It's good, great, grand, wonderful to be a baseball owner

It's good, great, grand, wonderful to be a baseball owner
March 27, 2013, 11:00 am
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The A's are valued at $468 million dollars, $147 million more than they were valued at last year, an MLB-high 46 percent jump. (AP)

It’s Ownership Christmas again, and this time the celebrants are the 30 folks who own Major League Baseball.

Forbes, the media outlet that reminds you how much money you will never ever have, put out its annual franchise valuations, and in a shocking development to those people who hate baseball, everyone got a bump. Even the hideous Miami Marlins.

For you locals, substitute the Oakland Athletics.

This is emblematic of the new mega-TV deals that are all the rage in Los Angeles, excellent investment management and the spectacular rise of MLBAM, its digital arm. MLB has been first and best at corralling the Internet, and the 30 partners share in that windfall.

In addition, the sales of the Los Angeles Dodgers and before them the Houston Astros were for more than anyone in their right mind thought the properties would fetch, and a rising tide . . . yeah yeah, blahblahblah.

The A’s benefit from all this simply by continuing to exist. Not because of their $30-plus million in revenue sharing, and not because the illusion of the rumor of the unicorn of San Jose. San Jose is nothing until it becomes something, and if/when it does, the A’s will be worth more than the $468M at which Forbes valued them.

That’s $147 million more than they were valued at last year, an MLB-high 46 percent jump, and $288 million more than the announced sale price when John Fisher and Lew Wolff bought them in 2005.

Nice return on investment, that.

The Giants with their chintzy and redundant World Series went up a paltry 22 percent to $786 million, from $643M a year ago, and $303M more than 2010, before they won the shiny thing the first time.

But as we said, it takes a heap o’drinkin’ to lose money at baseball these days. The worst gain was nine percent by the Los Angeles Angels of Moreno Valley, and the most pathetic teams in terms of attendance, Houston, Cleveland and Tampa Bay, rose by 14, 36 and 40 percent, respectively. The Hideous Marlins (their new name for marketing reasons) went up 16 percent despite allegedly losing $7.1 million (before amortization, depreciation, subsidies and other miscellaneous tax thingies).

The lesson? Gate receipts are just tip money now.

The greater lesson? One we should have already understood long ago. Teams are lying when they say they cannot afford to do something. What they should say is, “We choose not to,” and then you can fulminate to your hearts’ content. Charlie Johnson, the Giants’ 80-year-old uber-boss and the Resources in Franklin Resources, is the second richest owner in the game, with an estimated worth of $5.7B. John Fisher, heir to The Gap fortune and the scales and gills of the family’s investment group, Pisces Inc., comes in fifth at $2.2B.

In other words, hurray for people who never speak publicly and are seen only rarely! It’s a good thing to be rich and invisible.

The greatest lesson, though? Baseball isn’t dying at all. Not even close to it. Being an owner is a sweet gig, if you don’t mind having to hang around (oog) with other owners. You can bark about football or MMA or all the other cool stuff the kids are into, but baseball is the gift that keeps on giving.

Well, giving to the owners, anyway. After all, what else is Christmas for?

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