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Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr.: ‘The industry isn’t very profitable, to be quite honest’

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Whenever Major League Baseball and the players square off in labor battles, the owners attempt to claim that owning a baseball team is not a lucrative endeavor. They cry poor and claim that they’re losing money and argue that if the players do not make financial concessions that baseball simply cannot continue.

It’s generally baloney.

As we’ve argued so many times over the years, baseball finances are notoriously opaque and ownership claims that they are losing money are rarely if ever documented. What we do know, however, is that baseball revenue has gone up dramatically, year over year, for around 20 straight years, and franchise values are skyrocketing, with every team being worth at least a billion dollars. Meanwhile, over the past couple of years, overall baseball payroll has gone down.

If you have dramatically increasing revenue, dramatically increasing team value, and slightly decreasing player costs — and if, each time a team goes up for sale, billionaire investors fight for the chance to join the ownership club — it sort of strains credulity that the one unknown in all of this — team profits — is negative for major league baseball owners. Yet that’s what the owners typically claim.

The latest owner to claim it is Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt Jr., who appeared on St. Louis’ 590 The Fan with Frank Cusumano today. He claimed that baseball is a bad business to be in financially:

“The industry isn’t very profitable to be quite honest, and I think they understand that. But they think, you know, the owners are hiding profits, and you know there’s been a little bit of a distrust there.”

Maybe that distrust comes from some of the owners’ other implausible claims. Like the one DeWitt made just moments before when he argued that increased revenue and decreased player salaries are all being eaten up by other costs.

“Don’t think for a minute that the reduced payroll added money in the pockets of the owners, because it didn’t,” DeWitt argued. He says non-player personnel growth has eaten up a big chunk of that revenue growth, noting that the Cardinals have gone from 240 to 400 non-player employees. He says that after “training, conditioning, promotional work, front office, analytics, it’s a bit of a zero sum game.”

That’s fairly rich when one realizes just how much revenue has gone up. Specifics are hard to come by, but it’s generally thought that average team revenue has increased around $15 million each year over the past several years. And that’s before you add one-time gigantic payments like the several billion baseball owners realized from the sale of BAMTech to Disney, when each owner got around $50 million over and above annualized increases. Even if the Cardinals added 150 trainers and analytics employees EACH YEAR and even if each of those new employees were making hundreds of thousands of dollars a piece — which they are certainly not — there’d be far more left over for profit, which the clubs are most certainly seeing.

DeWitt isn’t just claiming that his baseball team isn’t profitable. He’s also claiming that his team’s real estate investments aren’t either.

Referring to Ballpark Village — the Cardinals real estate development around Busch Stadium — he claimed that “we don’t view [Ballpark Village] as a profit opportunity. We think it’s great long term for the franchise and downtown St. Louis and what’s good for St. Louis is good for the Cardinals.” I wonder if his fellow investors realized that they were investing in a philanthropic act of public works? I wonder if they thought they were doing so to make some money? I bet they thought they were making money. And I bet they are.

Finally, DeWitt claimed that new stadiums are, for all practical purposes, non-profit too:

“There’s been talk by one of the angels that teams build new stadiums so that they can generate more revenue which will help them when they sell the team. The fact is, it generates more revenue and the more revenue the more money the players get too.”

Which directly contradicts what he said above in response to the idea of player salary going down while revenues go up, but we’ll let that one go. For now I’m just wondering why anyone would every want to own a major league team given how, according to DeWitt, there’s no money in it at all.

I’ll let all of this go after two more little notes.

The first one: never trust a baseball owner when they talk about profitability. If you doubt this, just remember what Blue Jays executive Paul Beeston once famously said: “I can turn a $4 million profit into a $2 million loss and get every national accounting firm to agree with me.” If you think that’s not still happening, I have a Ballpark Village to sell you.

The second: given that DeWitt himself just purchased an $8.5 million villa in the Hollywood Hills that will, almost certainly, be his second or third home (he lives in Cincinnati and likely has a residence in St. Louis), how much bigger a joint could he have bought if the Cardinals weren’t such a money loser?

Marlins clinch 1st playoff berth since 2003, beat Yanks 4-3

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NEW YORK (AP) Forced from the field by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins returned with enough force to reach the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 championship.

An NL-worst 57-105 a year ago, they sealed the improbable berth on the field of the team that Miami CEO Derek Jeter and manager Don Mattingly once captained.

“I think this is a good lesson for everyone. It really goes back to the players believing,” Mattingly said Friday night after a 4-3, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees.

Miami will start the playoffs on the road Wednesday, its first postseason game since winning the 2003 World Series as the Florida Marlins, capped by a Game 6 victory in the Bronx over Jeter and his New York teammates at the previous version of Yankee Stadium.

“We play loose. We got nothing to lose. We’re playing with house money.,” said Brandon Kintzler, who got DJ LeMahieu to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded after Jesus Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th. “We are a dangerous team. And we really don’t care if anyone says we’re overachievers.”

Miami (30-28), second behind Atlanta in the NL East, became the first team to make the playoffs in the year following a 100-loss season. The Marlins achieved the feat despite being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that prevented them from playing for more than a week.

After the final out, Marlins players ran onto the field, formed a line and exchanged non socially-distant hugs, then posed for photos across the mound.

“I can’t contain the tears, because it’s a lot of grind, a lot of passion,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “It wasn’t just the virus. Last year we lost 100 games. But we came out this year with the hope everything was going to be better. When we had the outbreak, the guys who got an opportunity to help the organization, thank you for everything you did.”

Miami was one of baseball’s great doubts at the start of the most shortened season since 1878, forced off the field when 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 following the opening series in Philadelphia.

“Yeah, we’ve been through a lot. Other teams have been through a lot, too,” Mattingly said “This just not a been a great situation. It’s just good to be able to put the game back on the map.”

New York (32-26) had already wrapped up a playoff spot but has lost four of five following a 10-game winning streak and is assured of starting the playoffs on the road. Toronto clinched a berth by beating the Yankees on Thursday.

“I don’t like any time somebody celebrates on our field or if we’re at somebody else’s place and they celebrate on their field,” Yankees star Aaron Judge said. “I’m seeing that too much.”

Mattingly captained the Yankees from 1991-95 and is in his fifth season managing the Marlins, Jeter captained the Yankees from 2003-14 as part of a career that included five World Series titles in 20 seasons and is part of the group headed by Bruce Sherman that bought the Marlins in October 2017.

Garrett Cooper, traded to the Marlins by the Yankees after the 2017 season, hit a three-run homer in the first inning off J.A. Happ.

After the Yankees tied it on Aaron Hicks‘ two-run double off Sandy Alcantara in the third and Judge’s RBI single off Yimi Garcia in the eighth following an error by the pitcher on a pickoff throw, the Marlins regained the lead with an unearned run in the 10th against Chad Green (3-3).

Jon Berti sacrificed pinch-runner Monte Harrison to third and, with the infield in, Starling Marte grounded to shortstop. Gleyber Torres ran at Harrison and threw to the plate, and catcher Kyle Higashioka‘s throw to third hit Harrison in the back, giving the Yankees a four-error night for the second time in three games.

With runners at second and third, Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly.

Brad Boxberger (1-0) walked his leadoff batter in the ninth but got Luke Voit to ground into a double play, and Kintzler held on for his 12th save in 14 chances.

Miami ended the second-longest postseason drought in the majors – the Seattle Mariners have been absent since 2001.

Miami returned Aug. 4 following an eight-day layoff with reinforcements from its alternate training site, the trade market and the waiver wire to replace the 18 players on the injured list and won its first five games.

“We’re just starting,” said Alcantara, who handed a 3-2 lead to his bullpen in the eighth. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

TOSSED

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected for arguing from the dugout in the first inning. Plate umpire John Tumpane called out Judge on a full-count slider that appeared to drop well below the knees and Boone argued during the next pitch, to Hicks, then was ejected. Television microphones caught several of Boone’s profane shouts.

“Reacting to a terrible call and then following it up,” Boone said. “Obviously, we see Aaron get called a lot on some bad ones down.”

ODD

Pinch-runner Michael Tauchman stole second base in the eighth following a leadoff single by Gary Sanchez but was sent back to first because Tumpane interfered with the throw by catcher Chad Wallach. Clint Frazier struck out on the next pitch and snapped his bat over a leg.

SLOPPY

New York took the major league lead with 47 errors. Sanchez was called for catcher’s interference for the third time in five days and fourth time this month.

REMEMBERING

Mattingly thought of Jose Fernandez, the former Marlins All-Star pitcher who died four years earlier to the night at age 24 while piloting a boat that crashed. An investigation found he was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system. The night also marked the sixth anniversary of Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

UP NEXT

RHP Deivi Garcia (2-2, 4.88) starts Saturday for the Yankees and LHP Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.84) for the Marlins. Garcia will be making the sixth start of his rookie season.