|David Glass would like you to believe him. (Getty Images)|
Royals owner David Glass has been, shall we say, not the most successful franchise steward in baseball history. Since he became sole proprietor of the Royals in April 2000, the once-mighty club has weathered 12 losing seasons in 13 years. Some Royals fans and observers are quick to blame not only ham-fisted management but also Glass' stingy inclinations when it comes to payroll.
To hear Glass tell it, though, he's doing all that a former CEO of Walmart can do. "I would tell you that for us to break even, our payroll has to be in the $70 million range," Glass recently told Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star. "But as we've discussed before, we will react based on what our opportunities are."
Glass went on to address the valuations of Forbes, which tab the Royals as one of the most profitable baseball teams in the league. "From the time we've owned the team until now, Glass said, "accumulatively we've done no better than break even. We've actually subsidized it slightly during that period of time."
Specifically, Forbes places a $354-million price tag on the Royals (Glass paid $96 million for them), and tabs their revenues at $161 million and their operating income at $28.5 million. In other words, Glass is making money -- lots of it. But you don't have to accept Forbes' estimates as gospel to believe that the Royals owner doth protest too much. Allow for a more Glass-friendly auditing of the books, and it's still absurd to think he's "breaking even" or worse.
You see, Major League Baseball franchises are not publicly traded entities, and thus they are under no legal obligation to disclose the particulars of their balance sheets. In other words, owners are not to be believed when they show you their pocket linings and regale you with tales of fiscal woe. By any estimation not their own, almost every MLB team -- including, quite especially, Glass' Royals -- is wildly profitable. It's no accident that every time a franchise is sold, it nets the seller a remarkably healthy capital gain.
In the recent past, owners were motivated to lie about their finances in order to marshal public support in their battles with the Players' Association. "Look what these greedy players are doing to your beloved hometown nine!" was the refrain. That was back when Glass and his hard-line fellow travelers still entertained waking dreams of a salary cap (which does nothing for parity but does plenty to increase an owner's profits). Perhaps Glass is dragging this trope from the vaults by force of habit, or perhaps he wants Royals fans to believe that ol' Uncle Dave is doing more than his part.
But when it comes to believing him, at least on this subject, here's some advice: Don't.