mlbtv

Lots of people want to buy in to MLBAM, but the owners aren’t selling

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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.

Murray Chass rightfully nails Major League Baseball on minority hiring

Rob Manfred
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When Murray Chass lays off his vendettas against the people he feels have wronged him, he’s still capable of making some sharp points. Particularly when he’s working in his old bailiwick of the business of baseball.

On Sunday he wrote a blog post about minority hiring in baseball. As in, the nearly complete lack of it, at least in front offices:

Manfred has talked a better job on minority hiring than he has performed. He has created a pipeline program through which members of minorities are supposed to be able to advance into major league front office positions. However, no role models seem to exist as inspiration for younger employees.

In Manfred’s 20 months as commissioner, clubs have hired or promoted 19 high-ranking executives. Eighteen of the 19 are white males. The lone minority is Al Avila, the Tigers’ general manager.

Chass reports that Rob Manfred and, in the past, Bud Selig have leaned on clubs to hire friends or trusted lieutenants but claim they have no power to tell clubs who to hire when it comes to minorities. It’s pretty dang good point.

Moving beyond Chass’ points, it’s worth observing that one way baseball could better populate the executive ranks would be to hire more minorities in entry-level positions. What a better way to become a friend and crony than to have, you know, been there a long time? The game has had a horrible track record in doing this, however, for one simple reason: it pays crap wages for all but the highest of executive positions, pushing away candidates for whom money is, in fact, an object to pursuing a dream in baseball which, by demographic necessity, favors the rich and thus favors whites. Earlier this year MLB launched a pipeline program aimed at getting more minority candidates into entry level MLB jobs. That’s a good start to addressing the problem, but it’s going to take years for that to bear fruit, assuming it ever does.

Back in June Kate Morrison and Russell A. Carleton of Baseball Prospectus wrote a four-part series regarding this very issue, and it’s well worth your time. Among the points made is one that, given his vendettas, Chass surprisingly didn’t make himself: sabermetrics is partially to blame! Go read Kate and Russell’s work on that, but the short version: front offices want MBA/STEM types now, not people with athletic backgrounds. People with those degrees have expensive educations and, in turn, cannot afford to take pennies to work in baseball when they can make far more in other industries, thereby continuing to favor the rich and the white.

I don’t think Rob Manfred or Bud Selig before him or the people who run major league baseball teams are bigots. I don’t think that baseball, as a whole, wants to keep minorities out of top jobs. Chass doesn’t make such a claim either and he, like I, noted the pipeline program.

But baseball is a business rife with cronyism and nepotism which leads those in power to hire friends and relatives, thereby keeping the executive class overwhelmingly male and white. Baseball has shown that, when it wants to, it can lean on teams to make certain hiring choices. Will it do the same to push for greater minority representation in management ranks? Or will it continue to throw up its hands up and say “hey, that’s on the clubs?”

Tim Tebow hits a homer in his first instructional league at bat

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets hits a home run at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Because of course he did.

It wasn’t just his first at bat, but it was his first pitch. It came off of John Kilichowski, an 11th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals out of Vanderbilt.  The ball went out to left center, off the bat of the lefty Tebow.

Next time, meat, throw him a breaking ball.