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No team makes more money from their fans than the Giants

According to Forbes, the Giants are worth $3 billion.

St Louis Cardinals v San Francisco Giants Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

You know why the Giants spent $10 million on a scoreboard this season? No team in baseball makes more money on average from their fans than the Giants do. Now, maybe you don’t consider a huge scoreboard to be a reason to go watch a bad baseball team, but the Giants want you to feel comfortable in Oracle Park should you decide to bite the bullet.

This morning, Forbes released its annual team valuation report for Major League Baseball teams and wouldn’t you know it the Giants are now worth $3 billion. That’s up 5% from Forbes’ valuation from last year and represents a 13% increase in value in just two years — again, according to Forbes’ analysis, which is imprecise and open to criticism. Still, even inexact accounting shows that despite a whole bunch of losing, executive turnover, bad headlines, and tragedy, everything’s going super swell for Giants investors.

There are plenty of reasons why the Giants and every other team in baseball continue to go up and up and up in value year after year — “The average baseball team is now worth $1.78 billion” — and we’ll come back to that in a moment, but let’s focus on this detail that isn’t spotlighted in the written part of the report but jumps out in one of their graphs:

The Giants are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of everybody in Revenue Per Fan. If you go to the article and find that table (link above) and hover over that bar, you’ll see that Forbes reports the Giants made $183 from each fan last year.

You bought that scoreboard. You bought that Pat Venditte. You brought back Derek Holland. You’re responsible for the My Teams app.

Or, maybe there’s some weird accounting going on here. The revenue per fan model takes all “local revenue”, meaning money made from the ballpark — tickets, a portion of merchandise, parking, food — and media — your cable subscription that includes NBC Sports Bay Area, advertising partnerships (which I assume means the Oracle naming rights) and whatever money KNBR makes from its listenership — and divides it by the metro population, which Forbes lists as 4.6 million people.

Those are a lot of raw numbers involving averages but could also be the result of the team’s new naming rights deal skewing the result. On the other hand, the Giants used focus group testing to figure out how to better the fan experience heading into this year, and the scoreboard as well as the new 6:45pm Monday-Thursday start times are two of the headliners to come out of that testing. Yes, the team is going to be bad for a good long while — maybe forever — but the team is still invested in maintaining a positive relationship with those who bother to show up to games at their beautiful stadium.

And it explains why they pursued Bryce Harper, even though the team’s prospects over the next 3-5 years figure to be extraordinarily grim.

Forbes created their valuations using three factors: that local revenue, national revenue (the TV contracts), and the league’s investment portfolio:

The league’s ownership in Major League Baseball Advanced Media (100%), BamTech (15%), the MLB Network (67%) and league’s investment portfolio are included in our values, equally divided among the 30 teams. These three assets constitute over $400 million in value per team.

Curiously, these valuations don’t include other investments teams may have, like land or equity in the networks that cover their teams locally. If you don’t remember, the Giants own stakes in both NBC Sports Bay Area and KNBR and last year they pivoted from championship baseball to land development, getting approval for Mission Rock, a “mixed-used waterfront real estate development” that just so happens to border Oracle Park.

Still, as grotesquely flush with cash as the league is and as highly valuable as it is — indeed, the most valuable it has ever been — Forbes suggests that the Giants still need us:

Thus baseball’s pecking order is driven by ticket, sponsorship and local cable television deals.

The Giants are the fifth-most valuable team in Major League Baseball in large measure because of its enviable media market, its proximity to dangerously liquid advertising partners, and a highly invested if not wealthy fan base. Fans by tickets, advertisers buy space and time to reach the people who buy tickets, and cable TV buys rights to grab the people who can’t make the game and provide a platform to advertisers who want to reach the fans who couldn’t buy tickets.

Yes, it’s very possible that as soon as Mission Rock has been completed that its passive income will be enough to make ballpark attendance virtually unnecessary and the team could rest on its laurels and just make everything look nice while the franchise rots from the inside, but it doesn’t seem like that’s what’s going to happen. Doesn’t seem like the franchise’s way of doing business.

I could be wrong, but until I am, and until we get a clearer explanation about the Giants’ revenue per fan calculation — again, I’m assuming it’s about the naming rights deal — let’s just sit with this big idea that the Giants still need their fans, even in this era where teams have figured out how to make gobs of money without winning and with hardly anyone in the stands. I don’t want to root for money, though, which is what these valuations kinda-sorta lean towards; instead, I choose to feel confident that the Giants will rebuild quickly.

They can create their own Driveline Baseball if they wanted. Clone Buster Posey. Or Barry Bonds. With their consent, of course.

We’ve always known that teams have plenty of money and glowing press like this just points to the next obvious demand Giants fans should make: thanks for the earlier start times, but now give Baseball Ops a blank check. It’s the least the Giants can do.

Then again, maybe I’m being too soft. What are your demands?