Low-spending teams get chance in MLB playoffs

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Cleveland manager Terry Francona has seen the dollar divide from both sides. He led the large-market Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007, and then took over the more-limited Indians last fall.

“Once the game starts, dollar signs go out the window,” he said. “It’s more helpful in the winter when you’re trying to sign guys, but I’ve immensely enjoyed this team and that has nothing to do with money. It’s the characters and the character on this team, and whether we win or lose won’t have anything to do with money.”

Revenue sharing came in with the labor agreement in 1997, two years after the end of a strike that wiped out the World Series for the first time in nine decades. Revenue sharing was boosted again in the 2002 labor deal, when a tougher luxury tax was agreed to. That tax has gotten stiffer, and in 2011 players agreed to restraints on bonuses for amateur draft picks and international signings.

“I took a lot of criticism back in those days,” Selig said. “Is it worth it now? You bet it is. Because I knew we were doing the right things.”

Rays manager Joe Maddon thinks there’s another factor at play: drug testing.

With fewer players using performance-enhancing drugs since testing began in 2003, there are fewer oversized sluggers with oversized statistics who bulk up their salaries in the free-agent market.

“I thought that the elimination of PEDs in the game permits teams with lower payrolls to compete and win.” he said.

Salary may be the key figure from November to February, but once players are on the field, pitching and execution usually matter most.

“Any team can beat any another team on any given day,” Oakland catcher Derek Norris said. “It could be a guy making minimum versus a guy making $30 million, that guy making minimum can still beat him.”

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AP Sports Writers Will Graves, Janie McCauley and Tom Withers contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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