Bryce Harper’s $330 million deal can’t solve MLB’s big spending issue

“Baseball was not competitive in the first half of the 20th century because the talent pool was restricted (only white males from the U.S. played). Racial integration and a global search for talent expanded the talent pool and made the game much more competitive,” Berri said.

None of this is to say the business of baseball is not a financial success. In fact, the MLB is flush with cash. The league grossed $10.3 billion in 2018, the 16th-consecutive year that the league saw record gross revenue, according to a widely cited annual Forbes report based on information provided from league sources to baseball writer Maury Brown. And despite a 4.1 percent attendance drop in 2018, television broadcasts for twelve major league teams ranked first in their market in primetime, according to Major League Baseball.

The MLB saw a five-year viewership high on its Fox package, which in part contributed to a seven-year extension with Fox Sports, continuing to air World Series and All Star games through 2028, an extension worth a reported $5.1 billion.

The MLB also was ahead of professional sports league peers in its development of streaming technology, a forward-thinking effort that ultimately resulted in Disney’s billion-dollar-plus purchase of BAMTech, the MLB’s internet start-up, now valued at close to $4 billion.

Although the MLB has crowned eight different World Series winners in the last 10 years, it has for the most part been a similar set of teams making the playoffs each year. The Los Angeles Dodgers (who lost in the last two World Series) have consistently won the National League West since 2013. The Boston Red Sox (the current World Series champion), have won four titles since 2004. And the New York Yankees, another money spending powerhouse, have only missed the playoffs four times since 2008. These teams are consistently atop league leaders in payrolls.

Despite competing for a good majority of last season, the Phillies faded down the stretch, finishing the season with an 80-82 record. Phillies owner John Middleton said in November that his organization was going into the offseason ready to spend “and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”

As Red Sox owner John Henry put it: “It’s very difficult to predict things in baseball, to predict player performance. Spending more money helps.”

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