It was over five years ago that Commissioner Bud Selig went in front of the United States Congress to state his case that that the financial status of Major League Baseball was in dire straits. In December of 2001, he had reported that the 30 teams combined for an operating loss of $232 million, with additional losses of $122 million in interest costs and $174 million in depreciated value, totaling their cumulative losses at roughly $519 million. Only eleven teams out of the thirty had operated in the black, and the only way out of this mess, we were told, was to contract two teams, believed to have been the Montreal Expos and the Minnesota Twins.
“It makes no sense for Major League Baseball to be in markets that generate insufficient local revenues to justify the investment in the franchise,” Selig said in November of 2001. “The teams to be contracted have a long record of failing to generate enough revenues to operate a viable major league franchise.”
To put it mildly, things have changed since then.
The Twins escaped contraction due to a ruling by the Minnesota Court of Appeals in January of 2002, which stated that the Twins and Major League Baseball were legally obligated to the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (owners and operators of the Twins stadium, the Metrodome) to play out the 2002 season as a part of their original lease agreement. As a result of this hearing, the Expos also could not be contracted as doing so would upend the scheduling balance of the American and National Leagues. So MLB bought the team, moved it to Washington, DC and the franchise resumed their losing ways as the Nationals (OK, so not EVERYTHING has changed).
And the current financial state of the game? In a word: good. Forbes has released its annual report of the finances of all thirty teams and this time, 29 of the 30 teams all recorded profits. The only team in the red? The New York Yankees, having lost $25.2 million in 2006. Something tells me they’ll be fine, though.
But how ‘bout them Twins? In 2001, Selig’s report had them operating at a loss of over $18.5 million. Today? They have an operating income of $14.8 million, have a much needed new stadium in the works, and have a winning percentage of .564 (465-359) and four division titles since 2002 when Selig called their strong on-field performance that year despite the lack of money “an aberration”. Good call on that one, Bud. Are you sure you gave us the whole story?