As you might expect, once word went out that the Houston Astros were on track to bag $99 million this year, someone with the ball club had to get up and say it wasn't so.
The Astros, who own the worst record in Major League Baseball, have the lowest payroll of any team after getting rid of just about anyone who makes anything approaching serious money. The two exceptions are Jose Altuve (who just signed a long-term deal) and Eric Bedard (I can only suppose he's got some serious dirt on Jim Crane).
According to Forbes magazine, the Astros are on pace to bring in more money in 2013 than the last eight World Series champions combined. The number may be a bit high because it doesn't take into account the bath that the Astros took as a stakeholder in CSN-Houston, the regional sports network they started up with the Rockets. But, even factoring in a $24 million loss, the Astros are still pulling in over $70 million this season.
Team president Reid Ryan (son of one of the greatest pitchers of all time) told everyone who would listen that Forbes didn't know what they were talking about. He insisted that the Astros were losing money.
Now, if he were arguing that the Astros weren't making as much as Forbes estimated, I might buy into his argument. But, to argue that the number is off by more than $100 million is really stretching it.
I understand why Mr. Ryan stood up to deny the report. If I were the president of the worst ball club in baseball, I wouldn't want folks to know just how much money we were raking in. If I were the president of the ball club with the lowest payroll in baseball, I wouldn't want folks to know how much money we were raking in.
The scary thing is these numbers don't even reflect the windfall every Major League team will reap from the new national TV contracts beginning next season.
The numbers from Forbes are further evidence that Jim Crane has no intention of putting a winning product out on the field. Why spend the money on high-priced free agents when you can field a bunch of rookies and players too good for Triple A but not good enough for the Majors and still make money hand over fist?
Yes, it's Mr. Crane's money - but we aren't talking about a small market team here. Houston is the nation's fourth largest city and home to countless major corporations. There is plenty of money in Houston to field a competitive team. But that's not the game plan.
So, Houston, sit back and enjoy your AAAA ball club scrap and fight to keep from losing 100 games year after year. Meanwhile, Jim Crane and his buds will be sitting back and raking in the cash - whether you go to the ballpark or not.
Here's an article from another writer at Forbes who says the claim the Astros were swimming in cash was wrong.
Of course there are all sorts of ways to cook the books to make them say whatever you want them to say, too.