Don't weep for Ted Lerner. The owner of the Nats may have seen his franchise drop in value by 12%, but his crown jewel is still the 14th most valuable team in baseball. And better for him (and his accountants), it's the second most profitable.
Forbes released their annual franchise values, and it's good news/bad news for Uncle Teddy and his merry band of profit-hoarders.
They claim the team is worth about $406 million now, down from the $450 million the Lerners paid. Why?
"The owners of the Washington Nationals have badly botched the job thus far of trying to successfully bring Major League Baseball to the nation's capital for the third time. Blame the Lerner family, who bought the team in 2006 for $450 million and dominate the ownership group. Managing Principal Owner Theodore Lerner and the four other family members who are principal owners furnish one of the league's lowest payrolls despite a new, taxpayer financed stadium. The Nationals lost 102 games last year, the most in the majors. The team's goodwill is also evaporating as GM Jim Bowden resigned in March amidst a federal investigation involving the skimming of signing bonuses given to Latin prospects and a scandal involving the team signing a player who lied about his age."
Sounds about right.
Forbes also says that the Nats made more money last year than all but one other team. What they did with the $42 million Forbes estimates, nobody knows.
The team is sure to poo-poo the numbers, claiming that Forbes has no access to their books. Those are valid points. But even if you assume that they're off by 100%, that means the Nats still raked in $20 million or so.
So how does a team with lousy attendance and no real following make that much cash?
Well, with lots of expensive premium seats and premium fat-cat concessions. Forbes estimates about $100 million in revenue there alone.
The other way? Thank Peter Angelos. Even though nobody's watching, MASN gives the Nats $28 million a year.
That's like $3,000 a viewer.
So even in a year where they weren't reaching attendance or on-field expectations, they made money. That's a scary lesson for Nats fans.
Hopefully, the team won't learn that they can sit back, feed fans meager scraps, while laughing all the way to the bank.
Chris Needham used to write Capitol Punishment. He's amazed he didn't use the word "cheap" here.