20 April 2006

$54 million? Not bad for one year

Forbes finally released their annual team valuation list today. The usual suspects are at the top of the food chain, with the Yankees being the first team to surpass the $1 billion mark. The Washington Nationals had the biggest gain, jumping all the way to #6 with its $440 million value. That figure is in line with the expected sales price of still-ownerless franchise. Other low-revenue teams got a big boost as well, including the A's, who jumped from $180 million to $234 million in the calendar year the Wolff/Fisher group has owned the team. This rapid appreciation is due to the continuance of lucrative national TV deals and revenue sharing.

It gets more interesting when looking at how these numbers break down. Forbes usually gets the figures pretty close since franchise sale prices tend to come very close to Forbes' appraisals, so it should be pretty easy to accept these values even with the limited information MLB and the teams make available. Take a look at how the A's and Giants compare:
  • Franchise value: A's - $234 million (+26% change), Giants - $410 million (+8% change)
  • Debt-to-value ratio (less than 40% preferred): A's - 38%, Giants - 37%
  • Wins-to-player cost ratio (% relative to per average wins-per-dollar of salary): A's - 116, Giants - 76
  • Market value: A's - $73 million, Giants - $155 million
  • Brand management: A's - $21 million, Giants - $50 million
  • Season ticket rolls: A's - 8,000, Giants - 28,000
What do these numbers mean to you, the baseball consuming public? Not much if you're looking for huge future payroll increases. These are not liquid or cash figures. And don't be fooled by the Giants' debt-to-value ratio. Other teams with higher debt have ancillary assets they can sell off to reduce the load, the Giants don't unless Magowan and Co. are willing to dig deep into their own portfolios.

On the other hand, the market value and brand management numbers are telling. In both cases, the Giants more than double the A's. The Giants have 350% more season ticket holders, though that could change drastically for the worse next season. This raises more than a few questions, such as:
  • How much are the A's and Giants tapping into their relative markets, and the Bay Area as a whole?
  • Are the A's low values due more to the stadium, ineffective marketing, or other factors?
  • How much of a difference will a new ballpark for the A's really make in the grand scheme of things?
Should the A's get a ballpark built soon and ink better media deals, they could see a surge similar to what the *ahem* Anaheim Angels experienced.