It's a similar dynamic for the cross-town Angels. They don't have a $200 million payroll, but they've committed close to $450 million to just three players—Albert Pujols ($240 million), Josh Hamilton ($125 million), C.J. Wilson ($77 million).
"I want to win," said team owner Arte Moreno. "...it is not just automatic that you are going to make money. If nobody comes to your ballpark, and there is no demand, you aren't going to get a TV deal because no one is going to watch you."
(Read More: Billionaire Baseball Owner Putting Wins Over Profit)
Build a good product, and they will come. And they have.
Both the Angels and Dodgers regularly attract three million fans a season. According to Moreno, the Yankees and Mets have only done it in the same season once.
Then, there's the Oakland A's. They don't have the attendance or payroll of the Dodgers, Giants or Angels. But last season, they had the wins—94 of them.
They have probably the highest profile GM in the game in Billy Beane (watch the movie "Moneyball"), and they won the American League West with the lowest payroll in the league.
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All this as the Red Sox are coming off a 93 loss season, and the Yankees are getting old and actually cutting payroll.
"Hopefully, this is the year to bring a championship to Anaheim," Pujols said. "I would say, though, everyone looks good on paper.
"But you have to go out there and perform."
—By CNBC's Brian Shactman; Follow him on Twitter: @bshactman
—CNBC's Jessica Golden contributed to this report.