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Pay to play: What baseball teams pay for each win

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Hanley Ramirez throws the ball over a sliding A.J. Pollock of the Arizona Diamondbacks to complete a double play in Phoenix, May 16, 2014.
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Los Angeles Dodgers’ Hanley Ramirez throws the ball over a sliding A.J. Pollock of the Arizona Diamondbacks to complete a double play in Phoenix, May 16, 2014.

Most baseball fans measure success by the title that goes to the team that prevails in the best-of-seven World Series that kicked off this week.

For the 29 other team owners and managers, though, there may be some consolation in knowing that their money was better spent than the competition.

Take, for example, the case of the Arizona Diamondbacks—which ended the season with a paltry 64 wins out of the 160 regular season games. With an estimated payroll of $96 million, those wins cost the teams' owners roughly $1.5 million each. The Los Angeles Angels, on the other hand, made the playoffs with an impressive 98 wins—at a cost of just $980,436 each.

Team owners certainly also care a lot about filling seats and selling tickets. On that score, the Los Angeles Dodgers delivered the best return on their investment.

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Based on total attendance, both at home and on the road, the Dodgers played to an average 83 percent capacity crowds at a payroll cost of just $25 per seat. Compare that with the Cleveland Indians, who played to an average 42 percent capacity crowd at a payroll cost of $67 per seat.

No matter how you slice the data, though, major league baseball is an expensive game, with an estimated combined payroll of some $3.5 billion.

That's why winning a game is so expensive. Teams need hits—which average out to $175,753 each—along with runs ($146,895 apiece) and strike outs ($77,450 each).