By:  Holly Horning

As much as fans like to speculate about the moves their teams need to make to bring them closer to that championship season, there’s one little problem they don’t consider. Winning it all may not be the top priority of the team’s owner.

Yes, you read that correctly. Not every owner in baseball has the same goals about winning and that’s because they all have different reasons for owning their teams.

We’d like to think that every owner in baseball bought their team solely for altruistic reasons – their love of the game or their desire to bring a championship to their city and state. But for most, buying their team is based upon a top priority of promoting their own personal goals.

Yes, winning it all is something that every owner wants to do but most of them put limits on how far they will go to achieve that ultimate prize. They will always tell fans they are “all in”, “in it to win it”, “competitive”, “playoff bound” and “in the mix”. They will spin their weaker rosters by saying they are “retooling” or “rebuilding”.

But they will never tell their fan base that the team is anything less than “strong.” And the reasons are obvious. Attendance accounts for 40% of team revenue.

What motivates MLB owners is a list as large as the number of actual teams. Their agendas could be driven by one or more of these factors:

• profit-driven
• rich man’s “toy”
• investment
• feeder business into corporation
• branding tool for corporation
• bucket list

Naturally, many fans may assume that owners would be motivated to invest in their teams because winning teams create profit. And that is another myth.

But wouldn’t winning teams bring in profits while losing teams will bring losses? Believe it or not, there is actually little correlation between winning and profits or losing and revenue loss.

For years, the team with the biggest profit margin has been the (formerly) lowly Houston Astros. Despite 2 years of finishing in the basement, the Boston Red Sox were one of the most profitable teams. As well, the San Diego Padres.

The Phillies, understandably, lost the most money this past year. After them? The Tigers.

This year’s most profitable team has been the St. Louis Cardinals – not only due to their winning ways year after year, but because this is probably MLB’s only team that focuses on short and long-term goals while turning out a consistently good product. Isn’t this the way it really should be?

So what about the Tigers? What motivates Mr. I? It may be more than you think.

In Part Two later this week, we’ll explore the factors that drive the Tigers to do what they do. We’ll see where they stand financially in the baseball world and the factors that may drive the decisions made for the 2016 season.

And we’ll understand why trades happen and don’t happen because of financial, not performance-based, reasons. Stay tuned….


  1. As I watch the playoffs this year, and see all the extraordinary young talent on these teams, an inescapable conclusion emerges: The Tigers’ moment has passed. I think that Illitch is hypercompetitive and desperately wants a World Series.


  2. Couldn’t disagree with one thing you said Opus. That’s what will make 2016 so interesting for ” hard core” Tiger fans AGAIN next year. We have almost ” older” superstars in JV, Miggy, VM and Ian. And a group of very solid up and coming players -Iggy, McCann, Martinez and Nick. There is not one iota of doubt in my mind Mr. I has but one goal – a championship.


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