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 âDeadspin docsâ (entry with Pirates, Rays, Marlins, and Angels plus a second entry for the Mariners).
But, as I began to go over them (hereâs 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...
âThe teamsâŚ Thereâs three low revenue makers that have received millions in revenue-sharingâŚ But, what of the Mariners and Angels (and, one more yet to be released team)?â
âLook at the bottom lineâŚ Yes, all were profitable, with one year for the Mariners an exceptionâŚ. Is the message that revenue-sharing is a form of welfare?â
âIs it that when you look at the Marlins, Pirates, and Rays, there actually is evidence that they are pouring money into player development?â
âIs it someone at league headquarters that simply had access to these docs, and wasnât selective about it?â
âIs it someone at league headquarters that wishes to supply ammo to the high-revenue making clubs?â
âIs it someone in the MLBPA?â
âIs it someone in an accounting firm that goes over the financials?â
âIs it because collective bargaining begins just after the World Series?â
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? âNo,â I said. âLook at all the other clubs whose info was released the following day. It wasnât an inside job by someone with a club.â
No, this one goes deeper. Itâs someone â a member of a rare few â 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 yesterdayâs press release speaks volumes.
The Marlins, who already were taken behind the woodshed for being in violaâŚ I mean, for agreeing to go along with the Commissionerâs 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, Â angrily called the leaker a âcriminalâ 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, âWhy hasn't baseball considered restricting the ability of owners who benefit from revenue sharing from taking profits?â
Itâs a great question.
Hereâs 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. Youâre not saying, âDiscontinue revenue-sharingâ, youâre saying, âYou only get as much as you need and not a cent more. Want to make a profit? Earn it.â
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 Commissionerâs 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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