Cardinals Chairman DeWitt: “The Industry Isn’t Very Profitable”

Nathan Tucker
nrtucker@lc.edu

 

In a radio interview with Frank Cusumano on 590 “The Fan” on Tuesday, June 9, Cardinals owner and Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. turned heads with comments he made on the financials of baseball. 

DeWitt, 78, has owned the Cardinals since 1995, and has turned them into one of the most profitable teams in all of sports.According to Forbes, the Cardinals are currently worth $2.2 billion. 

“MLB saw record revenues in 2018 and 2019, and in each year, the average (player) salary dropped.” Cusumano states in the interview. He then asks DeWitt a simple question: “If the players aren’t going to reap the reward of the revenue, why should they subsidize losses?”

“It’s a zero sum game, they have by far, by far, the best deal of any players in any sport.” DeWitt replied, slightly avoiding the question. “The players have always fought for whatever they can get in individual negotiations and it’s always been to their benefit. This industry isn’t very profitable, to be honest.”

The message is clear: the Cardinals owner believes that since (some) baseball players get a better deal than athletes in other major sports, that they shouldn’t continue to negotiate for better pay and a bigger piece of the pie. 

The deal that DeWitt Jr. is commenting on in this interview is a proposal from the Major League Baseball Players’ Association where players asked for a 100% prorated salary. In layman’s terms, they want to be paid full price for the games that are played, how many ever that may be. They are not asking for a full-season salary, but for simply the same pay per game.

DeWitt’s comments came off especially crass to many Cardinals fans online. Fans see an owner who’s spent $261 million on luxury condos past center field saying that the players need to give them some slack. 

Personally, DeWitt doesn’t seem to be hurting for the cash either. Just over a month ago the Cardinals owner made a splash in the housing market when he bought this LA mansion last lived in by actress Eva Longoria. Reportedly a bargain, under market value at $8.5 million.

DeWitt previously owned or invested in several other teams, including the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, and MLB’s Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, and Cincinnati Reds, before his purchase of the Cardinals from Anheuser-Busch back in ‘95 for a mere $150 million.

Adjusting for inflation, that $150 million is equal to $252 million today. As stated at the top of this article, the Cardinals value currently is nearly ten times that amount. Very few owners in any sport in the world can claim they’ve had such incredible growth in a relatively short period of time. 

Sure, as DeWitt notes in the interview, it takes more people to run a successful baseball team now than it did even less than a decade ago. But what’s also certain, as Cusumano points out, is that the sport — and by extension, the owners of every team — are making more money than they ever have before. 

Any notion that the league isn’t pulling in egregious sums of money can be disproven with a simple Google search. In the future, DeWitt might want to Google how some of his own players feel about MLB’s compensation to its athletes before he makes generalizations.

Jack Flaherty, the young ace of the Cardinals pitching rotation, has been vocal across social media platforms during MLB’s negotiations with the players’ union. Like most players, he understandably doesn’t want to agree for less money to play less baseball in the process. 

When MLB announced their 75% salary rebuttal to the players request for 100%, Flaherty only had two words to share on Twitter:

“that’s cute”

One can infer he feels the same way about his team owner’s comments on radio. 

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