Early into the bidding war, the Phillies figuratively pushed their chips into the middle of the table and said, “this is too rich for me. I’m out.”
It should never have been that way after the Phillies signed a mega-deal with cable giant Comcast—the Philadelphia-based Corporation that owns NBC and all of its properties— and should have had enough money to borrow against that contract to not only sign Tanaka but really to sign anyone they wanted. The deal gave the Phillies $2.5 billion just of TV money for 20 years, an average of $100 million a year. Tanaka is 10-1 with a 2.02 ERA. The free agent the Phillies said they could afford, A.J. Burnett, is 4-5 with a 4.52 ERA.
You get what you pay for, and investing that money into pumping up sagging attendance numbers by winning—a novel idea—would also be good for business since that would ensure that the team’s main source of income would stay near the top of the baseball scale. Spending money to make money is an idea the Phillies should adopt soon, even if it means going over the luxury tax threshold.
If anything, that signing showed why the Phillies need to get rid of the “gang of 10” mostly Philadelphia business leaders who own the team and sell their shares to a deep-pocketed single owner. The system worked for the Yankees under the late George Steinbrenner and it continues to work under his sons.
For the Phillies, under the “gang of 10” the team’s business model seems to be to spend just enough under the luxury tax to remain competitive and fill the stadium but not to win championships. That model needs to be imploded, and it is just not going to happen under such a diverse ownership group. With the big TV money already in the bank, claiming poverty won’t cut it anymore.
If the game is indeed too rich for the current owners, they should think about selling to someone rich enough and with a large enough ego to spend what is needed.