Rival exec calls Marlins “a joke” for soaking fellow owners even after soaking Miami taxpayers

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that some (unnamed) MLB owners are griping that Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria keeps getting big revenue-sharing checks from the league — reportedly $50 million a year, the biggest of any MLB franchise — despite getting the new stadium that they said was necessary to get them back on their financial feet. “They’re a joke,” Heyman quoted one rival team exec as saying.

While much of this is no doubt posturing ahead of next year’s labor contract talks — which will include discussions of any new revenue-sharing formula — the interesting part is the seeming assumption that with enough new stadiums, MLB can lift all boats. By now, almost every team has a new stadium, and somebody has to be at the bottom of the revenue scale, by definition. Miami may be a big market in terms of TV households, but for various reasons (too many recent transplants, too many other things to do in the summer) Florida has been an iffy sports market in general, so it really shouldn’t be unexpected that a shiny new stadium with ugly sculpture wouldn’t be enough to get people out to see a lousy team.

If this is more than just some big-market owner griping that Loria is making money by fielding the cheapest team possible and getting a cut of national revenues — something that’s been true for a while, and is either fiendishly brilliant or brilliantly fiendish, depending on your perspective — it seems like some baseball execs are drinking their own Kool-Aid, and thinking that new stadiums really are magic money machines that can make everyone a winner at the same time. This is going to be one entertaining CBA negotiation.


9 comments on “Rival exec calls Marlins “a joke” for soaking fellow owners even after soaking Miami taxpayers

  1. Pardon my understanding, but aren’t the big market teams always upset about revenue sharing regardless of who the money goes towards.

    How does the Marlins being poorly run change that?

  2. Regarding, ” the seeming assumption that with enough new stadiums, MLB can lift all boats.”

    All boats (or mostly yachts by now) are lifted dramatically with the taxpayers paying for most of the cost of the new stadiums. Next year’s labor contract talks should be very interesting as the players will point out that they received just 38% of total MLB revenue in 2014 as compared to 56% in 2001. Of course, it is a given that the taxpayers will continue to be exploited for most of the costs of current and new stadiums, so we can count on the ever growing MLB revenue pie to split just among the owners and players – the hell with the taxpayers and fans!

  3. jmauro: I wouldn’t necessarily say the Marlins are run poorly. If the goal is maximizing profits rather than maximizing pennants, they’re doing pretty well.

    scott: While team owners have undoubtedly been enriched overall by new publicly funded stadiums, a lot of that money has been passed through to the players. If anything, the reason that more hasn’t been has to do with 1) the fact that a lot of the new money that’s come in is national TV revenue, which goes into owners’ pockets whether or not they spend on players; and 2) the two-tier salary structure where teams are realizing they can cut costs by focusing solely on players with less than six years of service time, who aren’t yet eligible for free agency (and who tend to be at the peak of their careers anyway).

    But my bigger point was that so long as you have revenue-sharing between the higher-revenue and lower-revenue teams, there’s *always* going to be money flowing from one to the other. Building new stadiums for both the Yankees and Marlins isn’t going to stop the checks from flowing from the Yankees to the Marlins, because the rising tide will lift them both equally.

  4. Neil: There is plenty of room for more revenue sharing, even with players averaging $4.25 million per year. If the Yankees and Dodgers, etc. can’t be more generous with their less affluent family members, then teams like Tampa Bay need to resign themselves to permanent mediocrity or move to Montreal.

  5. 2015 World Series winner KC Royals had a payroll of $114 million. Tampa Bay Rays had a payroll of $76 million. I’m not saying that the highest payroll teams are going to get to post-season every year – it’s really cool that they don’t, but it does stack the deck in their favor. The Rays had a nice run from 2008 to 2013, but because of their on-field success, they stopped getting the high quality draft picks that were coming their way doing their pre-2008 ineptness. Now they can’t feel the voids with high priced free agents, so and 81-81 season is considered a success.

  6. JCPardell,

    I’d say there are three main ways local corporate presence helps a team.

    1. Stadium naming. Probably a wash, but even the As have had some success with local companies.
    2. Season tickets. A’s don’t have huge season ticket sales, but probably have a decent base of the expensive tickets (especially boxes) covered by annual sales. These are tickets that the team does not have to individually market/discount on a game by game basis to the general public, because they are bought on corporate accounts.
    3. Individual sales. For teams to sell at prices “suitable” for MLB, you need a high income customer base to sell to.

    I don’t think anyone doubts that Sacramento is a nice place, but comparing MLB to a minor league baseball team or a minor league soccer team is not comparable. Even the Kings have had a nice boost with the end of the old arena, but the question is whether that will last past a couple years (for most teams, individual sales don’t survive repeated losing seasons).

    Some years ago Buffalo made a big fuss of how many people went to minor league games there, and MLB never seriously looked at the city exactly because it didn’t have the corporate presence or income level to be a serious contender.

  7. (apologies for the misplaced post)

    I think many MLB teams are probably a little worried about the emerging changes in the cable market, particularly given how many mid-market teams (especially in fading urban centers) made themselves “competitive” again through cable “deals” with regional sports channels often belonging to the team itself.

    Many of these teams signed a lot of long term contracts as if this situation would never change, but it does seem to be changing.

    There’s still plenty of money out there to be had, but I think we’ll continue to see somewhat odd moves like playing games in Australia, Antarctica, and Belize to “build a global brand” in view of potentially flattening broadcast revenues.

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