By Ryan Harless
Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.
January 11, 2023
The Era of the Dollar
Major League Baseball has a money problem. With the rise in popularity of professional sports and rise in revenue, there will always be disparities in how the teams choose to spend their available money.
Over the 2022-2023 MLB offseason, we have seen teams such as the Mets and Yankees spend lots of money in free agency. MLB writer for The Score, Travis Sawchik tweeted that, “The Mets spent more in free agency in one night ($315 Million) than the Pirates have spent since 2010 ($207 Million).”
This is a very jarring stat (especially if you are a Pirates fan). Many fans will see that and think, they should really limit how much teams can spend. However, I propose a different view on things.
The Cincinnati Reds were purchased in 2006 by Bob Castellini for $270 million. Castellini is on record saying that it was his goal to bring a winning team to Cincinnati. (As a lifelong Reds fan, I will use the Reds as a reference throughout the article). Castellini is also on record as saying to upset fans, “Where are you gonna go?” when asked about mounting unrest in the fanbase.
The Reds are currently worth 1.075 billion! More than three times what he paid for them well over a decade ago. Since his first season as owner in 2006, the Reds have only finished with a record over .500 five times and have only made the playoffs four times.
In recent memory, the Reds have had great players on their team. Now disgraced Trevor Bauer won the first Cy Young award in the team’s history in the shortened 2020 season. The next year, he went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency. Before that, there was Nicholas Castellanos who was the heart and soul of the 2020-2021 Reds. He put up better numbers than almost anyone on the team, but after his contract was up the Reds didn’t even call to offer him another deal.
The Reds are not alone in this situation. Teams like the Pirates, Athletics, Orioles, and Marlins have all had good players ripped away from them simply because the owners didn’t want to spend their money on them.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are cases where owners just don’t see much of an upside with certain talent. But I also know that every single Major League Baseball team is owned by a billionaire and is backed by other very wealthy people.
Instead of fans getting in an uproar at Steven Cohen for shelling out over 800 million dollars this offseason, we should direct our attention to another group – the group of owners who are sitting back and collecting record profits while their team and fans rot in last place.
Professional sports are a lucrative investment for anyone who has the money to get their foot in the door. But that just isn’t what sports are about. I know sports are a business, but I firmly believe that if you purchase a professional sports team to make money, you are in it for the wrong reasons.
Sports are supposed to be an escape for everyday people like you and me. It’s not a giant game of Monopoly for billionaires to buff up their bank accounts.
If you are looking for an answer on how to make this stop, I do not have one. The obvious choice is to just quit paying attention and going to games. Make the owners feel it in their pockets. But why should we as the fans be punished because the owner of our favorite team won’t open up his dusty wallet?
Caption: New York Mets owner Steven Cohen
Ryan: I very much enjoyed reading your article. You’re a Journalism student so I’m not surprised how well written this is. I would have added “small market” to the paragraph about the Reds not being alone (small market teams like…). If you have time for a follow-up commentary I’d suggest you could expand your commentary along the lines of: “small market team owners offer the excuse of not being able to match big-market revenues. However, team valuations almost always increase. Financial ruin is hard to accomplish. There are small market teams that are successful on the field. The Twins and Guardians come to mind.” You might also note the success of the Reds’ neighbors–the Cincinnati Bengals. I look forward to seeing additional submissions.