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Forbes: The average MLB team is worth $1.54 billion

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Forbes has released its annual team valuation list. Surprise: the Yankees are the most valuable team at $3.7 billion, followed by the Dodgers ($2.75 billion) and Red Sox ($2.7 billion). One very interesting finding, per Mike Ozanian of Forbes, is that the average MLB team is worth $1.54 billion, an increase of 19 percent from one year ago. As Ozanian explains, it has a lot to do with local TV deals.

Nick Stellini of FanGraphs made this observation, however:

You may recall the various news items we wrote about here last year pertaining to the fight for minor leaguers to make a living wage. Last summer, Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL) introduced H.R. 5580, also known as “Save America’s Pastime Act,” which sought to amend language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In short, the bill wanted to reclassify minor league players as a “short-term seasonal apprenticeship” — to use commissioner Rob Manfred’s exact words — so that they weren’t protected under the law.

This has been an ongoing battle, though it reached prominence in 2014 when minor leaguers Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto, and Oliver Odle filed a lawsuit against MLB alleging that minor leaguers are underpaid and exploited. The trio has hit some bumps in the road in their legal quest, but had their case recertified as class action last month.

Just how little do many minor leaguers make? Tony Blengino, a former front office executive with the Brewers and Mariners, wrote for ESPN last year that “a first-year pro can expect to make barely more than $1,000 a month in wages.” Attorney Michael McCann wrote for Sports Illustrated in 2014 that “most [minor leaguers] earn between $3,000 and $7,500 for a five-month season.” He added, “Many minor league players earn less than the federal poverty level, which is $11,490 for a single person and $23,550 for a family of four.”

Last summer, Crashburn Alley’s Adam Dembowitz did some back-of-the-envelope math, approximating what it might cost the league to properly pay its players:

With Major League Baseball having seen significant growth, that percentage is even smaller using today’s numbers. You can even reduce the hypothetical $50,000 salary for minor leaguers if you feel like it’s too much (it’s not), significantly cutting down on the figure. The above figure comes out to an average salary cost of $1.25 million per minor league team. With about eight minor league teams per organization, that comes out to $10 million. Per Forbes, MLB teams posted an average operating income of $34 million.

Even beyond the math, it makes sense for major league teams to foster a healthy lifestyle for its players. Last year, the Phillies became the first team to make a significant investment (about $1 million), making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. Catcher J.P. Arencibia, who was in the Phillies’ system last year, said, “Food is an integral part of everything you do. They’re going to pay millions of dollars for players and then have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?”

Assistant GM Ned Rice said, “We want them to not have to worry about anything other than baseball. When they’re playing for the Phillies, they’ll have that stuff taken care of for them.”

Teams should follow the Phillies’ lead not just when it comes to diet and nutrition, but in other aspects of their players’ lives. Paying them a living wage will reduce their stress, allowing them to concentrate fully on baseball rather than making sure the electric stays on in the winter. It will allow them to spend the offseason focusing on maintaining a good workout regimen, rather than taking an offseason job in manual labor that can potentially result in a career-ending injury. It will allow players to afford a reliable car, rather than driving a 20-year-old beat-up car that can break down on the highway at any second. It will allow players to afford their own housing, rather than cramming in with six other players in a three-bedroom apartment. They’ll sleep better. Even sleep is something some teams are just now realizing is important.

Congratulations, Major League Baseball, on continuing to make money hand over fist. Now pay your minor leaguers.

Rob Manfred says Tampa Bay must pick up pace on new stadium

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants Tampa Bay to work a little quicker on getting the Rays a new ballpark.

Rays Principal Owner Stuart Sternberg has been working for nearly a decade to get a new stadium for the club and signed a three-year agreement with the City of St. Petersburg early in 2016 to search for a site in the Tampa Bay area. Manfred wants that search to pick up some steam.

“I think it’s fair to say we want the process to take on a better pace moving forward,” Manfred said Wednesday night at Tropicana Field, home of the Rays since their first season in 1998.

The Rays were averaging 15,815 fans per game before Wednesday night’s contest against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is just over half the major league average of 30,470. Tropicana Field and its location have been almost universally blamed as the reason for the poor attendance.

“I’ve been pretty clear that they need a new facility here, a major league quality facility in an A-plus location,” Manfred said. “It is time to move that decision to the front burner here in Tampa.”

The matter of how a stadium would be financed has been tabled until a site is determined, but Sternberg continued to express confidence in the Tampa Bay market.

“I’ve had the opportunity to bail on it many times over the years,” he said. “I won’t say this is a slam dunk, it’s certainly not. But I think we can do something that’ll at least double our attendance. That’s a lot to ask for.”

Manfred said Major League Baseball “doesn’t have a firm timetable” for what steps to take if the Rays fail to get an agreement to build a new stadium in the Tampa Bay area, but but added that “it is a topic of discussion in the industry, the lack of progress.”

More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

Robinson Cano leaves game with hamstring tightness

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Bad news for the Mariners this evening: Robinson Cano left Seattle’s game against the Atlanta Braves with tightness in his left hamstring.

Cano walked off the field after legging out a double — his second of the game — in the third inning. He pulled up as he approached second base and walked off the field, accompanied by a trainer. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Mariners have a day off Thursday before opening a series at the Yankees on Friday night, so they have some time to evaluate him.

Cano is hitting .277/.377/.460 with 19 homers and 78 RBI on the year.