How the Pittsburgh Pirates Could Save Small Market Sports Entertainment

Courtesy of picapp.com: Brett Connolly attends the Top NHL Draft Prospects At Batting Practice at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on June 23, 2010. (Photo by Maury Phillips/Getty Images for NHL)

By now many of you know about the Major League Baseball revenue sharing 'scandal' that hit the news last month.  The full financial details of the Pirates, Rays, Marlins, Mariners, Angels and Rangers were leaked, and in every case, they showed where those teams were profiting, sometimes hugely, from pocketing revenue sharing dollars... dollars that, one would think, should be earmarked for player salaries.

(The SB Nation baseball sites have picked this up, btw)

The scandal is particularly scandalous in Florida where the Marlins recently received hundreds of millions of dollars in free money to subsidize the building of a new stadium.  Apparently the owners said they needed a new stadium in order to create the revenues they would need to be a competitive team.  They cried loudly about the poverty they silently endured for their fans, and when prudently asked to open their books to prove said poverty, they cried all the louder.  The politicians, hearing their cries, kicked prudence to the curb and forked over the cash.

The cost of kicking prudence to the curb?  Some estimate it to be as much as $2.4 billion dollars (once everything is paid off).  She's like that I hear.

Now, how scandalous is the scandal?

Well, the MLB revenue sharing provisions are quite accommodating in regards to what constitutes a player expense, so technically, the teams are off the hook as far as MLB is concerned (gonna make for some fun owners' meetings, eh?).  Further, in terms of the Marlins travails, well... perhaps their poverty was well earned after all, and the rest of the world just doesn't understand how accounting math works.  It's a good thing all those public tax dollars are so well spent.

Not a scandal at all then.

I mean, really, player development expenses ARE THE SAME AS player salaries.  THE EXACT SAME.  No question.  And if a sports team owner needs to use all their profits to pay off previously incurred debt, then they have every right to ask for taxpayer money while they are paying off said debt; it's only right.  And if the debt is subsequently paid off, then the profits are the owner's to keep; the taxpayer's money has already been spent by then, so its not really a factor anymore.  The taxpayer agreed to spend it, and it's spent, so what does it matter to the team?  Besides, you never know when an owner has to incur more debt, right?

Ah well, good thing I don't have to care about that sort of thing.  The owner will tell me what's going on.  The financial status of a private entity are sacrosanct after all.  I best not worry about it.  

You know, I have family in Edmonton.  I imagine I should thank them for paying for me to watch hockey.

Funny thing.  I was just thinking about the days I spent on a farm back in the when.  You know, I never saw a pig not go back to the trough.  Once they knew where it was, they knew where it was I guess. 

So.

How could the Pittsburgh Pirates save small market sports entertainment?

Just get rid of the 'sports'.

Take a read on The Pittsburgh Paradox by Phil Birnbaum (Slate magazine).

Interesting read.

He makes the case, quite convincingly, that it is against the interests of the Pittsburgh Pirates owners to actually make a profit.  'Wins' cost money and a small market team like Pittsburgh simply can't, ever, buy their way to a win.

Think about that for a second.

The best a small market team can hope to do is to get all their prospects and projects to make grade, have their well-paid veterans (the one or two they have) perform to spec, and have their cheap (i.e. washed up) veterans significantly outperform their contracts.  If all that happens, and some of the 'real' contenders fall short, then maybe a championship run is possible.

Cool.

If a sports team can get their fans to accept 'that'; 'that' being reality.

'That' being the 'truth'. 

Then are fans really going to the games thinking that their team will win?

Or are they just going to go?

Kind of like going to the movies.

It's all just entertainment at that point.

Take away the absolute need to win it all, and all you're really left with is the need to be entertained.

THAT is what I find interesting in all of this.  That concept that winning might not be relevant, and that people might still be okay with it.  At what point do they stop being, predominantly, fans of the team and become, overwhelmingly, fans of the game?

Sports have always been entertaining by virtue of both spectacle and requirement.

Until.

Perhaps.

Now.

------

To come on later dates: Inflation Effects in the NHL and Why Toronto Loves Giving Money to Phoenix.

Have a great evening everyone.

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