The Arizona Diamondbacks come in at $840 million, which is 44% up on the same time last year. However, that increase is actually below average, with the jump across all of the majors being 48%. The reason for this is simple: television money. Forbes reports, "In 2014, broadcasting and cable money accounted for $2.88 billion, or 37% of baseball’s $7.86 billion of revenue." That amount is up two-thirds over just five years ago, in large part due to the new national television deals agreed with ESPN, FOX and TBS. Another factor is MLB Advanced Media, which is reported as generating $800 million last year.
There is, however, wide variation between haves and have-nots. The highest-valued team - and you will understand, this is my unsurprised face - are the New York Yankees, worth a whopping $3.2 billion dollars. [Though they are not the most valuable sports franchise in the world: that's Real Madrid at $3.44 billion, which is impressive considering their home market has less than one-sixth the population of the United States] Half the league is not worth a billion or more, include those you might not expect, like the Mariners, who haven't seen the post-season since 2001. We are 24th, but that's still better than our expansion siblings in Tampa, dead last and worth $625 million.
Even year-on-year sees radical differences. The Giants doubled their value, going from one to two billion dollars. However, another NL West team, the Los Angeles Dodgers "only" went up by 20%. Despite annual revenue of over $400 million, the Dodgers made an operating loss of $12.2 million, and there were reports Time Warner Cable will write-off a billion dollars for their TV rights deal. Forbes says LA "are saddled with $400 million of debt and reports indicate the team has been looking to raise capital by selling minority interests and boosting parking at the gate on game day at Dodgers Stadium to $20." Man, chalk up yet another reason I'm glad not to live in LA.
The Diamondbacks were another one of the five major-league teams who operated in the red last year, albeit to the smallest degree, losing $2.2 million - the Phillies were worst, at a $39m loss. Interestingly, our figure is slightly better than the 2013 one, when we were $5.8m in the red. While payroll was up, that was matched by an increase in revenue, from $192m to $211m, though interestingly, only about 20% of that income came in the form of receipts at the gate. That percentage will likely decline in 2015, as tickets will be a tough sell this season. And beyond, too, since next year sees the new TV contract start, which is not reflected in these figures.
It is important to note that these are not, in any way, official figures, representing a "best guess" estimate by Forbes. However, the approach is likely consistent across the league, and so should give a good approximation of Arizona's value, in comparison to other major-league teams, and also how it had changed from the previous season. Say what you like about Bud Selig, there's little doubt that he left the game in the best financial circumstances it has ever known. Of course, that's only one measure of success, and with the aging demographic of baseball fans and relative lack of youth interest, I do have to wonder how long this bubble can last.