A revealing article from a sports journalist

I am a sort-of baseball fan, one who used to be a real fan. The team I chose to brand on was the Cincinnati Reds. They are falling off the map. If the Major Leagues were formed today, that  city would have, at best, a AAA franchise.

The Atlanta Braves inspired a bumper sticker years ago that said “Bring professional baseball to Atlanta.” Cincinnati now inspires such a sentiment.  Its teams have been moribund, dreadful, boring, its managers uninspired and behind the times. The reason, I am told, or at least assume, is that this is a small market team doing all it can afford to do.

So this article by Steve Mancuso opened my eyes. Starting with the assumption that the Reds have to trade some viable young prospects in lieu of paying outright for proven talent, Mancuso took me on a ride.

  • Baseball has a new multi-year multi-platform $5.1 billion deal with Fox Sports that will take it into 2028. Cincinnati takes a 1/30 cut.
  • The 2018 All Star Game generated $45 million in ad revenue. Pretty good for a sport that is fading into the background.
  • Facebook will soon be streaming afternoon games, generating $30-35 million.
  • DAZN will run a look-in style show (similar to NFL Red Zone), another $300 million.
  • The Supreme Court has ruled that gambling is legal. All bets are off. We are now talking untold billions in new revenue. Mark Cubin, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, claimed that the value of sports franchises “doubled in a second” with that ruling

So here is the bottom line to this very interesting article by a very good sports journalist. These are my words, not his: The Cincinnati Reds do not need to worry about the turnstiles to stay viable, or even to field competitive team. They can sit and do nothing and still be profitable. And indeed, this appears to be their plan.

The St. Louis Cardinals just acquired Paul Goldschmidt to bolster their middle lineup. That is a team that works at putting a quality product on the field. Thus far this off-season the Reds, sorely in need of pitching, have, just as in years past, done nothing. Their plan appears to be hope.

The current ownership group of the Reds, headed by Bob Castellini, bought the franchise from Marge Schott in 1999 for $67 million. Today it is valued at $1.01 billion. During that time they have made the playoffs three times, losing out early each time. Their won-lost record during that time is 1,451/1,627. Last year the team had the lowest attendance since 1983.

And yet the Castellini group is rolling in dough. Their books are closed, of course. Major League teams (except the Atlanta Braves) are non-public and do not disclose their earnings or value. ($1.01 billion is an estimate by Forbes.) However, the return on investment during the Castellini ownership proves they do not need to field a decent team.

In the insurance business, there is a concept called “moral hazard,” defined as “lack of incentive to guard against risk where one is protected from its consequences.” The fact that the Cincinnati Reds can continue to field bad teams and still grow richer by the day is a just such a moral hazard.

It sucks to be a Reds fan. I would un-brand in a heartbeat if I could.

25 thoughts on “A revealing article from a sports journalist

  1. This is the same fundamental problem with the “beautiful game” here in England, too much money. [I mean football, or soccer to you North Americans]. The gate receipts are often now dwarfed by the tv money.

    But there is one massive difference here……

    The top 20 clubs play in the Premier League. It is a money machine, literally billions of £’s from the UK, and worldwide, tv rights every 3 years. Most of which goes to the top 20 clubs.

    The big difference here is that each year the bottom 3 out of the 20 clubs are relegated at the end of the season. The ones who win least that is, they drop down to a lower league and are replaced by the top 3 clubs from that league, who are promoted. This works the same way for all the top 4 leagues, almost a hundred clubs. And down to league 5 and 6 in fact.

    So a club can fall out of one league after another over the years, down to league 4, and worse, if it is badly run. It does happen sometimes. It works the other way too. Teams can rise up from 4 up to the top. This is rare but has happened. Usually a big club that has previously plummeted.

    This focuses owners minds very effectively. Winning is everything. Losing often enough means relegation. Isn’t that supposed to be the US way? Nah, money rules doesn’t it.

    Every few years we hear talk of adopting a US style franchise system for the Premier League here, doing away with relegation and promotion. The talk this year was of a Europe wide “super” league for all the biggest clubs. But it never happens and I hope that it never will. The excitement of promotion and relegation would be lost. This is the hook that keeps every 9 month season exciting down to the wire. The effected fans experience the ecstasy of promotion, or the despair of relegation. All the promotion and relegation issues are usually only decided in the last few weeks of the season. It is a very very effective hook.

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  2. Mark I gobble up everything written on your site. Thank you for that. All of you write very well in easy to follow understand style. I know you’re somewhat of a hard sell on rigged sports. I could guess why but who cares. You enjoy the sport. Aside from pick up games or softball I’m almost positive you never played the game much am I right? Well I never thought for a second most history is rigged fake whatever until you and peanut MM’s performed my successful brain surgery. Growing up you were envious/awed to all encompassing extent of those who did play obviously much more by the pro’s. A real life fantasy pretending or vicariously life wonderment being them or being pro yourself. In other words Heroes or heroic for moment in time. One hit wonder or Hall of Famer either is a winner. But never just a Joe Blow. Besides bubble gum name no one remembers a Joe Blow. Most athletes are Joe Blow Pops. Kind of a sucky life right there being Joe Blow Pop. Joe Mama might be better. Pete Rose was the greatest baseball player that ever lived. Charlie Hustle did everything but pitch and catch including now extinct Manager player/coach. Player/coach was beyond willy wonka golden ticket rare just like Pete. I believe Pete Rose was chosen as fall guy to whenever needed reinforce MLB most certainly isn’t rigged. Can you say misdirection. If MLB is truly rigged and if Pete Rose truly bet on baseball Charlie Hustle should never lose a bet right? Especially betting on his own team right. Every player on every team would or should know the pre-determined outcome of every game right? Especially the Manager player/coach. Ever notice how every superstar in every sport has at least one black mark on their resume albeit some post-career. I believe the ones without black mark are most likely gay like Jeter. Oh ya sure. Jeter humped every woman in NY. Pfft as JFK comes to mind. Pete Rose was the face of baseball. I don’t believe Pete Rose ever bet on baseball. Which means Bart godda love my dark smoked the filter too circles around my eyes Giamatti didn’t actually die post first ever banned for lifer. Bart probably waited to croak until at least 2004 Red Sox series then kicked the bucket. With all his hair and switch hitting 7 of 9 positions charlie hustle with best looking forearms ever on earth physique Pete Rose was kicking you know what and Not taking names for yyeeaarrss. Why bother. Pete Rose is Topps in names on the planet. Derek Cheater I mean Jeter? Really? Yeah no worries. MLB isn’t rigged. Just like Howard Cosell, MLB never played the game. Mark if you didn’t play Little League just know those memories just like grade school stay with you living forever young. If you didn’t play Little League then I understand why rigged MLB is a hard sell. No one woke up wanting to believe there’s no such thing as Santa Claus. Like Chance said, Life is a state of mind.

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  3. Recording every team & game played for one full season, what would find? Evidence. They hook you from cradle to grave. The diamond is really a perfect square. (9 innings/9 players/3 strikes ect!) Math freaks wet dream. How many numbers are used each year for every player/game/stat for just the Pros. Now add in semi-farm teams. Now add in college. High school. Babe Ruth. Little League. Pee-wee. T-ball. How many NUMBERS? ADD All $$ $spent top to bottom of the list above. Ready? Go back to the turn of the century & ADD that up to this years tally. Negro League too. Mmm-mm.

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  4. It is a lot of trouble to rig so many meaningless games. Meaningful ones, yes, easy to see. I wonder at this point if with, say, the Superbowl, the instructions are to keep the game close so to keep viewers interested, but in the fourth quarter let the chips fall. The Chicago Cubs World Series win, 108 years, yes, of course.

    I did play softball, never very good but had a lot of fun. Played football in high school, wish I had skipped it and just done cross country or nothing at all.

    [Oh, yeah, Pete Rose scandal has fake written all over his it. That is a double confidence game, meant to reinforce the idea that the sport is clean. Look him up and you will find he is a high-degree mason.]

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  5. Oh the irony. I ran CC. Speaking of Cubs, I went to 2 NBL games in my life, both Cub & Card at Chi-town. One in ’73, the other in ’82. Went down to the sunlit left field bleachers up in the foul ball area. Dude from the Cards nailed one my way. I stood and eyed balled (ha) it was going up deck a ways. I sprinted a couple of flights, stopped 2 seats in a pair of dudes stood & reached up to catch it. I stayed put. The one dropped it!! My arm shot in and grabbed it clean. He grabbed my arm! I yanked my whole body straight back & was free. I then boogied back to my seat. I then heard a voice behind me, ‘one was telling the other that ‘he’ (me’) got the ball fair & square after the other guy dropped it’ “Let him be’ & they left. WHEW! I was still a skinny runner then, and that is what I was going to do. When the inning was over I went up to the deck where pop & his friends were (shade) “Did you get the ball?” I held it out and they went nuts! Most have been to 20 games or more in their lifetime, never close to a ball of any kind. Ball is still in vault today. Masons are at the birth of this bread & circus game. That diamond is really a cube. Batters ‘box’. On deck ‘circle’. Hand signals are likely 2 or even 3 fold, depending on the game (World Series & play offs esp.) telling their brothers in who knows how many gangs hello/what’s up?/It’s in the bag/ect.

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    1. Great story … my lone experience in Chicago – my stepson worked for an ad agency there and they had unused Cubs tickets, so we got them … first row behind 3rd base dugout. I’ve never been that close to big league ball in my life except spring training, which does not count as there is no adrenalin. I did not have a beer or coke or anything as I did not want to fight the crowds in those bathrooms, so I was waiting around for people and overheard a guy trying to get his family in one place. I watched him as he angrily said “Let’s get this group together. Enough of this BULLshit.” With the word “bull” his mouth exploded, and I have practiced it. A Chicago friend says I have it down now, enuf o dis BULLshit.

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  6. Mark no game is meaningless because every game is profitable. There is no such thing as chips fall where may in Super Bowl. I’m sorry do TPTB hit chips fall where they may button creating fake history? Um no. There is something you’re not telling your readers regarding your resistance to becoming full fledged brownie button member like me of Sports are Rigged ‘we’re just keeping it real’ coo clux clan out there. And that something is between you yourself and Mark. But it’s not a good look. And you’re not a bad looking guy. I bet even a handful of plain MM’s would tell you you’re not being led Sideways up the mountain. (Speaking of which main characters in Intel movie Sideways the movie are Miles & Jack (jfk) Miles seeking publisher for his half fact/fiction book). C’mon Mark be the flash point of my boring ping pong pool darts horsehoes rock n roll life weekend and let’s hear it! What’s the god or godless honest truth why you are stuck in Sports are Rigged neutral? Or is this your black mark on your resume.

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    1. The jump from “some” sporting events are rigged (the Cassius Clay/ Sonny Liston fights) to all events are fixed (meaningless sporting events between teams with no chance of making the playoffs) is too much for me to comprehend. I am often addressed in an offhand manner as someone who thinks “everything is fake.” My response, that it is boring to write about things that are real, doesn’t fly well in the face of presumptions.

      Since this blog post was about the Cincinnati Reds, let’s take a look at them. Last year they won (going on memory) 67 games, lost 95. Baseball is unique in this manner in that even the very best teams usually lose 30 percent or more of their games, and the worst teams win 40 percent of their games. The important perspective from a fan who pays attention is that the Reds team loses so many games because the teams they play are usually better than they are. I watched a few games in the early 2018 season and noticed that good pitching had the effect of stopping good hitters, and that the Reds, while possessing a few good hitters, did not have good pitching. Consequently they lost a lot of games. There was no need for interference from above in this process. Bad teams lose a lot of games.

      You’re claiming that even in predictable contests involving a very bad team that the outcome is fixed? Why even bother? Is it about gambling? There are two sides to every bet. Why fix one side over the other?

      When it comes to the Superbowl and NFL, it’s another story. True enough there are some bad teams, but generally speaking the stakes are much higher. Fan interest is intense. The juice for the game comes from two sources, TV advertising and gambling. The first produces an incentive to keep viewers glued to their tubes. The second produces an incentive to get viewers to watch out-of-market games. So to keep viewers interested in a contest, it seems easy enough to have referees make bad calls and important players fumble and throw interceptions. That does not mean that the outcome of the game is fixed, only that the contest is deliberaly kept close. The second, gambling, is both formal betting with spreads and the like by people who bet on all games, and the invention of “fantasy” leagues. That’s all fantasy football is … a way to get people to watch more games on TV, to buy the NFL package and watch all the games. It does not affect the outcome of games. Big money making big bets … hmmmm … it seems possible that can be an influence over outcomes, point spreads being more important than winner or loser. A player might be tempted to take a bribe if he can affect the spread while otherwise not affecting the outcome.

      There have been a number of events where the outcome was important enough to rig … the 1969 victory of the Jets over the Colts, forcing the consolidation of leagues (Kansas City the following year pulled a similar stunt, upsetting the Vikings, reinforcing the merger – probably a fixed outcome.) The Cubs victory in the 2016 World Series seemed preordained- baseball games can be rigged if pitchers and batters know in advance the type of pitch and location as hitters are very good at hittng when they know what is coming). But the idea that a hidden hand is busy fixing all, or even most contests, is absurd. Only a few, and in the US, more football than any other sport. (I don’t watch or care about any other sports.)

      I recently watched Denver upset Pittsburgh, freezing my ass off in the process. The game turned on several miscues by The Steelers, who should have won. One was a fumble through the end zone that resulted in a safety and which cost the Steelers a touchdown. I could not tell at the stadium what had happened there, but later on TV I saw that the Bronco defender, who was only trying to prevent a toichdown, arrived at exactly the right time to jar the ball loose, and that the timing was purely the result of athleticism. No way could that play be scripted. Later a fumble by a Pittsburgh running back had a similar result, and looking at it there was no way to predict it or to be sure of a Bronco recovery. Finally at the end of the game Ben Roethlesberger threw a crazy pass on third down where it looked intentional. That gave me pause, as Ben is a very good quarterback with very good field presence and an accurate arm. He blew it, and in such a way that it seemed preordained. But that is just my take. He could have as easily thrown an incomplete pass to the same end.

      So no, most contests are not rigged, there is incentive to keep TV viewers watching, gambling always has two possible outcomes, and sometimes a heavy hand steps in and rigs a game. Sometimes.

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      1. “So no, most contests are not rigged, there is incentive to keep TV viewers watching, gambling always has two possible outcomes, and sometimes a heavy hand steps in and rigs a game. Sometimes.”

        I totally agree Mark.

        Premier League football [soccer] is a massive money spinner, billions £’s like I already said above. But fix every game? Do me a favour, that is impossible, absolutely impossible.

        Anyone who watches it regularly will know that this is true. Some of the stuff that happens is beyond choreography, way, way beyond. The players are good, the best there is, but they are not that good…..

        I’ve no doubt that some of the important games are rigged. Usually by bribing the referee I think. [He is the sole arbiter. Only he decides] I’ve seen that quite a few times. The Italians are past masters. Realistically it happens in England too.

        But by bribing the players? Nah, too difficult to pull off without being obvious. All the games are televised, all of them. I can watch any one that I want via a stream that I purchase. [For pennies on the dollar too compared with cable/satellite. I won’t feed the corporations]

        The players are simply not that good. Many of them have difficulty tying their shoelaces. Being good at sports does not mean that they have intellectual capacity.

        And every key moment is scrutinised, and analysed, in extreme detail. By pundits and fans alike. No way that it’s all rigged. No way.

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  7. Incentive to watch grass grow….err baseball? Both at the park & where ever a TV is on? One word: BEER. Keep digging. Bet (doh) there are plenty of look-a-like Brat boys in BB if you look.

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    1. Baseball and football fans are different types people. Baseball is better suited as background while other things are going on. Absence of intense gambling has reduced it to a regional sport. I have sat through spring training games where I did nothing but meet and talk with strangers, very nice people, and that was the real fun to be had.

      Football produces intense involvement and is more conducive to drinking. I read once where the combination of alcohol and an intense sporting event like football (or a horse race) stimulates the same part our brains as does cocaine. Baseball is more cerebral. You don’t see tailgating at baseball games, but for football, it is an early (and cheaper) jump on drinking. I am told that many people tailgate and do not attend games, more fun just to watch the game from the comfort of your car while pounding down beer and food. You don’t see that with baseball.

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      1. If you want cerebral then try watching English cricket. The subtleties are endless. You’d need a lengthy primer to have any idea what is really going on. It knocks baseball into a cocked hat tbh

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        1. We were surprised walking theough the hills of Nepal that the kids there played cricket more than soccer. The Brits had left their mark (not that British influence ever did anything besides fade into the background).

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          1. Excuse me, but I think that is a slur on the Brits Mark ;-))

            We Brits spent a few centuries stealing the wealth of the rest of the world didn’t we. We were actually very very good at that.

            How do you think that we are still so comparatively rich? We don’t actually do anything anymore do we. No industry worth talking of . We don’t make anything much now.

            But still we own sh*tloads of things, all over the planet. We own Canada and Australia for starters. The City of London has been at it for centuries. The world’s first Central Bank was formed there in 1694 ffs.

            Of course when I talk about “we” Brits I am firmly tongue in cheek. The Kleptocrats aren’t really British. They just have one of their key bases here. They are thieves par excellence. Unsurpassed in modern “his-story”.

            And do you know what? Most Brits don’t have an ‘effin clue about that. Not a clue! They think that we somehow “earned” all that wealth….face/palm…..

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  8. So, the “we” (Brits) who “own Canada and Australia” et al. are really the “they” (kleptocrats) who own the land and minds of most “nationalists,” regardless of country label. One giant corporate system with lots of fake “governments” and “managers” to keep the Goyim (livestock) distracted from the (matrix) system and its web of laws designed to serve only the elite — enslaving all other life forms.

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    1. That’s about it Steve. One giant corporate system.

      With a worldwide “legal” system, to keep us plebs in order, that is based in the Crown Temple in the City of London………..

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  9. Back to sports for a moment, if I may … I would like to play devil’s advocate on the question of whether it is all rigged.

    Here’s the question I have started asking those who dismiss my opinions on game-fixing: Why do you assume professional wrestling is scripted but American football is not?

    Consider pro wrestling:
    –it is a full-contact sport with lots of high-speed collisions
    –in general there are very few people in the ring at a time, and so the focus is very tight and the quality of the illusions must therefore remain high at all times
    –the participants are mostly great athletes
    –they sometimes get injured, and even seriously
    –they talk about their matches as if they are real competitions
    –the level of choreography amid seeming chaos defies belief
    –there are upsets and surprises, drama outside the ring, and lots of pageantry
    –there is betting on the outcomes
    –there are plenty of people (albeit under the age of 11) who believe it is utterly real in every way

    … Just like football. And even if you say that WWE wrestling admits to being scripted nowadays, that was not the case for 1970s-vintage pro wrestling, and so the above observations apply.

    Why could not the “kayfabe” of pro wrestling be imitated in other sports … where there is less contact and more opportunity for misdirection?

    Truth be told, it only takes two or three well-timed penalties to affect the outcome of the average American football game. It is an open secret that there is holding on every play and pass interference on every passing play; we won’t even mention unnecessary roughness. Whether or not it gets called is a matter of “how much the outcome of the play was affected” (so we are told).

    Between the refs and the head coaches, just about any story-line could be managed by some seemingly innocent choices at key moments: which players to send on the field, what plays to run, what plays to anticipate (rightly or wrongly). These little choices can easily make the difference between a win or a loss, a spread covered, or an over-under reached. Throw in a complicit place-kicker and it’s a piece of cake. (Place-kickers are the leading scorers, hands down: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Football_League_career_scoring_leaders .

    More evidence (circumstantial): despite being the highest scorers, placekickers are not the best compensated players. Quarterbacks are tops, of course. But after them the biggest money goes to the left tackles (who protect the blindside of the mostly right-handed high-price QBs.) Why wouldn’t the league’s highest scorers hold out for more cabbage? Unless … they were receiving compensation by another means that reflected their importance to outcomes?

    Same question could be asked about the (presumably) underpaid referees.

    My own view on football is a little more nuanced than “it’s all rigged.” But I have a hard time differentiating between it and wrestling in terms of pointing out why I think the rigging is not so all-pervasive.

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        1. Interesting case but not so blatant as you imply. The court merely concluded that a season ticket was a right to sit in a seat but not to be able to hold teams accountable when there are shenanigans, as with Belichick surreptitiously recording signals on the Jets sidelines. Meyers contended that he was prevented from seeing an honest and fair contest, and the court rule that he had other means at his disposal to punish the Patriots, as in not attending their games. Meyers learner what I too have learned, that courts do not dispense justice. Just legal rulings.

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  10. Far too much money to be left to chance. These people are control freaks. Plus a 100 years of perfecting the art deception…….cue the Rolling Stones tune dedicated to the devil…or I’ll lay your soul to waste.

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