Major League Baseball Advanced Media — the baseball subsidiary behind MLB.com. MLB.tv and a lot of stuff about which you have no idea — is a gold mine. It, more than anything, has been responsible for the sharp increase in baseball revenues in recent years. And as an added bonus, the company just gets stuff right. I can watch a Mariners-A’s game on a Tuesday night in Ohio if I want to, and I can do so relatively cheaply. And it works. As does most of the stuff they do. Viva MLBAM.
But when you get a money-making enterprise that folks like, other folks will want to invest in it. And as Business Insider reported the other day, lots of private equity groups want to invest in MLBAM. But baseball is rejecting these overtures, preferring to forgo the instant liquidity in favor of keeping it the league and the owners’ very own private thing. BI has some possible explanations for this:
A source close to the talks tells us the company gets “call a day” from private equity firms, but that the company isn’t looking to sell a stake for a few reasons:
- It’s already loaded with cash.
- Owners are already getting a huge dividend.
- Selling a billion dollar stake in MLBAM any time soon would make it very hard for owners to argue that they’re broke in upcoming labor negotiations with players.
- Selling a stake could further complicate the ownership stake and perhaps even force a dreaded shotgun IPO.
Those are all very plausible reasons. I’ll add another one: The books of major league baseball owners are a thicket of self-dealing and chaos, and there’s no way in hell they want to open them up to anyone they don’t have to lest people see just how ugly they really are. If you doubt this, just recall the fun stuff we saw when Frank McCourt and Tom Hicks were forced to open their books in litigation. Or when Deadspin reported on a bunch of leaked financials from the Pirates, Marlins and other teams.
It’s less the case than it used to be, but in a lot of ways baseball teams are multi-million dollar businesses being run like a small town auto dealership. They make money to beat the band, but they’re not about to share that with the Wall Street crowd.
In a recent interview with Jon Greenberg of The Athletic, White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier took a swipe at the Reds’ front office. The rebuilding Reds traded Frazier to the White Sox as part of a three-team deal this past December.
After the season, Frazier will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility. Frazier told Greenberg he’d like to stay with the White Sox. He praised the club’s ownership and then, unprompted, he decided to castigate the Reds’ front office.
I would love to stay here. It’s a great club, great ownership. It was very different in Cincinnati, it wasn’t good. The bottom line here is these guys know what they’re doing. I see the guys [Hahn] gets, he’s not afraid to pull the trigger. You’ve got to have a guy like that. Whether it turns out to be for the best or not, you take a chance sometimes, and I think he’s done that a lot. It’s up to Jerry [Reinsdorf, owner] and Rick [Hahn, VP/GM] and their team to figure out what they want to do and it’s up to them.
It’s not clear if there are specific incidences to which Frazier could be alluding, but it’s a very obvious piece of criticism.
Frazier, 30, has regressed a bit offensively compared to the previous two seasons, batting .213/.295/.448 with 32 home runs and 81 RBI in 532 plate appearances. The White Sox could pursue trading him during the offseason.
Update (7:20 PM EDT): John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group reports that Crisp has indeed been traded, but there won’t be an official announcement until Wednesday. Crisp has already left the Athletics’ clubhouse.
Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that the Athletics and Indians are making progress on a trade that would send outfielder Coco Crisp to Cleveland. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports confirms Adams’ report. Crisp, who has 10-and-5 rights, has waived them in order to facilitate a deal.
Crisp, 36, is owed the remainder of his $11 million salary for the 2016 season and has a $13 million option for the 2017 season that vests if he reaches 550 plate appearances or plays in 130 games this season. He has already played in 102 games and logged 434 PA, batting .234/.299/.399 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI.
The Indians are still looking to bolster the outfield. Michael Brantley is expected to miss the rest of the season, Bradley Zimmer may not yet be ready for the majors, and Abraham Almonte is not eligible to play in the postseason after testing positive for boldenone in February.