Royals owner David Glass created a stir recently in revealing $70 million to be the budgeted break-even point for the club’s 2013 payroll.
Well, the financial pinch is a lot tighter than initially believed.
Bless you, Bob Dutton. Your job, as fun and interesting as being the beat writer for a baseball team seems, is not one that I would want. Not with what you have to put up with.
“I’ve always been willing to spend whatever cash we’ve generated on payroll,” Glass said, “and I’ve even been willing to subsidize it under conditions where we have an opportunity to be competitive in our division. I’ve never changed from that.”
Historically speaking, Mr. Glass, only once have the Royals been in a position to be competitive in the division under your stewardship. 2003. Which literally came out of nowhere. And, as long as we're being honest, it's kind of your fault that the team hasn't been competitive. You kept payroll under $50 million until 2007 when, thanks mostly to the signing of Gil Meche, the team broke that mythic barrier with a payroll of $67 million. You gave minimum signing bonuses to drafted players. You passed on first round talent because of your own cost restrictions. So, sorry if I don't believe you. Sure, things have gotten better lately on the amateur side of things. Which is to say, someone finally convinced you that you save money in the long run by not having to sign veterans when you can't field even a competent team with the flotsam you were trying to get by on.
Where were we? Oh yes. 2003. The last vestige of "competitive" Royals baseball. Mike Sweeney accounted for more than 25% of your payroll that year. He was paid $11 million. Other than him, you had seven other players making more than $1 million. One good week is all it takes, right? Well, that year the Royals had two. And it carried them to a record four games over .500. Competitive. And there's no way in hell you expected to compete that year. You want to know how I know? Because Carlos Febles, Mike DiFelice, Dee Brown, Mendy Lopez, and Julius Matos all saw a significant amount of playing time that year. You only had one pitcher make more than 20 starts (Darrell May, who was out of baseball two years later). Fifteen pitchers started a game that year, including Brad Voyles. Yes. That Brad Voyles.
In a sense, I guess you're not lying. If the team isn't ever in a position to compete, you don't have to shell out the money for it. But that's not to say you wouldn't. I mean, you said that you would, it just hasn't been an issue because your teams have always sucked.
That $70 million includes far more than salaries allocated to the 25-man roster for opening day. Club officials say it encompasses the entire 40-man roster and also includes the signing bonus limits for the draft and international spending.
That reduces the break-even point for the 25-man roster – the figure generally used for comparison purposes in public discussions – to roughly $57 million. The draft and international limits under the new labor agreement comprise about $10 million.
Are the owner and the GM even communicating anymore? Or is everything that's been discussed over the last week just forty shades of bullshit? Let's recap:
- Trading Myers for Shields increases payroll starkly this year and commits them to more money next year (basically everything coming off the books when coupled with Guthrie's salary increase). If they are already over budget, how the hell are they going to swing that?
- If the rumor about offering Dempster 2/$26m are true (and possibly a third year), which corresponded with trade talks involving Shields, we're talking about adding $22m this year and $25m next season. How the hell were they going to swing that?
- And if Moore knew what his salary expectations were for next season, why did he trade for Santana when a better option would have been available for roughly the same cost? And if he didn't know what his salary expectations were, why the hell does he still have a job? How was he able to swing that?
When you factor in revenue sharing, TV revenues, and if you use the most simplistic model of average attendance multiplied by average ticket cost, you come out with a figure that far extends beyond the budget they are proposing to break even. And I haven't even mentioned that, given Glass' "soft cap" figures, it would imply that the team has operated at a loss (or, at best, break-even) for five of the last six seasons. No way would Glass have signed on for that.
No. This strikes me as the worst kind of public relations pandering. A feint to the masses, trying to set a precedent and cull good will when the team does actually extend the budget. So they can say, "Hey. Look at us. We're going all-out. We're doing what's necessary to win. Don't you love us? We're digging deep. So deep it hurts. It hurts to write those checks. But man, you know I'm doing it. I'm doing it for you. Because I want to win."
While top club officials, present and past, affirm Glass’ contention that he doesn’t pocket an operating profit, those assertions are a stark contrast to figures published by Forbes magazine, which contend Glass made about $100 million from 2000-11.
Major League Baseball has long contended the Forbes figures, which are calculated without access to club financial statements, are wildly inaccurate.
Thanks again, Bob. I know that's the closest you can get to openly criticizing the team's statements. It's a precarious position to be in. I'm glad it's you, not me. I can walk away. That is to say, I could walk away. I won't.
But I just may.