Diamonds in the Rough?

April 24, 2009 ( - Apparently the softening economy is also weighing on the value of - - - major league baseball teams.

Well, some teams.   Overall team values increased an average of 1% over the past year to $482 million – led by the New York Yankees, which saw their value jump 15% to $1.5 billion, according to survey by Forbes.   The Yankees had the biggest percentage increase in value on the list partly because they moved into a lucrative, new $1.5 billion ballpark this season.

League revenue, including funds used to finance stadium debt, rose 5.5% to $5.8 billion last year, while operating income increased 1.8% to another record at $501 million, according to the magazine.

Top Teams

The second-ranked team was the cross-town rival of the Yankees , the New York Mets, whose value rose an impressive 11% to a net worth of $912 million.   The Mets also moved into a new stadium, Citi Field, this year, and the team will get an average of $20 million a year in naming rights and related advertising from the bank, not to mention a cable deal.

The next three most valuable teams – the Boston Red Sox (up 2% to $833 million), Los Angeles Dodgers (gaining 4% to $722 million) and Chicago Cubs (surging 9% to $700 million) – own their stadiums and generate a lot of money from tickets, concessions and sponsorships – not to mention cable television, according to Forbes.  

Series “Split?”

Last year’s World Series loser (or American League champion, depending on your perspective), the Tampa Bay Rays rose 10% to $320 million.   The 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies rose just 3% to $496 million, good enough for seventh place in the Forbes ranking.

However, Forbes said the decline in value of 10 teams – a third of the league – was the most since 2004 as the U.S. recession has hurt franchises with a lot of debt or stadiums in cities with high unemployment.   And it could get worse – although the season is young, Major League Baseball has already been hurt by the recession, which has led consumers and companies to cut spending.

The Washington Nationals had the biggest decline in value, 12%, to $406 million, while high unemployment in Michigan and Ohio was a factor in the value of the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians falling 9% and 4%, respectively.   The Atlanta Braves shed 10%,, while the Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners (-9%), San Francisco Giants (-5%, but still in the top 10), Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates also lost ground.

The complete Forbes list can be found at .