Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Baseball For A Day

My oh My! It sure looks like MLB owners have been up front with their books all along. The word out of MLB headquarters is that the Montreal Expos will soon be the D.C. Somethingorothers. That's great. Now baseball just needs someone to run the team in a town not known for supporting baseball.

But times change. As does fan support. As does ownership entrenchment against encroachment upon one's turf.

Apparently, as incentive for Baltimore Orioles' crumudgeony owner Peter Angelos to change his mind about filing a law suit against MLB for, among other things, MLB's purported breach of a promise to Angelos that the Orioles would retain exclusive rights to the D.C. market, MLB has offered to guarantee an as-yet-to-be-determined minimum (positive) revenue.

Oops! Doesn't MLB mean to say that it will guarantee Angelos will lose less than he would if the Orioles continued to hold a monopoly over the D.C.-Baltimore metropolitan area? I mean, why promise a profit when everyone else is losing money hand over fist--right?

Or maybe MLB knows something about the finances of MLB teams that it is not letting on. Or Maybe Bud simply took out another "bad" loan.

I'm betting on the former. I'm betting that MLB is pretty healthy, despite the bitching and moaning that Bud and his cohorts constantly throw out for public consumption. I'm guessing that, when a losing team like the Milwaukee Brewers stands to earn over $14 million in net profits in 2004, the state of baseball is much better than Bud has let on. And I'm also betting that MLB's health is not an artifice of 2004.

To ensure that the Orioles earn a minimum of X dollars each year--a figure certain to be in the millions or why even bother offering it as a negotiating ploy to open the D.C. market--MLB has to know that it has resources to make good on such an offer.

Maybe MLB intends to raise the money to guarantee its offer from a sale of the Expos to a D.C. interest. That makes sense. But it also shows that MLB--at least in the minds of MLB--is a good investment. After all, who would pony up hundreds of millions of dollars--enough to give a little kick to each owner and still leave MLB millions to pay off Angelos--if there were no return?

Who?

Nobody.

And MLB knows this. They've known it for some time. They knew it when they agreed to pay more than double the market price to contract the Twins (alas, they forgot to buy the Minnesota Court System) and they knew it when the took on an Expos orphaned by its carpet-bagging, former owner. MLB knows it is still a money-making venture, or it would not have made these deals.

How do I know? If MLB were hemorrhaging money, as Bud et. al. have long claimed, buying the Twins would not require an offer of more than double their market value. In fact, given MLB's purportedly bleak future, Pohlad should have been willing to sell for below market value. And there would have been no battle over who gets the Red Sox.

And if MLB truly were hemorrhaging money, why promise Angelos a profit when everyone else is staring at a certain loss?

It doesn't make sense, unless what MLB has said about its finances for the better part of the past 10 years doesn't make sense. And that, folks, makes a hell of a lot of sense.

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