October 9, 2007


MLB cash cow breaking away : Selig envisions surpassing NFL with huge influx of new revenue (Phil Rogers, October 7, 2007, Chicago Sports)

"I probably shouldn't say this," one highly placed MLB executive said last week. "There was a time when I wouldn't even think it. But I think we're going to see a time in the future, the near future, when we are going to pass the NFL in producing revenue."

That thought would have seemed preposterous a decade ago. But Commissioner Bud Selig didn't laugh when the possibility was presented during a discussion.

"By any measure you want to look at, our sport is more popular now than it has ever been," Selig said. "The country really is baseball-crazy today, no question."

The 30 major-league franchises combined to draw 79.5 million fans, averaging 32,785 per game. The overall attendance increased 4.5 percent over the record 2006 totals. Local, cable and network ratings are also on the rise.

"The sport is exploding," Selig said.

When your team tells you they missed the playoffs because they're too poor to compete, they're playing you for dupes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 9, 2007 7:41 PM

Yes, and it should be noted that three of the final four teams in the playoffs have the 23rd (Cleveland), 25th (Colorado), and 26th (Arizona) highest payrolls. And Colorado even made it without the help of one of those vaunted "sabermetricians."

Though I will say that Charlie Monfort's unwillingness to sign anyone to a contract for more than four years will be sorely tested when Matt Holliday's and Troy Tulowitzki's agents come knocking.

Posted by: Brad S at October 9, 2007 9:08 PM

Bingo! Money doesn't matter.

Posted by: oj at October 9, 2007 11:12 PM
"By any measure you want to look at, our sport is more popular now than it has ever been," Selig said. "The country really is baseball-crazy today, no question."

Every time I visit one of the major-league ballparks, with their beautiful baseball diamonds and festive crowds, I think to myself: "If I had money, and I lived in a city with an MLB team, I'd be going to 40 games a year."

Those of you who live in an MLB city, count your blessings.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at October 10, 2007 12:48 AM

Mr. Murphy: Well, if I must count blessings since my team is the Devil Rays, I guess the only one to count is we occasionally get into a game for free because people can't sell the season tickets they can't use so they give them away. But then you have to watch a little tiny baseball game in a huge empty warehouse. Beautiful and festive are two words that can't be used to describe a Devil Rays game.

On the up side, the beer is cold.

Posted by: Buttercup at October 10, 2007 6:16 AM

The NFL is bumping up against an obvious limitation: they have relatively few games to sell compared to baseball. Take a peek at the October 1-7 cable ratings. True, the NFL landed the top spot. But MLB landed ten of the fifteen top slots with all the division series games.

No matter how good the ratings are for the NFL, there's only so much product they can offer to the networks and the ticket-buyers. So, yeah, it's possible that baseball will overtake the NFL in total revenue...though revenue per game will be far greater for football.

Posted by: Casey Abell at October 10, 2007 9:57 AM

Yawn. No one is disputing that MLB rakes in tons of cash. This is America, where our disposable income is essentially infinite. Even if your slice of the pie gets smaller, the pie is growing so fast that you can still be easily increasing your profits (see the entertainment industry). But the notion that baseball is going to recatch football is laughable. There's just nothing to support it. Baseball ain't a TV or internet sport, it's a radio sport.

And the notion that "money doesn't matter" is utterly grotesque coming from a Boston fan. Can you imagine the team the A's would have if they could have Boston or New York's payroll? We'd be talking about one of the greatest teams ever. Imagine Cleveland from 10 years ago, or Montreal from 15. Get serious.

Posted by: b at October 10, 2007 11:55 AM

I haven't seen kids playing pick-up baseball in decades. Everybody in my office bets on football. Baseball is merely omnipresent, like domesticated dogs and STD's, but to say the country is baseball-crazy is an overstatement.

Baseball in our kabuki, a cultural remnant we value, it reminds us of our idealized bucolic heritage.

Think of it: to actually play baseball you need folks willing to have more than one kid per family and you need space -- two resources in short supply in most of our large population centers.

Baseball can only exist today because of the Latin American ballplayers who possess the polished skills that most college ballplayers never developed during their video-gaming childhoods. If you check the skill level of the D-1 baseball programs outside of the top 30 schools, you will find astonishingly bad baseball.

Posted by: Palmcroft at October 10, 2007 11:59 AM

Maybe you should get out more. This summer, there were kids out in our street a lot of times. They were throwing this ball and swinging a bat. Maybe it was cricket, but I doubt it.

And last time I checked the College World Series, the skills looked plenty polished.

Posted by: Casey Abell at October 10, 2007 12:34 PM

Of course, Red Sox Nation is different anyway, but not only does everyone in the region greet each other by talking about the Sox, we have no youth football programs, only baseball, soccer, lacrosse and hockey. The Pats are the best team in football and very much an afterthought.

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2007 3:38 PM

No one went to see those great Expos teams. We used to drive up from here because tickets were so good and cheap. Ownership failed because they managed their product poorly, not because they didn't have money, which was an effect, not the cause.

The As were good because they didn't waste money on players headed into the tank, like Mulder, Tejada, Giambi, etc. Had they followed your SpendMoneyBall logic they'd have sucked.

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2007 3:43 PM

I'm curious about what color the sky is in your world. The one where signing JD Drew was a genius move that all the other clubs in baseball wish they were smart enough to do, I mean...

Posted by: b at October 10, 2007 6:06 PM

Genius? It was common sense. They got an .800 OPS outfielder who can play RF at Fenway at market rate for a few years. They needed one. He's a piece of the puzzle, but not an important one. If they could get a similar catcher it would be a good deal. Good management isn't genius.

Posted by: oj at October 10, 2007 8:28 PM


Okay, I admit that your team is an exception. I would go to games if the team was at least moderately competitive and managed to fill more than 25% of a cavernous ballpack.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at October 11, 2007 12:18 AM