MLB Owners Are Pocketing Your Cash (And You Should Be Pissed)

Baseball is a business.

There, got that out of the way to prove that I do understand that fact. Whenever I talk baseball revenue people always throw that at me as if it’s an easily forgotten piece of information. Of course the owners’ objective is to make money. This is ultimately why baseball, and all other forms of professional entertainment, exist.

That said, sports are a little different than your average business. There is a commitment required of the customer (fans) that doesn’t exist in other businesses. If you go to a restaurant and repeatedly get bad food and/or service are you going to keep going back out of some sense of loyalty? Doubt it.

Yet fans are sold on the idea that they belong to something bigger than “just a game.” You’re a part of a “Nation” (Cardinals Nation, for example) or a “Family.” It’s considered a source of pride to belong to this kind of group and owners of professional sports teams use that and milk it for all it’s worth.

And that’s fine with me. No problem…in most circumstances.

When it’s done earnestly and honestly, where there is a sincere effort to deliver the quality of product that is promised to the customer, then all is well. When that passion is exploited, when owners (or whole leagues) are insincere and underhanded then fans should be hacked off.

Right now baseball fans should be hacked off.

MLB owners are pocketing your money.

They’re not spending on Major League talent, they’re not allowed to spend more than their assigned pools in the draft or international free agency and they’re certainly not paying for their own damn stadiums in most cases. Heck, even when they are footing the bill they’re getting huge tax breaks.

They’ve simply taken the money you’ve provided through your ticket purchases and through your television viewing habits and they have placed it in their pockets. A full third of the league is not even trying to win. They’re in full tank mode. That means they’re not spending on Major League talent to provide a quality product to the customer…they’re just selling the dream of what “might be” at some future date, they’re selling you on prospects that will wash out far more often than they’ll become star players.

As mentioned above, these teams can’t do what they were able to do just a couple of years ago. When there were no international spending limits in the amateur free agent game a team that was tanking, a team not spending on their Major League payroll, could throw money around in this way. Instead of spending on free agents the White Sox spent $26 million to land teenage Cuban star Luis Robert. Before that it was the Red Sox spending $31.5 million to land Yoan Moncada.

Under the current collective bargaining agreement teams receive between $4.75-5.75 million each to spend on international free agents each year. Not per player. Total. In other words, it would take the combined pool money from 5 different teams to reach the $26 million the White Sox spent on Robert. Plus, teams are not required to spend this money. Most do but they are not required to. In fact, teams can trade some of this pool money to other teams if they want.

MLB draft pools are similarly capped, though there is a larger variation based on how high a team picks in each round and how many extra picks they received as compensation/competitive balance picks.

Still, this money is limited. Teams cannot go over their limits. The cost is capped…but they can go UNDER their limits if they so choose.

So what’s my point?

Well, Major League Baseball teams are currently set to pay Major League players $871.7 million less than they did LAST YEAR.

(NOTE: all payroll numbers in this piece are from Spotrac.com and I am using “Total Payroll” because it includes deferred money, dead money, etc.)

That is a 19% drop in Major League player salaries in one calendar year. Sure, there are some big name free agents out there who will still sign for good money. We won’t know the exact decrease for some time but I think we can safely assume that the remaining free agents on the market will not have their 2018 salaries add up to even $100 million. So even if the were to reach $100 million that’s still a savings of 3/4 of a BILLION dollars for owners.

And that’s money that goes directly into their pockets.

Your money goes directly into their pockets.

Think about that for a minute. 30 Major League owners have given themselves an average raise of $29 million courtesy of you, the paying customer. In case you’re curios about the Cardinals, their payroll is “only” down about $8.4 million (5.5%) right now compared to 2017. So they are definitely not one of baseball’s worst offenders here.

Now, keep in mind that’s on top of the $50+ check each team has received from the sale of a majority share of BAMTech (a piece of MLB Advanced Media, the sport’s technological arm) to Disney.

They’re pocketing an average of $79 million extra PER TEAM this year (some will pocket more, some less obviously).

Last year they average MLB payroll was $155 million.

Right now it’s $126 million.

Last year there were four teams with a payroll above $200 million (Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays).

Right now there is one (Red Sox).

Last year there were ten teams with a payroll above $180 million (Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Tigers, Giants, Nationals, Rangers, Orioles, Cubs).

Right now there are two (Red Sox, Giants).

Players are rightfully angry. They used to make around 50% of MLB’s total revenue and now it’s down to around 40%.

But honestly, do you really care about that? I’m sure most of you don’t and that’s fine.

What you should care about – what SHOULD piss you off – is that you’re paying the same prices and getting a crappier product.

The owners aren’t dropping ticket prices. They’re just spending less on players, grabbing your cash and putting it in their own bank account.

There will be 10-12 teams this season that aren’t even trying to win. Baseball’s paying customer will see a TON of meaningless games this season. There are always bad teams, that much we can all agree on, but rarely is 1/3 of the league completely non-competitive…on purpose.

We sports fans get angry about a whole lot of really stupid things on a regular basis so why aren’t more baseball fans enraged by this?

Baseball has eight billionaire owners and the rest all need eight figures to calculate their personal net worth and they are RIPPING YOU OFF.

Yet you don’t seem to care.

Someone needs to explain that to me.

Super rich old men are taking your money, giving you an inferior product to watch compared to just a year ago and it seems the average baseball fan would rather whine about pace of play initiatives or the Spring Training performances of their favorite players.

Time to wake up, gang.

Time for the customer to speak up and demand the quality of product that they’re paying for.

You’re paying the price for filet mignon and you’re being served a cheeseburger.

More: Forget Rule Changes. MLB Needs to Incentivize Winning and Penalize Tanking.