UPDATE: According to the Houston Chronicle, the Astros have issued the following statement denying the report from Forbes about the team’s record profit:
As MLB will confirm, the information reported in the Forbes article relating to the Astros’ revenues, the Astros’ media rights fee from CSN Houston, and CSN Houston’s per subscriber rate are all significantly inaccurate. As a result, the conclusion about the Astros’ operational profit is significantly inaccurate.
The Astros will continue to operate the team in a fiscally responsible manner that will make the City of Houston proud. We are very excited about our accomplishments and we remain steadfast in our commitment to this rebuilding process. We have established a basis of young talent on our MLB roster that will continue to improve. And our minor league system is now one of the best in MLB. As our young prospects develop, we will move them up to the Major League roster and increase our payroll to a level that will allow the Astros to compete for World Championships. The success of CSN Houston is a vital piece of that process and we continue to work toward establishing full distribution.
3:30 p.m. ET: Get a big TV contract while you’re slashing payroll in a monster rebuild that is past the “ugh, we can’t look” stage and into the “hey, moral victories are great!” stage and you’re gonna be profitable. But this is kinda nuts. From Forbes:
The Astros are on pace to rake in an estimated $99 million in operating income this season. That is nearly as much as the estimated operating income of the previous six World Series championship teams — combined.
I imagine some people will have a problem with this, arguing that Houston should up its payroll more, but really, I’m not sure why they should. They’re not a couple of highly-priced players away from contention. Why throw $20-30 million in the toilet unless it will do something meaningful on the field? They’re going to finish 30-40 games out of first place. Should they try to finish 20 games out? Will that really make fans any happier? Indeed, given the kinds of players that money would likely bring in — veterans who have used up their last chances to play for a winner — it would probably be more depressing than what the Astros have now. At least young unknowns can serve as a canvass on which fans can paint their hopes and dreams, even if that kind of painting tends to be somewhat unrealistic.
The Astros wouldn’t have such a low payroll now if their previous ownership hadn’t put off the hard work of rebuilding for so long. But this is where they are. If they are still cutting payroll and raking in profits when some additional expenditures could reasonably mean the difference between being in or out of the playoffs, fine, let’s go after them then.
Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:
The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.
The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.
I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.
In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.
The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.
The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.
Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.