SBD/Issue 138/MLB Season Preview

Fourteen Of MLB's 30 Teams Start With Lower Payroll Than In '08

Fourteen of MLB's 30 teams open the '09 season with a lower opening-day payroll than a year ago, while 10 of those 14 are cutting salary by at least $10M, according to a survey cited by Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf: "That is an amazing number. This isn't just the baseball economy. But the owners who subsidized losses for their team with their businesses don't have businesses as profitable anymore." According to the survey, the average MLB salary increased 4% to $3.26M from opening day '08. The Yankees once again top MLB with a payroll of $201.4M, which is down $8M from the beginning of last season, followed by the Mets at $149.3M and the Cubs at $134.8M. The Red Sox have MLB's fourth-highest payroll at $121.7M, down $12M from last season. Below are the top five and bottom five teams in terms of MLB payroll for '09 (USA TODAY, 4/6).

Red Sox

TRIAL BY FIRE: The GLOBE & MAIL's Brad Wheeler reported while MLB is "bracing for a drop in overall attendance" this season, tickets for opening day are "being scooped up quicker than a one-hopper to the pitcher, and most major-league franchises expect their ballparks to be full for their season starters" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/4). In Toronto, Garth Woolsey wrote there is "no immediate danger" of MLB teams "going under or the industry requiring a government bailout, but it is the first major team sport in North America to open its season face to face with the recession" (TORONTO STAR, 4/4). In Hartford, Don Amore wrote this spring and summer "will be the ultimate test if baseball has become recession-proof" (HARTFORD COURANT, 4/5).

Brewers' Ticket Sales At 1.75 Million, Up 10%
From Same Period A Year Ago
STILL SEEING SUCCESS: Angels Owner Arte Moreno said that the team has retained about 90%, approximately 27,000, of its season-ticket holders from '08, while "nearly all of the 76 luxury boxes at Angel Stadium have been leased." In California, Jeff Miller noted the team has sold more than 3 million tickets in each of the past six seasons, including at least 3.3 million for the past five. An attendance "dip is forecast for 2009 but not a cliff-dive drop," and the Angels are "better off than several teams" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 4/4). In Milwaukee, Don Walker reported the Brewers already have sold 1.75 million tickets, about 10% more than prior to the '08 season, while the team's payroll has jumped from around $80M to $87M this year. The Brewers drew just north of 3 million fans to Miller Park last season, but a source said that the team will "have to attract somewhere between" 2.8-2.9 million "just to break even." Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio: "We are doing everything in our power to win. We budget to break even. I was very concerned that if we budget to a conservative attendance mark, and budgeted a payroll according to that, you came up with a $70[M] payroll. The message would have been, 'You made the playoffs, now it's back to the same old Brewers'" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 4/5).

WAIT & SEE: In Miami, Clark Spencer notes while the Marlins are expecting a crowd of about 25,000-30,000 for today's season-opener against the Nationals, club officials are "not sure what to expect in the way of attendance for the other 80 games because of the sour economic climate." Marlins President David Samson: "We're going to have to see how the economy does. We're going to have to see how people react to all the events we're doing." The Marlins last season ranked last in MLB home attendance, and Samson said he would "like to match last year and maybe see a little increase" (MIAMI HERALD, 4/6). Orioles Dir of Communications Greg Bader said the club is "pleased that overall, we aren't seeing what some predicted in terms of a major decrease or the losses of customers that some industries are seeing." Bader added that "corporate advertising and suite sales have remained similar to last year and that the season-ticket renewal rate is also steady, though customers are buying fewer tickets per order." Bader said that the Orioles are "cautiously optimistic about matching last year's" home attendance of 1,950,075 (Baltimore SUN, 4/6). The Rangers last season drew their fewest fans in 20 years, and Rangers Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Andrew Silverman said that the team "focused during the off-season on the need to boost ticket sales and will continue to monitor the situation." Also, the team is discounting several items at the ballpark, and Silverman said, "It's all about affordability" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/5).

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