NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22: Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig (L) and Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner speak at a news conference at the headquarters of Major League Baseball on November 22, 2011 in New York City. Selig and Weiner announced a new five year labor agreement between the MLB and the MLBPA. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
According to a report from Forbes, the only teams in baseball not to turn a profit in 2011 were the Mets, Phillies, and Angels.
Every year, Forbes releases its Business of Baseball issue, and every year Major League Baseball disagrees with the findings. It's a yearly tradition, like May Day, Administrative Professionals' Day, and the Orioles being eliminated in April. This year's report brings all sorts of surprises, chief among them:
- The Mets lost $40.8 million last year, almost four times as much as any other team
- Only three teams lost money last year, which is a far cry from the time I stayed up late to watch a rebroadcast of Bud Selig talking to Congress on C-Span2 about how every last team was hemorrhaging money. Think that was 2000 or 2001. Maybe that was a nightmare after eating rancid hummus
- The Los Angeles Dodgers are worth almost twice as much as the Rangers and Angels put together, which seems hard to believe. The Dodgers are also worth as much as the A's, Rays, Pirates, and Royals put together. But what about if you bought all four and consolidated them? McCutchen leading off, Alex Gordon hitting second, pitching staff of the Rays and Brandon McCarthy, a viable Manny-wig concession … now that would be a billion-dollar franchise
- The Cleveland Indians had the biggest operating income last year, clearing over $30 million before interest, taxes, amortization, and depreciation
It's the last bullet point that's going to get a lot of attention. The Indians felt like they had to trade Victor Martinez, Cliff Lee, and C.C. Sabathia (getting some pretty miserable returns with the exception of Justin Masterson) because they felt like they couldn't retain any of those players in free agency. It's an open question if signing any of those players would have been a good idea for the Indians, but if you believe in the Forbes numbers, the team probably could have afforded it. Well, as long as you don't care about them making money, comrade.
Also included in the April 9 issue is an article about the TV money that's pouring into baseball:
The Houston Astros teamed with the NBA Rockets in a regional network with Comcast in which the Astros will own 45% and earn $80 million a year in rights fees, up from the $26 million they’ll get this year from Fox.
The Astros. I'm writing an article about them right now. In between paragraphs, I'm polishing up my resumé, e-mailing Amnesty International, and drinking. That's what thinking about the Astros does to a person. Yet they still will make all sorts of money on the premise that people will willingly watch their games.
We're a long way from the strike. Say what you will about the 18 wild-cards or interleague play, but you can see why the owners keep Bud Selig around and pay him more than Barry Zito.