Bates: Ted Turner and the rise of a new kind of baseball owner

From SABR member Mike Bates at The Hardball Times on May 7, 2019:

I would love to own a baseball team. I would love to own it and nurture it and be the person ultimately responsible for its rise or fall. And I would love to eventually pass it along to my children, who would run it into the ground, because neither of them likes baseball. Alas, I think that dream is dead, like so many of my other dreams.

It used to be that a guy like me could conceivably own a team. Oh sure, you almost always had to be rich to buy in, or have strong financial backers, but regular guys could absolutely work their way up from nothing to become team owners. Bill Veeck Jr., for instance, while his dad was a sportswriter and eventually the president of the Cubs, didn’t have an endless fortune to draw from when he first bought into the American League. Almost all of his money was tied up in his team in Cleveland and, when he divorced his first wife, he had to sell the club to finance it. When he was finally run out for good after 1980, it was because he literally couldn’t afford to pay the rising salaries of his players.

But all of that’s changed. Oh sure, teams still complain that they can’t afford the rising salaries of players, but in an industry making in excess of $10 billion in profits, that’s about as believable as my mom telling me she doesn’t have a favorite son (we all know it’s my brother). Major League Baseball has even seen fit to install artificial brakes on the free agent market, like draft pick compensation and the competitive balance tax. This is done in the name of parity; that it should also help to curb spending is surely by accident.

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Originally published: May 10, 2019. Last Updated: May 10, 2019.