Though people often like to say baseball is dying, the attendance figures and mega-cable deals, as ESPN's Darren Rovell recently pointed out, say otherwise. To that end, Forbes recently announced its valuations of the teams in Major League Baseball, and the financial magazine estimates the Baltimore Orioles are worth $1 billion.
That's up 61 percent from last year. Breaking it down further, the analysis also says the club had $245 million in revenue and an operating income (read: profit before taxes, interest, etc.) of $31.4 million.
So it sounds like high times in Birdland, right? Nothing but happy days ahead where the team is able to sign its 11 pending free agents and lure in more top talent? Not necessarily.
While the billion dollar figure is certainly impressive, the Orioles are still only ranked as the 15th most valuable franchise out of 30 in the sport. The average club is worth $1.2 billion, up 48 percent from last year, which is to say everyone in the game is flush with cash right now. Not surprisingly, the team's payroll for this season falls pretty close, 12th overall, to where they rank on the valuations list.
Still unknown at this point is how much the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network—owned by Peter Angelos and his partners in addition to the team—affects the Orioles' bottom line. As you might recall, MASN was created when MLB brought the Montreal Expos to Washington D.C., cutting into, Angelos argued, the Orioles' market. So the league gave him a sweetheart deal where a network would be established and Baltimore ownership would rake in an overwhelming majority of the revenue, with Washington's share increasing over time. The two teams are still in a lengthy legal dispute over the fair market value Washington should receive. An arbitration committee ruled the Nationals should receive $60 million per year, an increase of approximately $20 million, according to the AP. A trial to settle the matter is set to begin in the New York Supreme Court on May 18. Point being, there's a lot of money on the table in the here and now, and that money could presumably be reinvested in the on-field talent.
Forbes didn't even factor the network's assets in to this new evaluation of the franchise, but they did estimate MASN's worth at $600 million around the time Tom Clancy, a part-owner, died in 2013. When Bloomberg made a similar assessment of MLB franchises in 2013, they placed a value of $492 million on MASN, and put the club at $1.12 billion.
But MASN might not be a cash cow forever. As Rovell pointed out in the article above, these TV deals may unravel in the future as cable shifts from bundles to picking channels a la carte.