Florida Marlins Willing to Be Mediocre Because of MLB Revenue Sharing


Aug 24, 2010

Florida Marlins Willing to Be Mediocre Because of MLB Revenue Sharing The Florida Marlins, despite their low-budget approach, famously managed to win World Series in 1997 and 2003, tying them with Boston as the second-most successful franchise of the past 15 years.

They are also famous for what they did prior to the 1998 and 2004 seasons: conducting some of the ugliest fire-sales in league history.

This week's leak of internal financial documents to Deadspin has resulted in an intense spotlight on the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the story for the Marlins is a similar one.

There are two major differences, though. First, the Marlins actually have had a lot of talented players to get rid of. Second, the Pirates already have a state-of-the-art ballpark.

The Marlins, as their income statement indicates, are a profitable ballclub. Their revenue, however, comes nearly four times as much from MLB revenue sharing and the MLB central fund as it does from ticket sales. If you add stadium income and media income, you're still looking at small change compared to MLB income.

This, effectively, makes putting a product on the field that will maximize fan interest a meaningless venture.  Why increase payroll significantly when most of your money doesn't come from the fruits of that endeavor?

Re-signing Miguel Cabrera would have been a terrible business venture.

About the strategy, Marlins President David Samson said that it was about financing a new park, reports the Miami Herald.

"It's very easy,'' Samson said. "We could have had Cabrera and no ballpark. We always made our decisions on the long-term viability of the ballclub.''

There may be truth in this argument, but even so, the Marlins were the most profitable team among those whose finances were leaked. The fact that that is true is indicative of a problem in baseball's financial model.

The Marlins are making money without deserving to. Once they get their ballpark, they will likely make even more money, but why would they spend any more? It seems logical that Samson is hiding behind the new ballpark as an excuse.

The Pirates surely have kept leeching off the league while getting clobbered in their picturesque stadium.

Unlike the Pirates, however, the Marlins nearly always have hope. The minor league system and management constantly produce solid young talent, and the team rarely is totally out of contention. If they were willing to spend just a little bit more, they really could win more championships.

Ironically, the MLB is disincentivizing the parity it supposedly desires and strives for with revenue sharing.

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