UPDATE: Maybe the Rangers-FOX deal is not 20-years, $3 billion

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UPDATE: Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News hears that the Rangers’ deal with
FOX is actually worth $1.5-1.6 billion, not $3 billion
as reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today, but that there are some incentives and escalators and stuff.  Even if it stays flat at $1.5 billion, however, that makes it, on average, a $75 million deal, which is over and above every team’s TV deal with a non-affiliated network of which I’m aware (remember: the Dodgers get $45 million; the Mariners are reported to get around $40 million). So, still a great deal for Texas, even at its lowest.

4:54 PM: I shoulda listened to those killjoys who go on about how things that sound too good to be true likely being too good to be true. A FOX spokesman tells Sports Business Journal that the figures reported by USA Today earlier this afternoon were “wildly inflated.”

Of course, the definition of “wildly inflated” matters here too. If the truth of the matter is that the deal is for, say, $50M a year over 20 years, sure, USA Today was out to lunch and this deal would represent a healthy, but not necessary crazy figure for the Rangers. If, on the other hand the truth is that the deal starts at $50M or $75 million but increases
every year and inflates until it’s still a $3 billion deal, then it’s
still kind of nuts
.  The devil is in the details, as they say.

By they way: I was chatting with Gleeman as this update came down a few minutes ago. He observed that it’s entirely possible that there will be no Rangers games on television at all in 20 years and, in fact, there may be no television. I think he meant that everything could go to some streaming internet or wireless kind of system that renders television as we know it obsolete. It’s possible, however, that he has inside information on an imminent nuclear war or zombie apocalypse.  Which, I don’t need to tell you, would totally be a buzzkill for Rangers baseball.

1:58 P.M.: It’s going to be hilarious when FOX executives realize that the contract they just signed was with the Rangers, not the Cowboys or Vivid Video or something else more marketable than baseball is thought to be:

The Texas Rangers, who clinched their first division title in 11
years over the weekend, just might start making this an annual routine
considering their giant financial windfall.

The Rangers,
cash-strapped for years with owner Tom Hicks, have signed a 20-year
extension with Fox Sports Southwest that will guarantee them $3 billion.

$150 million a year!  To put that in perspective, the Dodgers get about $ 45 million a year from FOX. The Yankees get less than $100 million from YES (though, obviously, they own a big chunk of the network so it’s not apples-apples). I doubt any team currently gets anything like $150 million from a non-affiliated network.

Two questions that immediately spring to mind in light of this deal:

  • Is it any wonder why so many people were willing to jump into protracted litigation to get a piece of this team? and
  • How bad a businessman is Tom Hicks if he couldn’t make the Rangers solvent with that kind of scratch available?

Whatever the case, with this TV deal, the Rangers shouldn’t be lumped in with the mid-market teams going forward. They should be considered a high-dollar player the moment the first check comes in.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.