Remember: never believe a thing a team says about its finances

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Dan Le Batard has a takedown of the Marlins which pretty much squares with my view of things too.  This passage piqued my interest, however:

The Marlins last offseason were like a gluttonous fat man at the all-you-can-eat buffet, stacking the plate with his eyes and appetite without regard to practicality or the oncoming food coma. The team overspent assuming we’d fill the ballpark, which we didn’t, and that meant losing about $40 million in that calamity of a season. Even though management didn’t have to serial-killer slash the payroll, there were going to have to be cuts, so the team decided to take a wrecking ball to the blueprint and just start again.

I’m not sure what the source is for that $40 million loss, but it is worth remembering as we enter free agent season that a baseball team’s claims of profit and/or loss are almost always pure science fiction when compared to the numbers that are reported for most other types of businesses.

Baseball accounting is profoundly opaque, and the only glimpses we ever see into the finances of a baseball team are either wither accidental or are partial-truths released by the team in order to further some specific end such as either proving or disputing that the owners are broke, depending on whichever story suits their purposes at the time.  And even then, we almost never get much above the bottom line number (Team X lost $Y last year). A number which tells us nothing about how much the ownership group extracted from the team above the line.

For example, we’ve learned in the last year that Jeff Loria at one time and may still pay himself an annual salary of some $10 million. And that there is a team “managing general partner” called Double Play Company which takes $8.5 million more. Oh, Double Play Company is owned by Loria and its president is Marlins team president David Samson.  Do other teams have that kind of setup? Don’t know! Because no one ever gets to see the finances of baseball teams! Indeed, teams and the league go to great lengths to avoid ever having to release their finances to the public, be it under pressure from politicians, in the course of litigation or anything else. They DO NOT want you to see the books, folks.

So call me crazy or call me paranoid, but I will never take a team’s statement about its profits or losses unless and until they show me the books to prove it. And that goes for the $40 million-losing Marlins too.

The Nats are sniffing around for relief pitching help

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The Nationals began the year with Blake Treinen as their closer. That didn’t last long, and now Koda Glover seems to be Dusty Baker’s man in the ninth inning. He earned a save for the second consecutive game yesterday. Glover has been pretty darn good in the early going, posting a 2.35 ERA and striking out six batters and walking only one in seven and two-thirds. That obviously a small sample size, and anything can happen. If it does, Baker has Shawn Kelley as an option.

Not many household names there, which is probably why the Nationals are reported to be interested in the White Sox’ David Robertson and Alex Colome of the Rays. That report comes from Jim Bowden of ESPN, who also notes that the A’s have a number of guys with closing experience on staff and are likely to be sellers too. The David Robertson thing may have more legs, though, given that Mike Rizzo and Rick Hahn pulled off a pretty major trade in the offseason. If you know a guy well, you call that guy first, right?

As far as problems go this isn’t a huge one. The Nats sit at 13-5 and, as expected by most prognosticators, are in first place in the National League East. The Cubs had some questions in the pen this time last year too. They had the luxury of trying to figure it out before making a massive trade for a closer. The Nats do too, and likely will. But expect them to be a part of any trade rumor conversation for the next couple of months.

 

The big flaw in modern ballparks

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Travis Sawchik writes about the post-Camden Yards generation of ballparks over at FanGraphs. The ones everyone loves because they’re nice and clean and friendly and are full of amenities. And that’s true! They are nice! But they all have a huge flaw: unless you’re in expensive seats, you’re too far away from the action.

Sawchik uses cross sections of ballparks — available at Andrew Clem’s website — to show that fans sitting in the upper decks of ballparks are way higher and way farther back than they used to be at many old ballparks such as Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Old Comiskey, Tiger Stadium and Ebbets Field.

A lot of this has to do with an admirable impulse: to eliminate the beams which obstructed the view of many seats in those old parks. If you want to move that upper deck closer to the field, you have to have the beams because one can only achieve so much via cantilever effect. But that’s not the only impulse and probably not the primary one. More expansive lower bowls — which feature more expensive tickets — push the upper deck back and up. As do the luxury suites and club level amenities in between the lower and upper decks. Exacerbating this is the fact that most newer parks are built on vast tracts of land with few architectural constraints. If you can sprawl, you will, which leaves the most affordable seats in the land of binoculars.

I don’t agree with everything Sawchik writes here. He spends a lot of time talking about how much better neighborhood parks like Wrigley Field are and how it’d be better if newer parks were built in neighborhoods. I agree, neighborhood parks are ideal, but the fact is, most places don’t have mass transit like Chicago does. In most cities you have to have a place for 40,000 people to park.

That’s a quibble, though. Mostly, it’s a good look at an important thing most folks overlook when they praise the new parks. Important because, if you don’t have an enjoyable experience at the ballpark, you’re not likely to come back. And if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to buy expensive tickets, you may not have a great experience at the ballpark.