Baseball’s Economics Aren’t as Bad as Reports Have Said

A look at revenue breakdown between owners and players offers a different outlook.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred at a press conference.
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Last week, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred claimed, controversially, that the league has been “at a very stable — approximately 50 percent of revenue going to player salaries — for five, six, seven years. The math of that means that salaries are growing in line with revenues.” This was the slowest offseason of the free-agent era, and the MLB faced a winter in which deeply reported pieces have proposed that baseball’s economic system could be broken. Meanwhile, players and agents have speculated about collusion and raised the specter of a strike, while unsigned free agents have formed their own training camp for the first time since 1995. So Manfred’s words provoked responses ranging from skepticism to explicit accusations of deceit, writes The Ringer. However, it appears that Manfred was telling the truth, and that though it is possible the players have a relatively lean period ahead of them, the union’s “plight probably isn’t as dire as it’s recently been portrayed.” It is hard to get a good grasp on baseball’s economics because clubs’ books are closed and official financial figures are difficult to come by. Media members use the best available estimates but the revenue breakdown between owners and players is a fundamental data point. Before any decision can be made about what needs to be done about baseball’s market, there first needs to be a consensus about where the market currently stands.

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