Big wins on small budgets

Lisa Napoli Oct 12, 2007
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Big wins on small budgets

Lisa Napoli Oct 12, 2007
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Lisa Napoli: It’s baseball playoff season. And three of the teams heading into the pennant race may be in the big leagues, but they’re from smaller markets. They’ve got smaller budgets, too, than the big bad Yankees. I asked sports commentator Diana Nyad if this was unusual.

Diana Nyad: That’s exactly right. I mean you look at any business — I don’t care what business — if you were telling me, “Hey, I got a radio show, and I got $216 million.” And I said, “Oh, I’ve got a radio show, and I’ve only got $53 million” — which is the difference, by the way, between the Colorado Rockies and the New York Yankees. You would say to me, “Well, I’m gonna crush you.” What’s happened, though, is that the smaller teams who are in there this year — the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cleveland Indians and the Colorado Rockies — they had a philosophy a few years ago, and they said you know what, we’re not gonna do what George Steinbrenner does over the Yankees, is just go out with our money and capture this one free agent, one at a time. We’re gonna have what we call “home-grown boys.” You know, make them grateful to be here. And they are producing it. It’s sort of being shown that that’s the philosophy of winning in baseball today.

Napoli: So it’s the “moneyball” theory by Michael Lewis, right?

Nyad: There you go. That’s what it is. It’s moneyball par excellence.

Napoli: And we’re seeing it come to fruition now, after years. Sort of the same thing as a management theory: I invest in my people long-term, and they’ll stick around and grow.

Nyad: And also, you know, I want to tell you Lisa, that I was speaking yesterday to Bob DuPree, who’s the president and COO of Major League Baseball, and he said, “You know what, Diana? When I grew up, there were three kings of sport: boxing, horse racing and baseball.” Well, guess what — two of them have died. So what Major League Baseball did was, they said, the parity is killing us, the competitive imbalance. So what they did was, the most important thing they did was institute the luxury tax. So that any team that has a payroll of over $126 million has to start paying taxes, depending on how far they go over.

Napoli: OK, so all of this is great, but I can’t imagine that the Major League Baseball people aren’t sitting around going, “Yeah, that’s very cute that all these smaller teams are in the game, but we really want the big guys in there, because that’s where we’re gonna make the big bucks and get the real viewership.

Nyad: There’s no doubt that it’s an uphill struggle. I mean, how are you gonna get that casual fan interested? So Major League Baseball, like they used to, just advertise on ESPN and the typical sports networks. Well now, you’re watching your Law & Order and your The Closer or whatever, and all of a sudden, a great human interest moment — not a sports moment — comes about baseball. Gets you a little bit interested. “You know what? I might just watch the World Series this year,” people are saying.

Napoli: That’s our business of sports commentator Diana Nyad. In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli. Have a great weekend.

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