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The most valuable and most profitable teams in baseball are named/guessed at

Mar 27, 2014, 5:04 PM EDT

Money Bag

The annual Forbes franchise valuation article is out and, not surprisingly, the Yankees are considered the most valuable baseball team. They’re worth $2.5 billion, to be inexact. And, yes, while Forbes takes maybe the boldest stab at such things each year, pegging how much money closely-held businesses — many of them family businesses — which notoriously hide the ball as to financial matters make or lose this exercise is an inexact science.

With that caveat in mind, guess the most profitable. Give up? It’s the Cardinals, who an operating income of $65.2 million. I wouldn’t have guessed that given their market size and not-so-great TV deal, but there you go. More surprising: the Astros were second at $55.9 million. Which tells you what a low payroll will do for you. Indeed, going up and down the list of operating income and you see all manner of surprising things, actually. But then you have to remember that team owners do things like create management companies consisting of the owners and their families as a means of taking untold amounts of money from the club and putting it in their pockets, and you realize that these guys can make the numbers do anything they’d like.

Still, fun stuff. A nice snapshot, but not much more. There just isn’t enough data out there for anyone to check these numbers and the only people in a position to correct them — the owners themselves — wouldn’t dare reveal what they really make or lose.

  1. yankeesfanlen - Mar 27, 2014 at 5:23 PM

    Nice work, Universe accountants! Put those numbers is and make sure nothing comes out.
    P.S. Add $1 to beer prices and $5 more for parking this year.

    • spudchukar - Mar 27, 2014 at 5:54 PM

      Yeah, call me a skeptic, but something tells me the Yanks didn’t lose any money in 2013, even with the reduced attendance.

      • stex52 - Mar 28, 2014 at 8:15 AM

        Nobody’s losing money. The books are loaded with legal revenue transfers and tax dodges. One example: player costs have historically been amortized as declining value assets. No sympathy for the poor owners is necessary.

      • spudchukar - Mar 28, 2014 at 9:21 AM

        As far as I know in recent times no MLB team has ever lost money, and I know for sure that no MLB team has ever folded due to unprofitability.

  2. righthandofjustice - Mar 27, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    Ironically the two most valuable teams, the Yankees and the Dodgers, are the least and 4th least profitable teams, losing more than $9 million and $80 million last year respectively.

  3. gibbyfan - Mar 27, 2014 at 7:03 PM

    I’m not sure I see reflected in teh revenues those mega cable deals the Dodgers and Angels allegedly got.

  4. perryt200 - Mar 27, 2014 at 7:09 PM

    Be in the World Series and still make money? THAT is the Cardinal Way.

  5. hep3 - Mar 27, 2014 at 7:39 PM

    The only place Frank McCourt lost money was on the balance sheet.

  6. forsch31 - Mar 27, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    According the Forbes article, the Yankees are also one of 11 teams with negative operating income.

    With the Cardinals, it’s not too surprising, given the support they have and the fact they’re very open about operating on a tight budget. The chart at Forbes also lists annual revenue, which the Yankees lead with $481 million; the Cardinals are at no. 5 with $283 million. St. Louis has issues with television market size (which will probably prevent them from getting a gigantic tv deal like Anaheim did), but they have a ton of gate support with a ballpark they own more or less completely.

    Craig only linked to the chart (and then proceeded to undercut it), but the article itself is worth reading:

    “MLB’s average operating income (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) fell 26% in 2013 to $9.7 million per team, from $13.1 million the previous year. But that is nothing to be alarmed about. Remember: the name of the game is to upload as much revenue as possible to the team’s holding company and download as much expenses as possible from the parent company to the team. Moreover, baseball’s new national television deals with Fox, TBS and ESPN, which begin this season, are worth a combined $1.55 billion a year–twice as much as the previous deals.

    The players are also cashing in on baseball’s gusher of television money. On opening day, the average salary is projected to be between $3.95 million and $4 million, with the final figure depending on how many players are put on the disabled list by the time opening-day rosters are finalized at 3 p.m. Sunday. That translates to a rise of 8% to 10% from last year’s opening average of $3.65 million, and would be the largest increase since 2006, or possibly even 2001.”

  7. cincinata - Mar 29, 2014 at 5:29 PM

    Hey, Craig. When you talk about market size, we have a smaller one here in Cinti. Also, places like Pgh and KC are even smaller. And while your at it, the Brewers are small and have to compete with the giant to the south. It is mostly a function of “fan support” which is on the wain in several small to mid size teams. We had a large following here twenty to thirty years ago, but started losing. Now with the prices of everything going up, there is less chance we out in the stix are going to compete. However, the teams are making money, just some more than others.

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