There is an in-depth report at Forbes today about the debt crisis facing Major League Baseball that anyone who cares about the business of the game should read.
The story focuses primarily on the well-known financial problems facing the Mets and Dodgers, with a shout-out to the Tom Hicks Rangers, but it suggests that teams taking on too much debt is a widespread problem. The trick comes via what Forbes says is owners’ circumvention of Major League Baseball’s often-cited, but rarely enforced debt ratio rules. Put your debt in a holding company like Tom Hicks did and, voila, you’re in compliance, even as you are being crushed by debt collectors.
One would think that such a charge would meet with a strong rebuke from Bud Selig, but he leaves that to his number two guy, Rob Manfred. And Manfred’s response is a bit unsettling:
“Nobody outside the game knows what was done or not done with respect to any individual club … I don’t think anyone outside the game is in a position to make a judgment as to how the debt-service rule has been administered.”
Really? No “you’re wrong,” or “baseball ownership is healthy?” Forbes comes to you and says that it’s writing a story about how teams routinely circumvent the debt ceiling rules and are doing so at tremendous risk and peril, and you’re really going with “how would you know?”