Why you should be anti-owner, MLB fans:

If you’ve followed me for even a short period of time you’re well aware that I’m anti-owner.  You know the expression about believing who someone is the first time they show you? Well, owners first showed who they were 150 years ago and they haven’t changed a bit since.

Yes, generally speaking, I am pro-players union. When you have an infinitesimally rare skillset that generates billions for your employers, then you deserve an enormous chunk of the profits of your labor. It wasn’t until the players had the good fortune of meeting Marvin Miller did they realize this and began taking steps in that direction.  And in spite of enormous strides over the past 50 years or so, recent events have shown us they still have a long way to go.

But that’s not the point of the rant…er, sorry…the blog today. This is a reminder that because MLB teams are partially subsidized by us – the public – they have an obligation to the fans to produce a product and to do so with full transparency. (Well – they “should” have an obligation – more on that in a minute.)

We fans are owed baseball. And not in the sports radio caller “I want baseball! Freedom!” sense.  In the “we have funded and subsidized your business, and as taxpayers, we expect to see a return on the investment” sense.

And to be clear, teams are subsidized by all taxpayers, baseball fans, or otherwise.  If you live in an area with an MLB team it’s far more than likely your taxes went to build the local stadium than not, and it’s far more than likely your cable bill is higher because of channels that show baseball – again, whether you watch or not.

As a result of the public funding, MLB teams have still benefited financially from us in spite of not putting a product on the field and with a complete lack of transparency about their financials in negotiations to get the product on the field.

In no particular order…

  • Some teams own their stadium outright but don’t have to pay taxes on the land. Other teams lease the stadium from the municipality but don’t have to pay rent.  (I’m no economist, but that doesn’t sound like a good deal for the local economy…)
  • They get partial profits from putting businesses on their grounds, many of which remain open (Boog’s Barbecue in Camden Yards, as one example) and which are nice little profit centers for teams – again, with rent and tax privileges not afforded to local restaurants off grounds. And also again, not great for the local non-team related business economy.
  • I’m not sure about you but The YES Network, SNY, NBC Sports Philly, FS1, the MLB Network, ESPN and TNT make up a good chunk of my cable bill. Ask me if Comcast has refunded my money because no games are being played on those stations…of course, they haven’t, because MLB hasn’t refunded the money they received from the cable providers.
  • MLB teams are sitting on the equivalent of a small country’s economy of cash from ticket sales for games that haven’t been played. Maybe some will be refunded, maybe some won’t – but at the very least fans, through advance ticket sales on the 2020 season, have granted billionaires an enormous interest-free loan while we all wait to see what happens.

Lest we forget, they get to do this because the United States Congress and the United States Supreme Court have decided that baseball is a “sport”, not a “business”. I’ll pause while you re-read that last sentence – try not to laugh.

They can do all the above (and more) and can exploit and control their labor force for six years, all without having to account for their finances publicly, despite being at least part, publicly subsidized.

So the next time you miss baseball and get the urge to “both sides” the current negotiations in frustration, be clear about the side that’s holding your money. Be clear about which side you’ve paid in numerous ways and hasn’t produced a return.

Did I miss something? Let me know.

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If you like the blog, feel free to buy me a Starbucks tall dark roast (no room). It may not seem like much but it'll help keep the blog going - thanks in advance!

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