, HOW SERIOUS WAS DEWITT ABOUT MONEY IN BASEBALL? | Sports

QUESTION: It’s been a bit, but the interview with DeWitt was great. I just have one question, were his comments about the amount of money in baseball not being as much as people think said in a joking manner? Was there a wink wink nudge nudge? I mean, sure, he’s under no obligation to open his books, but to imply that the team isn’t in anything short of a stellar position just seems ludicrous… like claiming a hurricane is headed where it isn’t.

GOOLD: There was no wink, wink. There was no nudge, nudge. There was definitely a vantage point that few people have because few people are owners. He does not deny that the Cardinals are making a lot of revenue. He never has. It’s a business afterall, and business is good. He has never once said that the Cardinals aren’t profitable, that they aren’t making money, or that the potential isn’t there to make a lot of money. The Cardinals are usually top 10 in revenue, and that’s remarkable given the size of the market and the scope of their TV market. That’s a credit to the fan base.

I hesitate to put words in his month, so I’m going to tread carefully here, but I think one of the issues owners have is with the notion that franchise value is somehow an illustration of revenue. Every year, Forbes belches out some ranking of MLB franchise value and every year those numbers are proven wrong when a team actual goes up for sale. Remember a few years ago when what they had the Dodgers as a $1 billion franchise and the Dodgers went for more than twice that much? Trust me, the people who bought that franchise had a lot more at stake on their valuation of the team than Forbes did.

Franchise value also isn’t revenue. Those dollars aren’t funneling into the owners pocket unless they sell.

Let me tell you a story. When I was a kid, just down the street from where I am right now, I grabbed a comic off the rack when it first came out. A year, 18 months later that comic was a hit and was rare and I had it, and it was selling at the comic shop for $250, or something. I was thrilled. I told me mom, “I have a comic worth $250.”

“Are you going to sell it?” she said.

“Then it’s not worth $250.”

“By holding it, do you also get the $250?”

“No, but I have the comic.”

“Then it’s not worth anything until you sell it.”

Tough lesson. I think she wanted to end the conversation, in hindsight. But the point was a valuable one. Something is worth only as much as someone is willing to pay — or only when you are willing to sell. To me, holding onto the comic was worth more than selling it, and that didn’t have a dollar figure. It’s an incomplete analogy because I cannot take out a loan or mortgage that comic into credit, but it does speak to something I know owners struggle to explain because the WORTH of franchise is so, so, so high and yet so, so, so misleading when we have this conversation.

Look, they’re making a lot of money. A lot. Period. Let’s repeat that. They’re making a lot of money. Revenues are high. Record, really. But mixing the advertised value of the organization with the revenue it’s pulling in — from TV, from tickets, from national deals, from MLBAM, and so on — offers a warped picture.

The answer in that interview that stood out to me was about Ballpark Village. He said the spillover would be for someone else to estimate and enjoy. I wonder what that says about the timetable the Cardinals expect in paying off BPV and getting a return on it, and what that says about when those revenues will show up on the field, if they do. That’s a big, lingering, and fair question for the future.

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