Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
Associated Press

Disney to give MLB another $1.58 billion for BAMTech. The players will see none of it.

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Last year The Walt Disney Company bought a $1 billion stake in BAMTech, which is the streaming media unit created by Major League Baseball, originally used to power MLB.tv but since spun off into its own company and now used by multiple content providers both inside and outside of sports. That deal gave Disney a 33% share in BAM and put around $33 million into the pocket of every owner in baseball, give or take.

Yesterday Disney upped the ante, announcing that it has agreed to purchase a majority stake in BAMTech, putting its ownership share at 75%. The price for the new shares: $1.58 billion, so there’s another $52 million per owner, again, give or take. Major League Baseball and its owners will retain about 15% of BAMTech, with other minority shareholders making up the rest. Disney, as is its wont, will monetize the living hell out of BAM. It announced yesterday that it is launching its own streaming service, for sports with ESPN-branding on top of the BAMTech platform, and for Disney content, setting them up as a rival for Netflix and Amazon.

That’s big, big news. For our purposes, however, it’s worth noting just how much Major League Baseball and its owners have made off of its technology venture.

In 1995, baseball’s total revenues were about $1.4 billion. That was for everything: gate, merchandise, broadcasting, beer, hot dogs, you name it. In the past 12 months baseball has raked in nearly double that from selling off shares of a side business that didn’t even exist until a few years ago. Remember that the next time a team owner cries poverty, claiming that he can’t pay for his own ballpark or ballpark renovations or that he can’t keep that star outfielder you like so much when he hits free agency.

It’s also worth noting that the players aren’t seeing any of this money. Which on one level makes some amount of sense in that BAMTech is technically its own entity, legally no different than, say, a car dealership or a real estate firm in which a team owner has a controlling business. Reggie Jackson wasn’t given certified financial statements from George Steinbrenner’s ship building operation and when Ted Turner sold bison burgers and colorized copies of “Casablanca” it’s not like Jeff Blauser got a cut.

But that’s not a perfect analogy because BAMTech would not be a roughly $3.2 billion company if it had not had a wildly successful proof-of-concept phase via its successful streaming of Major League Baseball games. Baseball’s windfall is a function of it moving first and showing that its platform could handle live sports in heavy volume and that it could get people to pay to watch it, none of which was a given at the time. As such, it’s not unreasonable to say that, if it weren’t for the baseball games and the men who played them, they owners would not be raking in these Disney Billions now.

Which makes me wonder what, if anything, Tony Clark and the MLBPA intend to do about all of this.

The union and its players are watching the owners rake in megabucks, in part, because of player labor. While the union may not have standing to explicitly demand a cut of this, it’s been pretty clear for a good while that the owners were making a lot of money off of digital media and would be making more in the future (the last CBA was negotiated after the first Disney buy in, with the second one predicted even then). How have they pressed the owners to get any of this money to trickle down, directly or indirectly?

Overall player share of baseball revenue has been more or less steady for a good while (many argue it has decreased, but let’s leave that aside for now) but, thanks to smaller deals for post-free agency players and a greater reliance on younger, cheaper players, major leaguers are actually getting less of it. The ratio has largely been propped up by big spending on international players and amateur bonuses. With the new CBA imposing restrictive caps on those bonuses, it’s not hard to imagine that the share will now, in fact, go down. And, as we learn more about the new CBA, we see that the owners are coming out on top in more ways than just revenue share. The owners have been cleaning the players’ clocks at the bargaining table pretty consistently of late.

And now we get front page news about the biggest media company on the planet funneling billions to 30 guys who sign the players’ paychecks. Billions that would not be possible if it were not for thousands of streamed baseball games and the revenue therefrom showing Disney’s money men that buying BamTech would solve a lot of their problems. I imagine a lot of players are reading that front page news and are wondering if they are going to see any of that money, one way or another. I wonder what Tony Clark will tell them when they ask.

And That Happened: Tuesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Indians 4, Rockies 1: Nolan Arenado made a clever play but Yan Gomes won the game with a walkoff three-run homer. This is the baseball equivalent of some smarty pants dropping a droll bon mot over a classmate’s mispronunciation of a word only to walk out of the building at three o’clock and get decked in front of the whole school. Corey Kluber, meanwhile, tossed a complete game, allowing only one run on three hits and striking out 11. Ace stuff, right there.

Red Sox 2, Rays 0: Chris Sale tossed eight shutout innings allowing only two hits and striking out 13. In the American League it’s him and Kluber, then there’s 50 feet of crap, then there’s the rest of the pitchers. OK, there’s, like, Luis Severino and some other dudes too, but I wanted to use that Brad Pitt quote from “Moneyball” for a while and I haven’t had any good chances. Either way: if there’s any justice in the world (spoiler alert: there isn’t, but go with me here) Sale and Kluber will face off in a deciding game in the playoffs this year. It will go eight and two-thirds innings, tied at zero, and then the home team will win on a walkoff inside-the-park homer. Everyone would love that except guys who write gamers on deadlines and their problems aren’t our problems.

Marlins 7, Nationals 3: Giancarlo Stanton hit a three-run shot to break a 1-1 tie in the fifth. It was his 38th bomb of the year, setting a personal record and extending his league lead in dingers. Derek Dietrich also homered and drove in three. The Marlins scored seven runs on only six hits. Earl Weaver was right about three-run homers being awesome. He was also right about Alice Sweet’s tomato plants, but I suppose that’s best left for another time.

Pirates 6, Tigers 3: Chad Kuhl took a shutout into the sixth striking out six and walking one. He also (all together now) helped his own cause with a two-run single in the fourth to give the Pirates a 4-0 lead which they would not relinquish. Andrew McCutchen hit his 23rd homer of the year. The Tigers have lost four in a row.

Blue Jays 4, Yankees 2: Josh Donaldson homered twice, each of which were two-run shots. Garrett Cooper hit a sac fly and an RBI single, each of which were good for one run. 2 x 2 > 1 x 2, ergo the Blue Jays won. That’s just math. CC Sabathia left the game after three innings due to a recurrence of his old knee problems. That’s just age.

Padres 7, Reds 3Jose Pirela had four hits and scored three times and Yangervis Solarte had three hits including a homer, driving in three. Luis Perdomo pitched in and out of trouble into the seventh, inducing three double plays. The Padres got a fourth double play on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out with the throw-em-out nabbing Billy Hamilton. That doesn’t happen very often.

Mets 5, Rangers 4: The Mets snap their four-game losing streak. Chris Flexen allowed three runs over five and two-thirds for his first big league win. He was backed by homers from Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Travis d'Arnaud which staked him to a 4-0 lead after two innings, so that helps.

Phillies 5, Braves 2: Zach Eflin — one of the increasingly hard to find Zachs in baseball who spell it with an “h” — allowed two runs on seven hits over seven and (all together now) helped his own cause by singling in the go-ahead run in the fourth. Odubel Herrera hit a two-run shot on a 3-for-4 night.

White Sox 8, Astros 5: Kevan Smith hit a two-run homer and a two-run double as the White Sox hand the Astros their fifth loss in seven games. Question: when the White Sox and Astros face off do they do any “remember the 2005 World Series” bits on the local broadcasts, or do we all pretend that never happened now that Houston is in the AL?

Twins 11, Brewers 4: Brian Dozier hit a grand slam and Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario each homered twice. The three of them went a combined 9-for-13, with seven runs and 10 RBI. According to the AP, the last time the Twins had multiple players hit multiple homers in one game was Aug. 3, 2011, when Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer each went deep twice. Blast from the past. Note: the last time Delmon Young was mentioned on this blog, apart from us talking about him either being released or arrested, was when we posted this:

Cardinals 10, Royals 3Yadier MolinaJedd Gyorko and Randal Grichuk each went deep in the service of the Cardinals’ 14-hit attack. Jason Vargas was beat up for six runs in four and two-thirds for the Royals. In the first half he was Cy Young material. In the second half Vargas is 1-3 with a 6.94 ERA and has allowed 31 hits, has walked 12 dudes and has surrendered six homers in 23.1 innings across five starts. You can’t run away and hide from a 162-game season. It will come and find you eventually and reveal you for who you truly are.

Diamondbacks 6, Dodgers 3: The Dodgers had a 3-2 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. Such things have been pretty safe for them in this charmed season, but Jake Lamb‘s grand slam off of Tony Watson flipped the usual script. In Watson’s defense, he’s only been with the team for a little over a week so maybe no one told him how things are supposed to work yet. Hard to fault the matchup of a lefty specialist and a guy in Lamb who struggles against lefties. Stuff just happens sometimes.

Mariners 7, Athletics 6:  The A’s took a 6-2 lead into the sixth inning but the M’s rallied to tie it and Leonys Martin hit a solo shot in the top of the 10th to give Seattle the win. Khris Davis was 2-for-4 with a home run, a triple and four RBI in the losing cause. The M’s comeback was aided by some bad Oakland defense. The A’s lead the majors with 95 errors and 70 unearned runs allowed so, yeah.

Angels 3, Orioles 2: Every time I say “Angels and Orioles” to myself I think it sounds like the title of a 1990s art house movie. This should play before the game starts:

After that — and some pretentious, pre-credits sequence in which, I dunno, some British kids in the 1960s lose something in some tall grass — former Oriole Parker Bridwell threw seven innings of one-run ball, outdueling Jeremy Hellickson. C.J. Cron singled in the Halos’ first run and singled in their last run. Then the game ended on a dissonant note with, like, Juliette Binoche looking longingly at something, I know not what.

Giants 6, Cubs 3: Buster Posey hit a three-run homer in the first inning. He’s hitting .322/.411/.485 on the year. He’s one of the few good things going for the Giants in 2017. Ty Blach allowed two runs on seven hits over seven innings and (all together now) helped his own cause with an RBI single.

Red Sox activate Dustin Pedroia

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The Boston Red Sox have activated second baseman Dustin Pedroia from the 10-day disabled list. He had been placed on the 10-day disabled list a week ago, retroactive to July 29, with left knee inflammation.

Pedroia went through workouts on the field over the weekend and seemed OK, so he’s ready to play without the customary rehab assignment. Still, the Sox are taking it easy with him in his first game back, letting him DH tonight against the Rays. Also easing that decision is Hanley Ramirez‘s continued issues with a sore oblique that has kept him out of the lineup for a few days.

Pedroia is hitting .307/.381/.411 with six home runs and 54 RBI in 383 plate appearances this season.