardinals' 2005 Opening Day payroll from your $92.1 million to about $85 million.

While each team has some salary puts and takes every year, this huge difference in Walker's case not only negates your conclusion, it reverses it 180 degrees.

Furthermore, I challenge you to provide a direct reference to Cardinals ownership stating intent to reduce payroll to cover stadium costs, or any other expenditure, for that matter. The fact is ownership have stated on multiple occasions that they authorized an increase in payroll. And, reality confirms that.

Prior to this season, St. Louis Post-Dispatch Cardinals beat writer Joe Strauss has demonstrated in detail, player by player, that when all is considered, the Cardinals' payroll was basically flat year-to-year initially.

Here are the details from March: "Cards' Payroll: 2005 vs. 2006".

As recently as two weeks ago in a story entitled, "What could the Cardinals buy with $26 million?", Strauss reiterates the conclusion while pointing out the Cardinals' INCREASE in payroll during this season of about $8 million more:

"The Cardinals opened the season with a payroll barely below their $90.42 million endpoint to 2005. Trades, minor league promotions and bonuses will push it to about $98 million."

I would expect a writer of your credentials and experience to do a more thorough job of fact checking, rather than simply further urban legends like the ones you referenced.

In the future, I am available for any consulting on Cardinals-related questions. Like Strauss, I only cover this team.

Sincerely,
Brian Walton
Editor
stlcardinals.scout.com

P.S. The $1 million difference in Walker's 2005 salary between Strauss' $6.5 million and my $5.5 million is likely Walker's $1 million buyout for 2006. Strauss may have assigned that to 2005, but in reality, the Cardinals did not decide to pay the buyout until November 9, 2005. So, I assigned that to the 2006 payroll.

If Strauss had done that, too, the Opening Day 2006 payroll would have been even higher, strengthening the argument even further. Either way, my point stands.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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