In baseball, the core idea is that there’s only one winner.
One team at the end of the year who gets to fly a flag forever.
One team that climbs the metaphorical mountain, while 29 other teams sit at the bottom staring at each other in failure.
That’s how the fans view it at least. That’s how local media cusses and discusses it. Once November draws to a close, we fire up the “what if” machines and start all over again.
Tuesday delivered us a reminder that the forever flying flag may go to one team, but the almighty dollar?
Not so much.
Forbes today released its annual assessment of MLB franchise values. The publication cobbles together a team’s total value, factoring in things like stadium values, market size, revenue, and alike.
You can see the list above, but to give you a small idea of how good things are in baseball: Only five teams had an operating income(a synonym for operating profit) in the negatives. Even the lowest valued team in the league saw a 27% growth in value; that would be the Rays at $825 million.
What about the Rangers? Our local team is 11th on the list, with a franchise value of $1.55 billion.
That’s billion with a B.
Texas brought in almost $300 million in revenue ($298 million if you want to be specific), and had an operating income of around $18 million. In fact, since Ray Davis and Bob Simpson bought the club the team’s value has increased every year. In the 7 years they’ve had it, the pair have added over a billion bucks in value to the Rangers.
Take that number in for a moment.
A billion dollars in seven years.
There’s no reason to begrudge the team their success. If anything, they should be commended for it. A healthy franchise is one that is successful and stationary. Texas fans don’t have to fear a situation like the NFL is enduring, where franchises are shuffling like Fred Astaire.
While that’s all good, these rankings have an unintended side effect owners don’t enjoy.
It exposes a level of grift these teams run.
Let’s stick with the Rangers for this. Recently, the team received approval for a brand new billion dollar stadium. A stadium that will be paid for in part with $500 million in taxpayer money. The Rangers picked up the other half and will cover overflow costs, but a team that’s worth $1.55 billion can’t (won’t) cover an expenditure this large without forcing a large amount of people who will never use it to pay for it?
Not a great look.
Let’s look at it from the baseball side. Texas is coming off two straight playoff years. They made trades for guys named Hamels, Lucroy, Dyson, Beltran, and others. They extended Adrian Beltre, who has yet to play as of this writing in 2017, and insulated the future with an extension for Rougned Odor.
Yet, when the team needed to invest in first base with Edwin Encarnacion on the market they balked.
It would go over budget they said.
They couldn’t afford it they said.
Yu Darvish and the aforementioned Lucroy are coming up on free agency, and there’s a greater than zero chance both will see this as their final years in Ranger red.
And when they both leave for other ports, we’ll likely hear the same refrain. That the team couldn’t (didn’t want to) afford them, but don’t worry! They’ll find a way to field a winning product in 2018 and beyond. They’ve got a plan, to just trust them.
They’re not lying when they say that.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful about what the term winning means depending on who says it.
Tom Hicks was a con man and a shyster, who plunged this thing into the ground because of poor front office hires and even worse business practices.
Davis and Simpson have been lauded as conquering heroes, pulling the Rangers out of that quagmire of failure.
On the financial side they sure have.
But there’s at least reason to believe that when it comes to this franchise at this time, winning on the field isn’t as prioritized as winning off it.
Remember how I started this, by saying there’s only one winner every year.
That’s a lie, and this Forbes study shows it.
Texas has won every year since they were ripped away from a miser and put in the hands of plutocrats.
Yet you don’t see a World Series flag at 1000 Ballpark Way.
That’s the side that we want to ignore, but every year we’re reminded of. See baseball is a great sport, but it’s an even better business if you’re at the top.
You win by snowing an entire city government and population into thinking you’ll pull up stakes and leave if they don’t approve your new mecca of a stadium.
You win by telling fans that despite your riches, that piece which could deliver them the title they so crave more than anything won’t be coming here because it “costs too much.”
You win by building a baseball empire on the backs of poorly paid minor league players, who might become even greater than they already are if you just paid and invested in them them like normal human beings instead of…
What’s the term commissioner Manfred used?
So no Ranger nation, we haven’t celebrated the glory of winning the Fall Classic. There hasn’t been a parade, a ceremony, or anything of the sort. The drought remains pervasive through Arlington, an arid temptation for fans as they walk through the turnstiles 81 times a season.
Someone is winning though. A small group of someones has been winning since they got here.
Maybe it’s time to ask the question:
If they’re winning, why can’t we win too?
Do you think the Rangers should do more to try to win? Send your blistering hot takes to Samuel on Twitter @thesamuelhale.