QUESTION: Baseball wonders how to deal with the increasing loss of fan interest. One of several major factors is fan perception that their club has the resources to field a better team, but chooses not to do so in order to increase profits. Do the people who run MLB teams realize this, or are they unaware?
GOOLD: I think this is a fascinating topic, and you've put the question well — because that perception does exist, and rightly so in some markets. They're aware, but how do you get them the message? It's not on Twitter. That's for sure. Not when, say, the Cardinals are still selling 3.4 million in tickets. And not when teams are still getting $1 billion rights fees.
What you're talking about is a real, real, real issue for the perception of the game, but the owners and the game have firewalled themselves from it being a real, real, real, issue for the finances of the game. That has to change to get their attention. Is that empty seats? Maybe, but not when there are full cable fees. Is that the cord-clipping that we see? Maybe. But not when they bundle it into a streaming service and get your annual fee for watching a sports channel on your tablet. And so on.
Tanking is a real issue because, as Scott Boras as rightly pointed out, it has incentives, and he's mostly talking about draft picks and international spending. I would argue that there is also a financial component to it because with some rights fees those monies are going to come rolling in regardless of the ratings, regardless of the quality of team, and whether there are butts in seats or not. Take a look around the NFL.
I will add, however, that some of the coverage of what teams are worth does not do this perception any favors because those are routinely wrong. That's it. It might help for baseball to have a little transparency, as the NHL did, so that there's not this notion that voodoo estimates cooked up without actual info are any sort of representation on what franchises are worth.