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.