Taking Attendance

Maybe not.  We’re only looking at April, and April is traditionally a bad month for baseball attendance. If we like, we can blame April weather for the Yankees’ relatively poor attendance. New York received 5.35 inches of rain this April … that’s only 25% above normal, but it was enough to produce two home rainouts. But the weather for the last homestand (against the White Sox and Blue Jays) was a lot better – temperatures were above normal for each of the last 6 home games played in April – yet attendance did not improve during this period. Five of these six home games saw attendance drop below the 41,000 mark I discussed above.

The Yankees’ poor April attendance matters more than usual, because the Yanks’ 2011 schedule is “front loaded”: more home games are scheduled earlier in the year than is normal.  While the 2011 season is young, the April attendance decline has affected a relatively high percentage (about 22%) of the Yankees’ 2011 home schedule.  … Click here to read the rest

Unwritten Rules

Naturally enough, the Cubs were “incensed” by this breach of the unwritten rules. Cubs manager Mike Quade brought up the incident at the post-game news conference. One Cubs player told ESPNChicago.com that “things like that are always remembered down the road.” (In this case, the remembrance will probably take the form of a Cubs fastball aimed between the shoulder blades of a Dodger batter.) In his defense, Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly claimed that the team meant “no disrespect”, that his third base coach had missed a sign, and that the team did not intend to have its catcher trying to steal bases. But Mattingly also pointed out that the Dodgers had given up eight runs in the ninth inning of a recent loss to the Braves, that runs come easily in games played at the Cubs’ Wrigley Field, and that “we are trying to win the game”.

Maybe it’s because I’m not an ex-Major Leaguer, but my favorite unwritten rule is this: you play to win the game.… Click here to read the rest

Baseball Deep In Debt (Part 1: The Scope of the Problem)

It gets worse. Baseball teams are often owned by other business entities, and these owner businesses also carry debt. The Texas Rangers’ bankruptcy was not caused by Texas Rangers’ debt, but by the debt owed by the Rangers’ parent company. It can be a difficult matter to consider what debt to assign to a baseball team that is owned by another business. For example, consider that the Toronto Blue Jays are owned by Rogers Communications, a company with more long-term debt than is owed by all thirty baseball teams combined.  Should we factor in any Rogers Communications corporate debt in determining how much the Jays team should be allowed to borrow?

Still other teams are responsible to repay “off balance sheet” forms of financing – these are obligations that are not treated as “debt” by the accountants, but look a lot like debt to the rest of us.  For example, the Yankees spend over $60 million annually to repay the bonds used to finance the new Yankee Stadium, but these bonds are not counted as “debt” owed by the Yankees.… Click here to read the rest

Selig Takes Control of L.A. Dodgers

Ultimately, it appears that Selig’s goal is to force McCourt to sell the Dodgers. The Dodgers are estimated to be worth anything from $800 million to over $1 billion. But the ability to sell the Dodgers may be complicated by Frank McCourts’ ongoing divorce proceedings with his ex-wife Jaime.  The McCourt divorce court has ruled that Jaime co-owns the team along with Frank.

(For the best coverage of the McCourt follies, the ongoing mismanagement of the Dodgers and the resulting financial crisis surrounding the team, please read our friend Josh Fisher over at the terrific web site Dodger Divorce.)

Both the Dodgers and the Mets have received considerable attention here and elsewhere for the large amounts of debt they have taken on in recent years, apparently in violation of baseball’s rules restricting team debt. But these two teams are not the only ones in deep debt. Tune in tomorrow, where I hope to post a piece on the issue of baseball and borrowed money.… Click here to read the rest

Great Moments In Fandom (Part 2, Philly Fan Redemption)

Seriously.  I am 55 years old, and when I was a boy I was promised that by the time I turned 55 I’d own my own personal robot servant that would wear a tuxedo bow tie and clean my room for me.  I’m a little bitter that this hasn’t come to pass. If the Phillies’ robot is state of the art, then the best I can hope for is a robot that will go to the fridge, grab me a beer, then drop it 30 feet from my barcalounger.  Boo!  Boo!

If I’d been at Citizens Bank Park this afternoon, I would have booed too.  Or maybe not.  The robot couldn’t throw a ball 60 feet 6 inches, but that doesn’t mean the robot didn’t have had laser beams in its hands or eyes that could scan the crowd along with a cell phone to recommend the booing fans for I.R.S. audits.

Don’t be fooled by the benign appearance of this particular robot.… Click here to read the rest

Brien Is Right, Murray Chass IS a Hack

Chass’ latest affont to Brien’s peace of mind appeared last week, where Chass relayed a story told to him by ex-baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent.  According to Vincent, several years ago Vincent had the chance to discuss life with ex-Red Sox GM Lou Gorman, and Gorman told Vincent the following story: (1) after the Red Sox 1986 season, the team offered to sign star pitcher Roger Clemens to a long-term contract at $1 million a year, (2) then-baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth (Vincent’s predecessor as Commissioner) told Gorman that the Red Sox were forbidden to pay Clemens more than $500,000 a year, (3) Gorman was forced to go back on his initial offer to Clemens, leaving Clemens and his agent “crazed”, and (4) Gorman felt that the Red Sox’s failure to go forward with their million dollar deal led to Clemens’ departure from the Red Sox in 1996.

According to Vincent-as-reported-by-Chass, Gorman made Vincent promise not to repeat this story until after Gorman was dead. … Click here to read the rest

Tax Avoidance

Baseball has two programs in place to force its richest teams to share a bit of their wealth.  One program is revenue sharing – teams that earn the highest gross revenues have to share some of those revenues with their poorer brethren.  Every team in baseball either pays or receives revenue sharing money.  The second program is the Competitive Balance Tax, sometimes called the “luxury tax”.  The luxury tax forces teams with large year-end payrolls to pay a “tax” on the amount by which the payroll exceeds an amount specified in baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).  Luxury tax moneys go to player pensions and Bud Selig’s “Industry Growth Fund” – none of this money goes to small-payroll baseball teams.  Most years, it’s only the Yankees that pay luxury taxes.

Here’s an example of how the luxury tax works.  Last year the Yankees had a year-end payroll of a bit more than $215 million, which exceeded the 2010 luxury tax limit by about $45 million.… Click here to read the rest

Divisional Imbalance (Baseball’s 2011 Payrolls, Part 3)

Let’s start our examination with the American League East, a division with universally acknowledged payroll imbalance.

This is part of what payroll imbalance looks like: a couple of teams at the top of the chart, the rest of the teams bunched at the bottom of the chart, and a lot of white space between the top teams and the bottom teams.

To give a better picture of this imbalance, let me introduce another kind of chart: a stacked chart.  A stacked line chart shows a picture of the percentage of total division payroll represented by each team.

In the stacked chart, the Yankees’ payroll is represented as the blue line towards the bottom of the chart.  The Red Sox payroll is the red line above the Yankees’ payroll; the white space between the Yankees line and the Red Sox line represents the size of the Red Sox’s payroll. In similar fashion, the Orioles payroll line is stacked on top of the Red Sox, the Blue Jays on top of the Orioles and the Rays on top of the Jays.… Click here to read the rest