Forbes survey ranks Cubs as most-profitable team in MLB
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com March 27, 2013 11:03PM
Updated: March 28, 2013 11:11AM
MESA, Ariz. — The same Cubs team that claimed its $140 million-plus payrolls of a few years ago were “unsustainable” and that continually has cried publicly for its need to increase revenues is also the most profitable team in baseball, according to Forbes’ valuations of Major League Baseball teams.
During a 101-loss season in which the big-league payroll had been cut significantly for a second consecutive season, the Cubs had an operating income of $32.1 million — $2 million more than the second-ranked Baltimore Orioles, a playoff team in 2012.
The Cubs also saw the franchise value increase 14 percent, to $1 billion, according to Forbes, ranking it behind only the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox.
Chairman Tom Ricketts repeatedly has said since his family took ownership in the fall of 2009 that all profits would be put back into the team and that the baseball-operations budget would keep the same share of the revenue pie, even if payroll went down.
But there’s no apparent place within baseball operations that the payroll reductions have been invested. When asked about that discrepancy during his annual talk with the media this spring, Ricketts said:
“You’re kind of comparing it to the Tribune payrolls of the last couple years, which from our standpoint and from the team’s standpoint were just unsustainable. But what I can say is that it’s a closed system. Every dollar does stay in the baseball organization.’’
Perhaps most telling, if not most embarrassing to the Cubs, in the Forbes report is the MLB-high debt-to-value mark of 58 percent — a $580 million load that puts the Cubs far beyond the level considered in violation of MLB’s debt service rules.
Despite Carlos Marmol’s meltdown Tuesday, manager Dale Sveum said he isn’t worried about his closer heading into the season.
Marmol, who also had two walks and hit a batter in his previous outing, failed to retire any of the six batters he faced Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds, allowing four hits and a walk (one runner reached on an error). All six eventually scored. He had a 1.86 ERA in 10 outings before that.
“He’s been throwing strikes with his fastball and [Tuesday] he got hit a little bit, but he still threw strikes and he’s doing a pretty good job,” Sveum said. “He had four outings in a row where I think the most pitches he threw was 12. There’s no worries there.”
Sveum pointed to what Marmol did in the second half last season (1.52 ERA, 12-for-13 in save chances) and discounted spring-training numbers.
“Obviously, anybody can lose their job any time during the season, but you don’t get caught up in what’s going on in spring training,” he said. “Just like you don’t worry about one of your core hitters struggling in spring training, because Opening Day is just a whole ’nother animal to where the adrenaline and focus and everything gets tremendously better than it does sometimes in spring training.’’
Meanwhile, former Japanese All-Star closer Kyuji Fujikawa is capable of backing up Marmol, Sveum said.
“If Marmol throws three days in a row or something, you’ve got a viable candidate to close that fourth game if Marmol has to be down,” Sveum said. “You’re dealing with a guy that’s done it many, many times before, with the stuff and the makeup to be able to do it.”