Mariners turned profit in '12 despite low attendance, $84M payroll
Think it's tough for Major League Baseball teams to make money? Well, the Seattle Mariners made $5.86 million last season, per a report in the Seattle Times.
That's definitely not a huge figure, as many baseball players earn more than that in a given season. But here's why this is important: The Mariners ranked 26th in attendance last season, only drawing 21,258 fans per game, and they had a payroll of $84,450,157.
So we're talking about a fourth-place team barely drawing over 21,000 per game with a payroll north of $80 million still making money. And I couldn't help but think about the Miami Marlins' offseason.
The Marlins had a similar payroll in 2012, at $89,875,132. Of course, the trade of Hanley Ramirez in July helped free up some dollars, but overall they weren't drastically higher than the Mariners. The Marlins ranked 18th in attendance, drawing 27,400 per game. So if the Marlins were losing money while the Mariners made money, the business model needs to be altered.
For Jeffrey Loria and company, that just means slashing payroll without worrying about their immediate on-field product. Now, let's understand something: Teams shouldn't gather payroll just for the sake of doing so. Getting Heath Bell's salary off the books, for example, was the correct move. He was already overpaid and then forgot how to be a quality closer. I'm just finding it hard to believe the Marlins had no shot at building a contender around now-departed Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. Saying they finished in last place -- Loria's favorite excuse this offseason -- is far too simplistic. There were injury issues and they started selling (with the Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante trade) when they were only seven games out of a wild-card spot.
Let us not forget that for years the Marlins promised everything would be different once they secured their new stadium, and now they have it, at a significant price (billions of dollars) to local taxpayers. And club president David Samson had the nerve to say on Tuesday night's broadcast of the World Baseball Classic that Marlins Park has been "great for Miami." Pathetic.
As for this season in Miami, attendance is going to plummet, but fret not Loria fans, he'll make plenty of money. The Marlins' payroll won't even hit $40 million this season.
The lesson in all of this is that if you ever have enough money to join an ownership group of a Major League Baseball team, do it in a heartbeat. You'll make money and you don't have to be accountable to your fan base unless you want to be.
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