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Sunday, April 02, 2021

hey hey tampa bay
They’re division enemies of the hometown Yankees, but the New York Times knows a good baseball-team-as-distressed-property story when it sees one. The Tampa Bay whizkid braintrust of Matthew Silverman, Andrew Friedman and owner Stuart Sternberg is presented as Wall Street fix-it experts determined to resurrect Major League Baseball’s saddest-sack franchise.

Among the finance science being applied to the baseball diamond:

Mr. Friedman, who attended Tulane on a baseball scholarship, spices his language with Wall Street jargon like “mark-to-market accounting” and “positive arbitrage” in describing how he expects to get the most out of his roster. While the Devil Rays’ payroll of $35 million puts the team at the bottom of the league, for example, Mr. Friedman uses the mark-to-market method — which allows a Wall Street trader to value a security in his portfolio at the current market price, not the price he paid for it — to gauge his team’s real worth.

Applying that notion to baseball allows Mr. Friedman to attach a market value of perhaps $7 million to Scott Kazmir, the team’s star pitcher, who is actually on his payroll for $370,000 a year. Luckily for them, most of the players on the team are contract-bound to salaries lower than what they might command on the open market. The bottom line is this: Mr. Friedman reckons that the real value of the Devil Rays’ payroll is closer to $50 million.

Friedman better hope none of his players (or their agents) read that. Not that the Rays are bound by these comments, but undervalued assets in the form of contracted employees have a habit of figuring out their market value pretty quickly, and let ownership know come negotiation time.

The new Devil Rays regime is obviously being set up as a test case for whether or not business sense can yield results in baseball. A bit of “Moneyball”/sabremetrics is thrown in for good measure, because you can’t claim to be an MLB miracleworker without a nod to the arcane numbercrunching (which has yet to win any team a World Series, by the way). Personally, I still say it’ll begin and end with pitching. Which means this season is nothing but a big-show seasoning stint for the squad, with hopes to build a foundation for seasons to come.

And yes, all the talk about what’s going down at Tropicana Field (not “Tropicana Park”, the one noticable error in the Times piece) did make me a bit wistful for my former hometown. Not that I care a whit for baseball, but I did enjoy having a top-storey window view of the Trop at my last gig.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/02/2021 05:47:33 PM
Category: Baseball | Permalink |

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