The crack of the bat, and ring of the cash register Print
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Saturday, 21 April 2007 09:42
MLB Headline News

 Forbes magazine is out with its annual report on the business of baseball and the big news isn't that the New York Yankees would have broken even last year if they didn't have to pay A-Rod's salary.
The Yankees are the loss leaders of major league baseball, willing to give up some now to get even more later. They may lose a few million here and there - some $25.2 million last year - but at the same time the estimated value of the franchise increased 17 percent to a staggering $1.2 billion.
Besides, take away $70 million or so in revenue sharing and luxury tax the Yankees had to give to the less fortunate millionaire owners and George Steinbrenner and company would have been counting up a tidy little profit.
The other 29 teams managed to do just that with varying degrees of success in 2006, but you might be surprised that none did it better than the Florida Marlins. According to Forbes, the Marlins made $43.3 million for the season despite drawing less than 15,000 fans a game to the ballpark.
That should be cause for celebration in Miami, where the more money the Marlins make the more they will put into a new stadium.
Sure they will, just before they start selling land in the Everglades.
The economics of baseball, of course, don't work that way. Owner Jeffrey Loria will pocket the $43.3 million, continue to strong-arm the taxpayers of South Florida to build him a $500 million stadium, and then enjoy the corresponding increase in value for the franchise when it is finally built.
Interestingly, the Marlins weren't exactly thrilled about the magazine's estimates. While most American businesses would be trumpeting the news of a big profit, most of them aren't at the same time trying to feed from the public trough.
``As usual, the franchise valuations and operating income numbers are pure fantasy and based on no correct information,'' Marlins president David Samson said.
The Marlins made part of their money the old-fashioned way, by making sure their employees didn't draw fat paychecks. The payroll for the Florida team last year barely reached $20 million, which these days is about the going rate for a decent starting pitcher and maybe a right fielder.
Revenue sharing took care of the rest, proving that socialism works even in the great American pastime.
The Marlins may not have been happy with Forbes, but Steinbrenner said he was ``gratified'' that the Yankees had been valued so high and that he wanted the team to be worth even more.
That's probably a given, since teams are making money even while most are paying more and more for their players. If the Boston Red Sox could have the second highest payroll behind the Yankees and still make nearly $20 million last year, they can't go wrong paying Manny Ramirez $17 million.
It's hard to imagine that just a few years ago baseball was claiming it was in big trouble financially, with teams losing money faster than the Kansas City Royals lose games.
Now the sport is in the midst of an unprecedented economic boom, boosted by rising ticket prices, higher television and radio fees and an infusion of cash from MLB.com. A recent deal with DirectTV will pay $700 million more over seven years.
Commissioner Bud Selig recently called this the ``golden era in every way'' for baseball. And it's certainly been golden for Selig, whose $14.5 million salary last year put him in among the highest priced players in the game.
Baseball does have its share of problems. World Series ratings hit rock bottom last year, there's still a steroid cloud over the game and there will be some uncomfortable moments this season as Barry Bonds chases the all-time home run record.
But money is not one of them. Fans continue to digest $75 seats and $10 beers with little complaint, and last year 76 million people attended games.
That has made some rich owners even richer.
David Glass made money at Wal-Mart, but it has come even faster on the ballfield. He bought the Royals in 2000 for $96 million, and Forbes now estimates he could get $282 million for a team that has lost 100 games four of the past five seasons.
Arte Moreno bought the Los Angeles Angels just four years ago for $180 million. Not only did the Angels turn a nice profit last year, but Forbes estimates the value of the team has more than doubled to $431 million.
Across town, Frank McCourt has also struck it rich with the Dodgers. McCourt bought the team in 2004 in a highly leveraged deal for about $430 million, only to see the estimate of its value go up $200 million since then.
The Dodgers were also profitable last year, making an estimated $27.5 million.
That apparently wasn't enough because the team raised ticket prices by up to 40 percent for this season. Then they raised the price of parking at Dodger Stadium by $5 a car.
Proving that while socialism may work for some, capitalism is even better.
---
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlbergap.org
 

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