When Tommy Craggs of Deadspin approached me about looking at several MLB club financial documents, to say I was intrigued may have been the understatement of the year. While the Texas Rangers bankruptcy case revealed considerable information, they pale to the Consolidated Statements of Operation that comprise the “Deadspin docs” (entry with Pirates, Rays, Marlins, and Angels plus a second entry for the Mariners).
But, as I began to go over them (here’s my initial analysis), one question above all others kept coming to mind:
One can go crazy trying to find a motive or agenda for such an action...
“The teams… There’s three low revenue makers that have received millions in revenue-sharing… But, what of the Mariners and Angels (and, one more yet to be released team)?”
“Look at the bottom line… Yes, all were profitable, with one year for the Mariners an exception…. Is the message that revenue-sharing is a form of welfare?”
“Is it that when you look at the Marlins, Pirates, and Rays, there actually is evidence that they are pouring money into player development?”
“Is it someone at league headquarters that simply had access to these docs, and wasn’t selective about it?”
“Is it someone at league headquarters that wishes to supply ammo to the high-revenue making clubs?”
“Is it someone in the MLBPA?”
“Is it someone in an accounting firm that goes over the financials?”
“Is it because collective bargaining begins just after the World Series?”
Lots of questions...
I was asked on Monday that, given the fact that the Pirates information was leaked first to The AP whether it was someone inside the organization. Maybe a disgruntled minority owner? “No,” I said. “Look at all the other clubs whose info was released the following day. It wasn’t an inside job by someone with a club.”
No, this one goes deeper. It’s someone – a member of a rare few – that has access to not just one, but many of the financial documents.
Do they have an ax to grind? Seems unlikely. Are they a watchdog? Hmm...
Questions... so many questions.
What is certain is the landscape is now completely different. This is something that transcends MLB. The NFLPA now has a shining example as to exactly why they want access to financial documents.
The Pirates are already jumping all over the leak. The sheer number of words, alone, in yesterday’s press release speaks volumes.
The Marlins, who already were taken behind the woodshed for being in viola… I mean, for agreeing to go along with the Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA in increasing player payroll earlier this year before the season started, had to go so far as to hold a conference call on the matter (The Biz of Baseball was not approached to attend the call). David Samson, the Marlins president, angrily called the leaker a “criminal” and said it was "unbelieveably disppointing that it happened." And, according to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post (via Twitter), Samson said, "MLB will seek legal recourse to find the source who leaked dead.spin docs on teams finances."
Not to go all biblical here, Samson, but the truth shall set you free.
Maybe the motive comes back to that common theme amongst the Deadspin docs: profitability.
I was asked on Twitter, “Why hasn't baseball considered restricting the ability of owners who benefit from revenue sharing from taking profits?”
It’s a great question.
Here’s a suggestion: Clubs can receive revenue-sharing, but if by the end of the year when the books are completed a club is shown to make a profit, those profits would go back to the league as a rebate where they would be funneled back to the payors of the subsidy. In doing so, clubs that need revenue-sharing get what they need, but not a cent more. You’re not saying, “Discontinue revenue-sharing”, you’re saying, “You only get as much as you need and not a cent more. Want to make a profit? Earn it.”
I doubt this suggestion will take hold when collective bargaining sessions begin just a few short weeks after the World Series ends. But, what is certain is that whoever leaked the documents to Deadspin is on the mind of every owner and the executives at Commissioner’s Office and the MLB Players Association.
With them, the same question is being asked:
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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