The St. Louis Cardinals: Firmly in the 'Have-Nots'

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click to enlarge Artist's rendering of the Cardinals at the negotiating, erm, campfire. 
Artist's rendering of the Cardinals at the negotiating, erm, campfire. 
The Los Angeles Dodgers just sent a message to the rest of baseball, and that message is that the big, bigger, biggest money in baseball is no longer confined to the East Coast axis of evil. 

The Dodgers are currently engaged in the late stages of negotiating an enormous new television deal, with an official contract expected any day now. I'm not exaggerating with the word enormous, by the way; this deal promises to be the largest such arrangement yet in major league baseball. The numbers are just staggering: 25 years, a total dollar figure in the 6-7 billion dollar range. That's billion, with a b. 

Of course, numbers without context are meaningless. Unfortunately for those of us living here in the Gateway City (and our beloved Redbirds), the context is ridiculously depressing. 

Over at Fangraphs, Wendy Thurm took a look at the proposed deal, and offers a complete rundown of every team's current situation in terms of TV monies. The Dodgers' new deal could bring in anywhere from $240 million on the low end, all the way up to $280 million per year. That's just mind-boggling. Literally, I'm having my mind boggled right now as we speak. This deal is boggling the shit out of me. Boggle boggle boggle. (Sorry; I've been breathing paint fumes all day, and I think it may have affected my brainspace. Boggled it, actually.) 

More importantly than the absurd amount of money the Dodgers are getting, there's a table there that lists all the clubs in MLB, as well as their current arrangements. The table is broken into helpful chunks, from teams with regional networks of their own (YES for the Yankees, NESN for the Red Sox, etc), to mid-market teams with decent deals, to teams with contracts expiring soon, that sort of thing. The full gamut, if you will. 

And alllll the way down at the bottom is the portion of the list subtitles 'have-nots'. And right smack dab in the middle of the have nots: your St. Louis Cardinals

The Redbirds' current deal with Fox Sports Midwest is due to expire after the 2017 season, which isn't terribly far off. Still, the really depressing thing is that dollar figure. 

The Cardinals currently make $14 million a year on their television deal. 


That's less than one year of a Matt Holliday in on-field spending terms. 

So, let's see...if the Dodgers' new deal comes in at the maximum expected (and there's plenty of reason to believe it could), that would mean Los Angeles would be making literally twenty times as much on their TV contract as the Cardinals make on theirs. 

This is more than just a depressing consideration; it's a frightening one as well. Major league baseball has tried to address the inequities in revenue streams between teams in a variety of ways, but the media contracts are so huge, so overwhelming in dollars, that it could end up a real threat to the balance of the game, I think. 

And, being on the poor side of this equation as a Cardinal fan, I happen to think that sucks. I also happen to think it sucks that, regardless of how good attendance is at the games, an how consistently solid the television ratings are for the games, the Redbirds are just never going to be able to swim in those deep waters. 

On the other hand, you do have to give credit to the Cardinal organization from time to time for maintaining the winning tradition they have in spite of this kind of thing. There have been times over the years I've been frustrated by the Cards' unwillingness or inability to spend more to shore up what I saw as an issue here or there, but looking at the black-and-white numbers of their revenues, it's hard to complain too much. Eleven world championships feels even better when you know they're doing it with such a large handicap. 

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