Selig, DuPuy: Baseball in growth cycle
MLB's top officials remain confident despite tough economy
ST. PETERSBURG -- While top officials of Major League Baseball said on Wednesday that they are watching the slumping U.S. economy closely, the sport is still very much in a growth cycle."There's no question," said Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, just before Game 1 of the World Series between the Phillies and Rays at Tropicana Field. "I think we're in a growth situation in Asia, I think we're in a growth situation with the MLB Network going on the air, I think we're in a growth situation with the coming of the next World Baseball Classic. "I actually think that with teams like Tampa Bay making the World Series, we're growing on the field as well. There's no question we're in a growth cycle."
With the presidential election less than two weeks away, the stock market still on a roller-coaster ride and some banks short on cash, Commissioner Bud Selig added that MLB is taking a cautious approach, but is still moving forward on all its initiatives.The new MLB Network is slated to air on basic cable to a potential audience of 50 million homes on Jan. 1. The Classic is scheduled to begin on March 5 and play in seven venues both home and abroad. In addition, documents are about to be signed between the Marlins and the City of Miami to move forward on construction of a much-awaited new ballpark. "The national economy is going to have an effect on everything," Selig told reporters on the field before the game. "There's no sense me trying to figure it out today, but of course the economy is going to have a pervasive effect on everything we do and on all of our lives. There's no doubt about it. "As far as we're concerned, we have all offseason to look at it. And it'll be a subject of some of our meetings." Selig said he's also satisfied with MLB's growth position. The league's gross revenue rose beyond $6.5 billion this season, an increase of at least $400 million over 2007, despite an 800,000 decrease in ticket sales. "We are as strong as we've ever been," said Tim Brosnan, MLB's executive vice president of business operations. "Not a single sponsor has backed out or asked for special consideration." MLB was in a much worse position in the late 1990s than it is today, Selig said, noting that the clubs were dealing with an economic structure that he termed "an anachronism." Since then, revenue sharing from the big-revenue clubs to the lower-revenue clubs has increased from $50 million to about $350 million, thus altering MLB's competitive balance to the point where the Red Sox are the only team to win the World Series twice since 2000. Seven other teams have won since then, and there will be another new World Series winner this year. "We talked about eight or nine years ago, if somebody would have told me we'd have gross revenues of between $6.5 billion and $7 billion and we'd have the turnaround that most clubs have had, I wouldn't have believed it," Selig said. "I'm proud of the sport. I'm proud of everything that's happened. "And that's why when you get a World Series that nobody had predicted, that's not a bad thing."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.