added 9/4/2013 by Scott Barzilla
Unless you have been living in a cave or an abandoned island, you have undoubtedly heard about the Forbes.com article suggesting that the Astros have been the most profitable team in MLB history from Dan Alexander. Some of you may have read Maury Brown's rebuttal in the same magazine. I'll try to ignore the obvious irony of Brown coming to Jim Crane's defense following his hatchet job (at the behest of Bud Selig?) a couple of summers ago. Additionally, there have been some excellent analyses of the Astros financial situation in the wake of those articles.
It is not my purpose to analyze financial wheres and what fors. My wife handles the checkbook at home and we are both happier that way. My focus is on how the Astros reacted and what has become a two year period of public relations disasters for the franchise. I may not know a great deal about the world of accounting, but I do know overreactions when I see them. I may not know a lot about operational income and real income, but I do know that when people react that strongly to something it means they feel like they have something to hide.
Are the Astros going to make 99 million dollars this season? I seriously doubt it. Heck, even Alexander started doing some backtracking from that claim in his follow-up article. Whether it is true or not, most people don't care. The attention span of the average Joe doesn't last much longer than the headline. The rest is just details.
The Astros brass snapped and under the circumstances you can hardly blame them. You can almost feel the frustration over there at Crawford. It seems when one public relations blunder seems to fade into the background, another story rears its ugly head. Whether you support the current direction of the franchise or not, you can't help but empathize with them at this point. This one seemingly blindsided them.
In this particular case, I tend to trust Brown's perspective, but reluctantly so given his limited integrity. That doesn't matter. It doesn't take a mathematical genius to figure out that the Astros will make money this year. When you spend next to nothing at the big league level, you can't help but make money. Most business owners would tell you that profits like this often get reinvested in the business. In this case, the Astros have debt and a drowning regional sports network to support.
The best advice anyone can give them at this point is to simplify their message. You don't have to refute erroneous facts at this point. All you have to do is speak a very simple truth. This is a bad baseball team right now and it won't be fixed overnight. The club has chosen to invest in its farm system and build the team from the ground up. That will take time and there will be losses in the meantime.
A paltry payroll certainly doesn't look good and this story won't help anyone accept that even more. The problem is that you can't hide from the payroll. Everyone sees and everyone will come to their own conclusion. Keep speaking the truth and some will accept. Some won't.
The truth is that while the Astros may be making a profit, that profit is not finding its way into the pockets of the owners. It's going to pay down debt and help support the RSN. From there, some will claim that you can make money faster by having a competitive team and competitive payroll. That's a fair opinion.
Some will agree that building the farm system first is the right way to go. Opinions will always differ on the direction of the franchise. Yet, when you protest to this degree, you make some believe that you are in it to make the profit and not in it to win. Obviously, that's not what you want.