The old saying that you have to spend money to make money is not particularly true in Major League Baseball (MLB).
Like many businesses, it’s impossible for every business to succeed. This logic applies in professional sport, as the MLB’s most valuable franchise — The New York Yankees — are five times more valuable as its least valuable team. Although this may sound like a lot of money, for the last team in the league to still generate $181 million in revenue, says a lot about the state of baseball.
Normally when a business is less valuable compared to its peers, it means that it is bound to fail. However, there have been many situations of teams that have continued to power through the financial mishaps and have continued to make long runs in the postseason.
The term “valuable” is very limited. The New York Yankees and Los Angles Dodgers will always be the most valuable teams in the MLB, based on their location and reputation. The Yankees and Dodgers could go another 50 years without winning a championship and fans will always support the team because it’s one of the best things to do on a summer afternoon in their beautiful cities.
Ask the Toronto Maple Leafs. Valuable does not mean value in terms of productivity. It means that the team makes a lot of money because there are enough people in the city to support the team and because the team has been around for many years.
Any professional sports team that resides in Miami will always find it hard to be atop of the most valuable teams in their sport, but that’s what comes with putting a team in that city. With that being said, here are the top 10 least valuable teams in the MLB.
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10 Arizona Diamondbacks, $585 Million
The Diamondbacks are one of the least valuable franchises in the MLB, based on their market. With the 14th worst attendance in the National League last season, the Diamondbacks have continued to find it tough to put butts in the seats after their magical season in 2001. The Diamondbacks used to pack approximately 35,000 people to the games in their peak during the early 2000s, but that number has continued to decline, as the team averages only 25,000 per game now.
9 Colorado Rockies, $575 million
Although the team has fallen on hard times lately, only making the playoffs two times in the past eight seasons, fans still attend games. Purchasing the team in 1992 for $95 million, Charles and Richard Monfort have turned their investment into a $575 million franchise. Although the team does reasonably well in attendance, ranking fifth among National League teams, the team suffers financially due to its low payroll and brutal record.
8 Pittsburgh Pirates, $ 572 million
After missing the playoffs for an eternity, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been relevant as of late, making the playoffs in two consecutive seasons. Normally ranking as one of the worst teams in the league in attendance, the Pirates have suffered financially as a result. However, even as one of the least valuable MLB franchises, the team continues to make $204 Million in revenue, as they recently broke their 20-year steak of losing seasons in 2013.
7 Cleveland Indians, $570 million
Although the Cleveland Indians possess the latest American League Cy Young winner, the team could be in financial troubles. Having been able to subsidize the expenses of their stadium for the last 10 seasons, the current tax structure is set to expire in 2015. If the current tax structure is not renewed, the team’s stadium expenses will have to come from the county’s general fund, which may cause troubles. The Indians have had two consecutive seasons of over .500 baseball, but rank last in American League attendance last season with a dismal 17, 746/game average.
6 Milwaukee Brewers, $565 Million
The Brewers franchise seems to revolve around the phrase, “What have you done for me lately?” The Brewers attendance spikes when the team makes the playoffs but drops roughly 3,000-6,000 people when the team is not in the playoffs. Winning games will always make people come to the games, but unfortunately in Milwaukee, if the team isn’t winning, many people find better things to do. Still ranking as one of the best teams in the National League in attendance, the Brewers $103 million spent on player expenses have cut into the revenue. With a smaller market and not much buzz around the team, the Brewers will always be one of the lower tier teams in terms of financials.
5 Houston Astros, $530 Million
The Houston Astros are the laughing stock of the MLB, and haven’t made the playoffs since 2005. Although the Astros were a valuable franchise on the field from 1997-2005, a recent file for bankruptcy by Comcast SportsNet Houston hurt the team financially. The business was supposed to pay the Astros $80 million a season for television rights, but stopped due to insufficient cash flow. Once they sort out their television rights and the television revenue starts to flow back in, their value may increase.
4 Miami Marlins, $500 Million
The fact that the Miami Marlins aren’t last on this list is an accomplishment in itself. After trading away the kitchen sink to the Toronto Blue Jays, the team’s payroll dropped to around $40 million in 2013 and their attendance plummeted. Ranking last in the National League, the Marlins attendance fell to 1.6 million in 2013 and continued to be the worst in 2014. The Marlins will always be a team that falters in attendance and in revenue based on location. Going to a baseball game is probably near the bottom of the list of people's interests in Miami, and who can blame them?
3 Oakland Athletics, $495 Million
Billy Beane may be one of the smarter men in baseball and had his story told by Brad Pitt in a motion picture, but his team ranks among the worst in value. Although the Athletics are always one of the most exciting franchises in the American League, fans seem to forget about them and their value suffers. Despite making the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, the team’s ballpark has definitely kept people away, and until they find a new stadium, this problem will continue.
2 Kansas City Royals, $490 Million
If it wasn’t for Madison Bumgarner having potentially the best postseason pitching performance in MLB history, the Royals could have had their first World Series title since 1985. Going 29 years without making the playoffs is tough on a franchise and fans find it troublesome to make it out to the ballpark. In such a small market, if the team isn’t performing, the value of the franchise will continue to suffer with the teams record. However, with its recent World Series appearance, attendance in Kansas City should rise tremendously and the Royals value may rise with it.
1 Tampa Bay Rays, $485 Million
It’s crazy how one of the most entertaining and successful American League franchises of the past seven years continues to suffer financially. In a division that has powerhouses such as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, staying relevant is an accomplishment. The Rays continue to bolster their line up through player development, unlike many other division rivals who invest in multi-million dollar contracts. As one of the least revenue driven teams in the MLB, the team suffers due to its market, horrible stadium, and previous years of mediocrity. It will take a long time before the Rays get out of the dumps of the least valuable cellar.
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