SBD/April 16, 2014/Franchises

Mariners Financials, Team Value In Best Shape Ever Despite Years Of Poor Play

Even Cano's $240M deal is not expected to slow the team's revenue growth

Fan interest and trust in the Mariners has “eroded amid slashed payrolls and losing seasons,” yet despite those struggles, the franchise finds itself “in the best financial shape of their 37-year history,” according to Geoff Baker of the SEATTLE TIMES. The Mariners’ value “keeps growing, while revenue skyrockets” from new local and national TV deals. Even with long-term commitments of $240M to 2B Robinson Cano and $175M to P Felix Hernandez, the team’s “moneymaking shows no signs of slowing.” But it is “fair to ask whether the Mariners can afford a payroll much higher” than their current $92M. The Mariners enjoy ballpark and TV infrastructures “similar to big-payroll division rivals” like the Angels’ $155M payroll and the $136M payroll of the Rangers. Despite prolonged losing, the Mariners “likely doubled their franchise value the past five years and might already have joined baseball’s billion-dollar clubs.” Forbes last month valued the franchise at $710M. The Mariners likely are “worth even more" as Forbes did not include the team's new controlling stake in Root Sports Northwest (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/15). In Seattle, Jerry Brewer noted this season "could turn into an interesting case study about winning back a fan base." The Mariners have "enough juice to post their first winning record in five years." The team could "lay a bridge to contention starting next season, and they could provide plenty of excitement in doing so." But enthusiasm "won't be easily attainable." Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said, "We have a good fan base. I understand that we've been knocked around for quite a while" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/13).

HIS MAJESTY: In Tacoma, John McGrath noted a crowd of 38,968 showed up to Safeco Field on Friday night for Hernandez' first home start and "the box-office spike was driven by a clever promotion -- it included a T-shirt giveaway and distribution of 'K' cards -- that expanded The King's Court into the 'Supreme Court.'" By identifying section 150 as The King’s Court, the Mariners "were the first MLB organization, and maybe the first in sports, to parlay the popularity of a single player into a consistent promotion." The King’s Court originated in '11, and Mariners Senior VP/Communications Randy Adamack said, "Our marketing department had a couple of meetings where ideas were tossed around on how to celebrate the fact he was best pitcher in the league. Somebody came up with the idea of allocating a section of seats for fans to gather when Felix starts." Adamack "made sure Hernandez was comfortable with the notion," but he also "sought the approval of the organization’s 'baseball people.'" Adamack: "We don’t run every promotional idea by them. But in this case, we needed to know if they would buy in. They were fine with it." McGrath noted the "affection of The King’s Court clearly appeals" to Hernandez (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 4/13).

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Franchises, Seattle Mariners, MLB

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