The Los Angeles Dodgers of Anaheim (oh….wait….they're just the LA Dodgers) got some good news from Fox. Their new TV deal is going to net them between $6 and $7 billion dollars. For the next 25 years, the Dodgers will make a minimum of $250,000 dollars a year, just for their regular season games. The money they bring in from this deal alone is more money that 26 other franchises will make in all venues. It’s the record for a local TV deal, doubling the old record.
The deal is good for the Dodgers. It’s good for the business of baseball. But it’s not great for the sport. All it does is continue to widen the gap between the rich teams and the poor teams. It gives power to local TV stations in negotiating future contracts and continues to make the sport richer and yet somehow competitively poorer. How can teams with Oakland’s payroll hope to play against teams with the funds of the Yankees or Dodgers? Baseball claims it has no vested interest in keeping its high profile teams in positions of power. But how can they not? The ratings for all World Series not involving Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies are abysmal. So while you understand why baseball wants to have the big markets see greater success, they absolutely CANNOT do anything to help them achieve it in a way that hurts other teams. They say they aren’t. So as we can’t prove otherwise we have to take them at their word. And I do believe they aren’t actively trying to help out the major market franchises. The TV deals they approve just happen to be great for the teams in the major markets while also helping the sport overall. But this deal is insane. You can read more about it here.
What should baseball do, then? If the Athletics faced the Braves in the World Series, the ratings would cause MLB to collapse. Or at least take a hit that they don't want in their championship game. So to make money, they need these mega TV deals and for cities with baseball teams to almost completely subsidize any new stadiums to keep the sport near the top of the food chain. But by accepting these huge local TV deals, the larger market teams (the NY, LA and Chicago teams plus Philly and the Rangers) have a tremendous competitive advantage in the financial department. Is there a way to keep baseballs’ purse solvent while keeping the competitiveness of the game intact?
How about division re-alignment? I’m not talking about re-doing the divisions based on geography. But what about aligning teams in divisions based on finances? With the speed of travel nowadays, it’s possible for the Mariners to be in a division with the Marlins. It’s not a great idea, but it’s doable. And baseball is pretty good about making the schedule for these teams bearable. Every AL team has to go to Seattle and Tampa Bay. Teams are jetting all over the nation as it is. So I don’t think that’s a problem, though it may be a little tougher for the commissioner’s office to schedule. How would new divisions look? Here’s a preview of what I’m thinking:
Los Angeles Dodgers
New York Mets
San Francisco Giants
St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego Padres
New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Chicago White Sox
Tampa Bay Rays
Kansas City Royals
Toronto Blue Jays
This list is taken directly from Forbes list of most valuable franchises that you can visit here. Now this list isn’t built around which teams spend the most. It’s also not about which teams make the most money. This list separates the MOST VALUABLE franchises based on a number of things, including the media market. Obviously the Mets are in a bad financial situation right now and would struggle in their division. In addition the Blue Jays would be the rich kids of their class, but things change. Someone has to be in first and last in each division. While these teams are near the poles now, things could quickly reverse.
This list is designed with the richest teams in the same division. The poorest teams are in different divisions. This enables teams with similar finances to play the majority of their games against each other. The good thing about this list is that it gives baseball carte blanche to continue pursuing these massive local TV deals that benefit the major media markets (full disclosure….they are likely going to continue to do that anyway even without my blessing…I’m shocked by this news as well) while keeping the competitiveness closer to a fair level. Teams would still play everyone in their league, but they would have the majority of their games and their important division games against other clubs that don’t have huge financial advantages over them. And then in the playoffs, the divisions face off against each other as usual.
As we hear all the time, baseball is a business. We hear it mostly when something is done that the fans dislike or disagree with. Sometimes the decisions that are made are made for business reasons. It’s bad when they clash with what could be best for the game competitively. But the game going bankrupt trying to keep things fair is also not the best idea. So this is an idea to compromise. Baseball keeps raking in the bucks with these mega TV deals however the re-alignment helps keep the competitiveness at a high level. What do you think?