The new Major League Baseball season has yet to begin, but already some strong statistics have emerged.Forbes' annual report on the economic state of the game was released Wednesday, and it finds that the average value of a Major League team has increased to an all-time high of $523 million, an increase of 7 percent from last year. MLB does not comment on the annual Forbes report. As expected, the Yankees top the list with a reported worth of $1.7 billion, leading the way for the 14th straight year since Forbes began valuing franchises in 1998. That is a 6-percent increase in worth for the Yanks, and that figure doesn't account for the club's other holdings, the YES Network and Legends Hospitality Management. Forbes reported that the enterprise value for the Yankees and those two holdings is $5.1 billion. The gap between the worth of Hal and Hank Steinbrenner's Yankees and the second-place Red Sox is 86 percent, according to Forbes. The Red Sox, owned by John Henry and Tom Werner, are valued at $912 million. The Dodgers ($800 million), Cubs ($773 million), Mets ($747 million), Phillies ($609 million), Giants ($563 million), Rangers ($561 million), Angels ($554 million) and White Sox ($526 million) round out the top five. Fred Wilpon's Mets, however, saw a 13-percent decrease in their value amid legal and debt problems. They were one of only three teams -- the Padres and Indians being the others -- who saw a decrease in the Forbes valuations. The overall average increase is largely attributable to greater revenue earned by teams opening new stadiums. The Yankees opened the new Yankee Stadium in 2009, the Twins opened Target Field in '10 and the Marlins will open their new ballpark in '12. But even in not-as-new parks, the Phillies (up 13 percent to $609 million) and Reds (up 13 percent to $375 million) saw large increases, thanks to strong attendance and local television ratings. The Rangers' value reportedly rose 25 percent, to $561 million, after new ownership took over; a new, 20-year TV deal with Fox Sports Southwest was reached; and the team reached the World Series for the first time in its history. "I'm sure they have some formula they base it on," Rangers president Nolan Ryan said of the rankings, "but I don't have any opinion on that." On the whole, revenue for baseball's 30 teams rose 4 percent, to $6.1 billion, Forbes reported. Total operating income fell 5 percent, to $494 million, which Forbes said is attributable to rising stadium and team expenses. The national recession did not have a major impact at the gates. In fact, 73 million fans attended Major League games last season, the sixth-highest total of all time and just a 0.4 percent decrease from 2009.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.