Longtime HBT reader Phil W. listened to Tom Tolbert and Ray Ratto’s San Francisco Giants podcast on KNBR over the weekend and heard something interesting. Giants CEO Larry Baer was asked about the possibility of Major League Baseball selling advertising space on players’ uniforms. And Baer is both all for it and thinks it’s inevitable.
He noted that Bud Selig was not supportive of it but says that with incoming commissioner Rob Manfred presumably being in the job a long time, there “may be an evolution” toward the idea. Most because of the money:
This is new revenue. And I think there’s always ownership support for new revenue, right? And, I think that also, quite frankly, we are, owners, very cognizant of ticket prices. And, if this is a way to — and I’m not saying it’s going to be mutually exclusive. I’m not saying, ‘Wow, if there’s advertising on uniforms, then ticket prices are going to be frozen for the next five years.’ I’m not giving to say that. But I do believe that, um, that could be potentially a better alternative. We would support, the Giants would support, this is a better alternative than continuous ticket price increases across the board to fund operations . . . I don’t know who would be on the sleeve, or, whatever. Something tells me it will be a sleeve. It would start with a sleeve.”
It’s cute how he thinks that ticket prices wouldn’t go up as often if owners had new revenue streams. As if ticket prices weren’t set, first and only, by a supply/demand calculation. Baseball’s non-ticket revenue has soared in the past 15 years. I don’t recall anyone holding ticket prices flat when that went down. Still, when they do put advertisements on uniforms, watch Major League Baseball tell everyone how it’s all about doing things for the fans like keeping prices low. Don’t believe it for a second, but watch them do it because they think we’re economically illiterate.
But regardless of that and regardless of what you actually think about ads on uniforms, watch for this and many other departures in Major League Baseball policy after Rob Manfred takes control in January. I get a strong sense that there are any number of things that people at MLB’s offices have been in favor of doing for some time but which they’ve held off from doing out of deference to Selig and his transition out. No one wants to put the Commissioner in any sort of controversy and no one wants to have to lobby Bud to do something he may not be inclined to do while he’s a short-timer.
But, to use Baer’s words, watch for “an evolution towards” any number of new things next year.