Monday, March 30, 2015

Baseball Getting the Business End

A Visit to the Mound

Baseball fans over-analyzing an over-analyzed game

Image result for mound visit
If you kids don't get your sh*t together I'm replacing all of you
A Visit to the Mound is regularly updated series of emails touching on a wide range of baseball subjects. 

Uncle Bones

Since we seem to be trending towards the business side of things here a bit check out this link to Forbes valuations of all the MLB franchises:

Granted, this is only a snapshot of an organization's financial health, but I'm still curious if any of these numbers jump off the page at you. (Beyond the $ values which are largely hypothetical)

Pay particular attention to the teams who are operating in the red this season. A few of them are floating right around breaking even, but a some others like the Phillies, Tigers & Blue Jays are operating at major losses.

Does MLB owe it to its consumers to ensure that these franchises have a long term plan to get in the black? Or is it really OK for an owner or ownership group to throw money around like they're Rick Ross at a strip club until they're like MC Hammer at the soup kitchen?


I feel like you were lofting a Detroit poverty joke over the plate for me, but I am going to Joey Votto that one and let it go by, hoping to earn the walk.  

I always find the idea of "owing" consumers interesting. What DOES a team owe it's fans in general?  Going back to the tanking debate, some might say that the team owes it's fans the best product they can put on the field night in and night out. OR does the team owe them long term sustainability, which is what tanking is working toward?  I tend to agree with the latter.  Earlier in the year Buster Olney pointed out that Joe Girardi hit Jeter second in the lineup due to "organizational pressures."  In that case, did the team owe it's fans the best line up possible, or did it owe them the ability to watch a legend go out on his own terms?  The line is murky at best, totally open ended at worst.   

That wasn't a filibuster, but more of an establishment of how debatable the idea of "owing" your fans something is.  I do believe in owing them long term sustainability.  I live in Buffalo, and until Terry Pegula fracked his way into our hearts, we lived with a constant dread of the Buffalo Bills moving. Once the Bills started playing games in Toronto, the dread went from minor anxiety to full blown freakout.  Much like the "presence" in the current horror hit It Follows, the fear was ongoing, ever present and impossible to shake. When the Pegula deal was announced, grown men called into the local radio station crying tears of joy. So does a team owe it's fans peace of mind?  Ideally yes, but this idea is better in theory than in practice.  Just ask San Diego Chargers and St Louis Rams fans how they feel right now.  

In regards to the financial numbers, if anything I took away that baseball is in the age of parity.  Look at the Royals and Athletics, two contenders last year operating with low payroll and showing financial health.  The Mets, Phillies and Yankees appear in the top 10 franchises, further proof that money buys you a chance but guarantees you nothing in baseball. Parity rewards fans. The NFL probably likes the Pats and Seahawks playing in the super bowl, but poll casual fans outside of those two fan bases and I'd wager you hear about how they're tired of seeing those teams in the finals. Who WASN'T excited watching the Royals last year, you know? 

Uncle Bones

Being a Bills fan the last 10 years was sort of like having a loved one being diagnosed with a terminal illness. We felt like it was just a matter of time before they were gone, but we really didn't know when or how exactly we would deal with it. Then suddenly a pop-up billionaire swooped in with the miracle cure and here we are. Personally, I had already started the "moving on" process only to be sucked right back in. I'm still not sure how I feel about it given my other apprehensions surrounding the NFL, but I'm fairly sure I'll be tuned in come September.

I like to pretend that I can disassociate the emotion of being a fan with the business realities of professional sports, but it's not quite that simple. I think what surprised me the most about that list was the total valuation of all the MLB teams combined that fell somewhere around $36 billion give or take. Theoretically, should MLB be posted for public trading it would fetch around that number for an IPO, but I suspect it might creep up a little higher than that.

That's seems like a lot of money and it is, but it still less that half of what Facebook was offered for. That's crazy to me. MLB has an over 100 year history and has been an American establishment as long as any who is alive can remember. Facebook has been on the planet for the third of the time that you and I have been and I can't even hold it in my hand. I've never attended a Facebook, its not on TV, it only exists on the Internet and something tells me that in 40 years we won't be talking about the comment that Parker liked that Madison made about the picture Lily posted of her cat's birthday cake in the same way we still talk about 1975 World Series.

So yeah, baseball is a business and it's a big one, but there are bigger ones out there. I was also surprised to see that some teams didn't make money last year. I know that there are debt issues attached to that math, but what it reminds me is that you don't buy a sports team to necessary make money. Its kinda like the ultimate rich guy status symbol. You know you're rich when you own a team and so does everyone else.

That also says to me that if you cared enough to buy a sports team then you are probably a fan yourself. And as a fan you would want the team that you own to win as much as possible. I wouldn't want to own a loser. Some people might be fine with it, but it would piss me right off.

Keep that in mind when I own (sponsor) a slew of Little League teams. You'll just hear in the news that "Local man ejected from LL game again", but truth will be that I was just doing everything in my power to urge those little tykes to victory. Oh and also to grow my brand.

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