Despite the Astros' Legal Claims, More Money's Not the Key to Competing With Texas

Categories: Sports

Do the Astros really need to make as much in media rights as the Texas Rangers to be competitive?
I've read way too much of the legal documentation generated in the Astros/CSN Houston bankruptcy litigation. And I'm not much in the mood to rehash what I've read -- I also assume you're pretty tired of reading about it, too. But I did recently see a new argument generated by the Astros attorneys that I cannot let stand.

The Astros have recently started to argue that the deal negotiated by Drayton McLane with CSN Houston for the team's media rights does not generate enough money to allow the Astros to remain competitive with the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. And since that $54 million is not enough, the Astros can only approve network carriage deals that ensure an immediate profit for the network because the Astros need that money to make up for the shortfall caused by the bad deal for the media rights.

I'm not going to address any legal matters. I'm not going to address the Astros' now claiming the deal they negotiated is a bad one. I'm going after something else. I'm going after the notion that what media rights the Astros negotiated do not allow the team to be competitive with the Rangers and the Angels.

To put it bluntly: That's a bunch of bull. It's not the amount of money a team makes from its media rights that allows a team to be competitive. It's how that team uses its money that allows it to be competitive. Just ask the Oakland A's, a division competitor with a bad TV deal, the worst stadium in baseball, awful attendance and a cheap owner. Yet the A's are, year after year, one of the best teams in baseball, and have won the division the past two seasons.

But according to the logic of the Astros legal briefs, there is no way the A's should be competitive because the A's' media rights are not enough to allow the team to be competitive with Texas and Los Angeles. The A's earn way less in media rights than the Astros. So the A's should be even worse than the Astros.

Maybe the A's are just an outlier -- there was a book and an Oscar-nominated movie regarding the A's gaming the system and being smarter than everybody else. But then how to account for the Tampa Bay Rays, another team that earns less in media rights than the Astros? The Rays also have the disadvantage of playing in the AL East, home of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, two teams whose media rights deals and spending dwarf those of the Rangers and Angels. But what do you know, the Rays were in the playoffs last season, and are generally acknowledged as one of the best teams in baseball.

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