Except for the results on the field, there is no reason to feel sorry for the Philadelphia Phillies, despite a poor home season at the gate that ended on Sunday.
They have more than just the best mascot and one of the best stadiums in the game going for them. A new TV deal looming on the horizon means their bank account is about to be fueled by a very large deposit.
The team finished the 2013 home season with a sharp decline in attendance, down roughly 500,000 from last season. In fact, since 2009, with the exception of one year, the team has dropped at the gate each year.
When the home season ended Sunday, it assured the team that it would finish no higher than fourth in the NL East, the first time the team has not finished first since the 2009 season. Even though the Phillies are no longer the attendance king of the league, they are not hurting for money. They currently are in the middle of negotiations with Comcast for a new TV deal that could lead to a regional powerhouse TV network somewhat on the order of the Yankees’ Yes Network.
By contract, they can only negotiate with Comcast network until 2015, then can open it up to outside suitors. The contract could reap billions. Since Comcast owns NBC, they have some pretty deep pockets and can help the Phillies launch their own TV network. The Phillies are in a unique situation in that they are in the fourth-largest market, the nation’s largest “one-team” market. That gives them a virtual license to print money.
What does this mean for the 2014 payroll?
Even if the Phils don’t sign a new deal in the offseason, they can borrow against that future windfall to perhaps sign one, maybe two, big-ticket free agents. That might mean signing a player like catcher Brian McCann of the Atlanta Braves and getting the kind of pitching help they need for the back end of the bullpen and perhaps a right-handed hitting outfield bat.
Normally, a poor year at the gate means a frugal offseason, but the TV contract talks have come at the right time for this team.