Watch Out Yankees and Red Sox, It's a New Era in Baseball
In the world of professional baseball, there's a tectonic shift going on that's not getting enough attention. The era is over where the baseball world's axis turns on the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
If you want to see the best right now, go west, young man!
The San Francisco Giants are obvious. They've won two of the last three World Series titles.
Yet they don't get nearly the attention that the Los Angeles Dodgers are getting right now.
"We have to keep up," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "Hopefully, we knock them off their stoop this year and kind of be the mark that everyone tries to catch up with."
And no one can keep up with the Dodgers' payroll.
The new owners come from Guggenheim Partners, which handles about $170 billion in assets. Led by Mark Walter, they've been bold, making trades and signing free agents at a breakneck pace.
In one year, the payroll has gone from $95 million to $213 million—now, the highest in baseball history.
"Our ownership is making the commitment to what we're doing," Mattingly said. "You're talking about payroll which means better players.
"It just ups the ante for everyone out there."
(Read More: Guess Which Major Sport Is Recession Proof)
It also changes the philosophy on how to run a professional baseball franchise.
"How is the job different?" General Manager Ned Colletti asked rhetorically. "We're allowed to think about any player that we think can help our club instead of being restrictive and looking at a salary figure and saying we have no chance of going there.
"Now, we can make a baseball decision."
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.
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.