Team values shoot up an average of 16%

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Forbes has released its annual franchise valuation package. In short: it’s good to own a ballclub:

The average Major League Baseball team rose 16% in value during the past year, to an all-time high of $605 million. In 2011, revenue (net of payments to cover stadium debt) for the league’s 30 teams climbed to an average of $212 million, a 3.4% gain over the previous season.

Obviously some teams do better than others, but that’s pretty healthy growth.  And where is all of that value and dough coming from? Local TV:

Rights fees paid by cable television channels are behind the growth in team values. Aggregate cable television revenue for baseball’s 30 teams has increased to $923 million from $328 million over the past 10 years.

And that’s only going to increase — to as high as $1.5 billion by 2015, Forbes estimates — as new deals for the Angels, Rangers, Astros, Padres and Dodgers kick in.

Driving all of this is your DVR, which has devalued advertising for most programming, but which largely doesn’t impact live sports because people really like to watch live sports live.  That has sent rights fees skyrocketing as Fox, Comcast and others have been willing to pony up big to show content with commercials people will actually watch.  This is almost an almost exclusively local phenomenon too, as national rights have not been up for bid for a while and won’t be until next year.

Which, by the way, is another reason why anyone slamming baseball this fall over its abysmal national ratings and claiming that the sport is in trouble compared to the NFL has no idea what they’re talking about.

Must-Click Link: Remembering Eddie Grant the first major leaguer to die in combat

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As you get ready for Memorial Day weekend and whatever it entails for you and yours, take some time to read an excellent article from Mike Bates over at The Hardball Times.

The article is about Eddie Grant. You probably never heard of him. He was a journeyman infielder — often a backup — from 1905 through 1915. If you have heard of him, it was likely not for his baseball exploits, however: it was because he was the first active baseball player to die in combat, killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest in October 1915.

Michael tells us about more than Grant’s death, however. He provides a great overview of his life and career. And notes that Grant didn’t even have to go to war if he didn’t want to. He was 34, had the chance to coach or manage and had a law degree and the potential to make a lot of money following his baseball career. He volunteered, however, for both patriotic and personal reasons. And it cost him his life.

Must-read stuff indeed. Especially this weekend.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.