Rob Manfred says Steve Cohen is an idiot, John Henry is a moron, and John Fisher is a dunce. They own baseball teams, and Manfred says that baseball is a poor investment. Q.E.D.
“We actually hired an investment banker, a really good one, actually, to look at that very issue,” Manfred said in his Thursday bullshit-o-gram about the tone and direction of labor negotiations. “If you look at the purchase price of franchises, the cash that is put in during the period of ownership, and then what they’ve sold for, historically, the return on those investments is below what you’d get in the stock market. Or what you’d expect to get in the stock market—with a lot more risk.”
Of course the investment bank was not identified, and Manfred didn’t actually answer the question as asked, which was a simple “Are teams good investments?” And the answer is as obvious as it was meant to be an evasion: Of course it is. Per Evan Drellich, the ambulatory lie detector covering baseball labor for The Athletic, “Pitchbook said that since 2002, all four of the major U.S. sports leagues have performed better than the S&P 500 companies on the stock market. The return on MLB franchises was 669 percent, above the NFL’s 558 percent and exceeded only by the NBA’s 1,057 percent.”
This is a lazy old dodge for Manfred to play, the idea that baseball is a bad investment, and it has never been anything but demonstrably false. But it’s the lament every commissioner plays at CBA time, and it always goes over like a molten lead high colonic. Only five teams have been sold in the last decade, which means 25 rich guys guys are happy with what they bought, and the five who sold made a combined profit over what they paid for their teams of roughly $5 billion.
But Manfred has to dredge up the old “We’re barely making ends meet here” nonsense because it is one of the few remaining traditions remaining in the nation’s most malleable game. Billionaires walking around with their empty pants pockets pulled out like elephant ears is one of the enduring cartoons we have come to expect in the last 40 years. The megawealthy overlords try to make the Hello Kitty face to the labor force, everyone laughs at them, and we all move on to what will ultimately be a grossly dissatisfying settlement that everyone hates within three months of ratification.
Manfred’s tweak on the old message is to imply that his 30 superiors have actually made bad investments by buying baseball teams, which (a) is a 6-on-a-10-point-scale lie which Manfred must certainly improve on his second run if he makes the mistake of speaking again, (b) presumes that they don’t have other incomes to diversify their portfolios and get on the sexier investments, like, say, sending celebrities to the moon or fracking, and (c) ignores the elemental truth that the people he is allegedly trying to win over, fans, as a general rule just want games to be played or for both sides to be consumed in an avalanche. But how comfortable would you feel betting that Tom Ricketts or Ken Kendrick don’t have stock in Alpine Disasters LLC?
In any event, we will monitor events in case an owner stands up and says, “Why yes, Rob is correct when he suggests that I am a monumentally shitty businessman. It’s a wonder my kids haven’t plotted to have me declared incompetent to manage my own affairs because I only quintupled my money in the last decade. I am ashamed, my family is ashamed, and my team of lawyers is … well, they’re doubled over laughing in the corner. I wonder what that’s about.”