The irony of the 2013 Houston Astros.
posted Aug 28 2013, 01:45PM
story by David Loret
posted in MLB, Analysis

While this year’s MLB season is still underway, there’s one thing we are all sure of : The Houston Astros are the worst team in Baseball. But there’s a secret that not a lot of people actually know about the Astros.

You don’t know it either? Okay. Despite being the worst team is baseball, the Astros are the most profitable team in baseball history. No, this is not a typo, this is not an article made for April fools’ day, this is as serious as you can get. The Astros are on pace to make almost $100 million in operating income (before interest, taxes, deprecations and amortization, according to Forbes) this season. This number means that the 43-86 Astros, who own the worst record in the majors, will have nearly as much operating income than the estimated operating income of the last six World Series winning teams … Combined.

Yes, this year’s Astros team is an irony. A beautiful one when you think about it for a second. As of now, no one on the roster earns more than $1.15 million/year (Erik Bedard), no one else even makes over $1 million a year ! Okay, we already know what everyone is thinking here : “The Astros suck”, “Who cares ?”, “They are just a AAA team”. As of now, maybe. But since taking over the team, owner Jim Crane has done a successful job of not overspending and actually cleaning all the organization. Yes, the Astros are bad. But they have been building up their farm system ever since Crane bought the team while getting rid of the most expensive players. This year, the team will pay an estimated $21 million in salary and bonuses (that number was $56 million when Crane took over) to its players. This is less or as much as, for example, these following players will earn this season … with a little fact :

Alex Rodriguez , Yankees, $28.000.000 (Do we even need to write something about A-Rod ?)

Johan Santana, Mets, $25.500.500. (Didn’t play this year)

Tim Lincecum, Giants, $22.000.000 (7-13 with a 4.55 ERA)

Or, Vernon Wells, $21.000.000 (hitting .243 this year)

What is even more impressive is that Houston’s active payroll was $26.000.000 on opening day, by far the least in the majors. But wait .. Since then, the Astros have cut their payroll to under $13 million. A number to put in perspective ? 64 MLB players make more alone than all of the Astros combined (according to Forbes). The New York Yankees alone have nine players making more than the Astros payroll. Even Jason Bay, who is a free agent with no team, is making more than that.

You would be right to ask if this way of managing was the good way to go. After all, the Astros are still bad. That’s why owner Jim Crane wants everyone to know that, like he told to ESPN the Magazine, once the Astros’ minor league system is filled in, they’ll move in the top 5 or top 10 in payroll. Of course, no one can say if he will stay true to his word, especially since teams with lower payrolls (Tampa,  Pittsburgh, Oakland or even the MLB-leading Atlanta Braves) are having trouble drawing fans. But before spending, Crane is clever enough to think about paying the $275 million debt he took when he bought the team (according to Forbes), $220 million from Bank of America and a reported $55 from the Major League. Once this hurdle is passed, the future is bright for the Astros as they will be able to spend their money on major league players.

For example, if the Astros wanted to use some of the $99 million of income on players, they would have been able to take on the contracts of the entire starting lineup of the NL All Star team ($84 million).

But having such a low payroll isn’t the only reason for Houston’s financial success as Comcast Sports Houston pays the Astros $80 million a year to show their games on cable television. A number about $50 million more than the Astros got under their previous deal according to Forbes. And a number that could even be higher if the new and improved Houston Rockets (also broadcasted and owners of the channel) enjoy some added success after the signing of Dwight Howard.

There’s a lot of bad things that could be said about the Astros but no one can be negative about Jim Crane’s way of managing. His thinking prevented the Astros from overspending like some Major League teams will do, and made the Astros’ future a lot brighter than they had before, as well as avoiding a personal bankruptcy with a $275 million debt to pay. They might be 43-86 as we speak .. But when the time is right, things might get interesting in Houston and the income machine could become even more powerful if Houston follows the steps of the Tampa Bay Rays and builds a playoff-contending team without having a huge payroll. In other words and you ask yourselves .. All things considered, are the Astros really the worst team in MLB ?

Credit for the numbers : Forbes.Com

David Loret
From Paris. Editor-in-Chief. IBN Senior MMA and WWE Writer....

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