Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Small market teams and economic survival

Milwaukee.  Kansas City.  Cincinnati.  These are the three smallest markets with an MLB team (the Brewers, the Royals, the Reds).  But have you ever really heard the Reds referred to as a "small market team?"  The Royals, yes.  The Brewers...well, maybe.  But the Reds?  Never.

But what about Minnesota?  In 2002, they were targeted for elimination...sorry, "contraction."  The Twins play in the 10th smallest market (larger than perennial contenders St. Louis, Colorado, and Tampa Bay) and have constantly been tagged as a "small market team."

For reference's sake, I've never heard a threat of contraction regarding the Vikings, and they have NEVER won a championship.  At least the Twins have brought home two World Series titles (1987 and 1991).  Both teams pull from the same market of roughly 3 million people.

Was this a ploy to get out of the Metrodome (AKA The Twinkiedome) contract and get Target Field built? When you consider some of the names being bandied about as a possible landing spot for the Twins (Raleigh/Durham with less than half the population, Las Vegas with more than a million less, Portland with almost a million less, and...New Jersey?!?), yes, it was a ploy.  And a successful one, at that.  In response to the threatened loss of the Twins, private and public sector groups negotiated and approved a financing package for a replacement stadium, a baseball-only outdoor, natural turf ballpark in the Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis, owned by a new entity known as the Minnesota Ballpark Authority.  Target Field was constructed at a cost of $544.4 million (including site acquisition and infrastructure), utilizing the proceeds of a $392 million public bond offering based on a 0.15 percent sales tax in Hennepin County and private financing of $185 million provided by the owners, the Pohlad family.  Commissioner Bud Selig, who earlier had threatened "contraction," observed that without the new stadium the Twins could not have committed to sign their star player, home-grown catcher Joe Mauer, to an unprecedented 8-year, $184 million contract extension.

Seriously?  New Jersey?

I don't hear the Brewers complaining, and you darn well don't hear the Green Bay Packers, reigning NFL champions and 4 time Super Bowl winners, whining about being in the smallest market of any professional sports team in the four major leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL).

So, why the futility of the Royals?  Why no sniff of the playoffs for 26 years (the year of their lone World Series title) and only six times in that span finishing above .500?  Can't blame their market.  Smaller markets that have produced competitive teams include Orlando (the NBA Magic), Indianapolis (the NFL Colts), San Antonio (the NBA Spurs), New Orleans (the NFL Saints and the NBA Hornets), and...I could go on.  But why bother?  Why rub it in?

Truthfully, what it comes down to is ECONOMICS.  The Royals refuse to spend the money necessary to keep the team competitive.  This downward spiral began upon the death of owner Ewing Kauffman, who set up a complex succession plan that would keep the team in Kansas City, but doomed the franchise to a five-member board making baseball decisions until the team was sold to David Glass, the chairman of the board (who's bid was $19 million less than the original bidder, Miles Prentice).  The list of those that were shipped out in the name of cutting payroll is long...and impressive.

David Cone.  Brian McRae.  Johnny Damon.  Jermaine Dye.  Kevin Appier.  Carlos Beltran.  David DeJesus.  Zack Greinke.  Always rebuilding, never contending.  Because they just don't want to show anyone the money.

Baseball teams, however, are not like government.  Spending does not solve everything.  In truth, in government circles, spending more taxpayer money solves nothing.

Unless you just want to grow the debt.  From July 22 to August 8, the S&P 500 has dropped an outrageous 225.56 points.  Eleven trading sessions.  16.78% decrease.  This is not just a debt issue.  This is so much more.

This is a crisis of confidence.  And that won't change anytime soon.

Get a manner of speaking, we will all soon be Kansas City Royals fans.

No comments:

Post a Comment