What a star's suspension would mean to a baseball team's bottom line

Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws his helmet after striking out against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 15, 2013 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Penn.

One of the biggest athletic doping investigations appears to be coming to a head. Major League Baseball reportedly could soon slap suspensions on several players linked to a Florida clinic that allegedly supplied performance-enhancing drugs.

We’re talking superstars. And these wouldn’t be typical suspensions. They could be for 100 games – almost two-thirds of the baseball season. 

So what would that mean for teams’ bottom line?

Let’s look at the Milwaukee Brewers.  They consider Ryan Braun so valuable that they’ve committed to pay him $145 million through 2020. 

Braun, a former National League MVP, has denied he used banned substances. But what if he has to sit out?

“The short term financial impact will be largely limited,” says David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Institute.  “Throughout Major League Baseball, the money is in the door for the year from media, from local TV rights deals, corporate sponsors and season ticket holders.”

But if this drags into next season, which it very well could given the lengthy appeals process, teams like the Brewers could have a real problem without their stars. 

“You’re lessening your chances to win games,” says Howie Magner, senior editor of Milwaukee Magazine, “and then not nearly as many people are going to show up to the ball park. And if that’s the case they might have to reduce payroll and you get into something of a losing spiral.”

It’s all conjecture at this point, but Magner says he imagines “this is something that has [the Brewers] really worried.”

It’s worth pointing out that Braun’s bat hasn’t been golden this year, and the Brewers are having a horrible season. For now, though, plenty of fans are filling the stadium.

USC’s Carter thinks they’ll continue to come, since baseball has proved to be something of a Teflon sport despite a string of doping cases. “I don’t know that fans are shocked anymore, they just want to attend games,” he says.

There could also be savings for the Brewers, since they wouldn’t have to pay Braun for the time he'd sit out. His salary is $8.5 million this year and jumps to $10 million next season.

About the author

Sabri Ben-Achour is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the New York City bureau. He covers Wall Street, finance, and anything New York and money related.

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