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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mauer's Off-the-Field Value to the Twins

I've written before, as have others, that Joe Mauer isn't only valuable to the Twins for his contributions as the star catcher and third batter in the lineup. Make no mistake, that's how he earns his paycheck, but it's also evident that, over the last few years, he has become his own brand. Even where I live, far removed from Twins Territory, I have noticed more Twins hats, and even the occasional Mauer jersey or t-shirt, than I did even five years ago. Sure, part of it is undoubtedly due to the presence of the New Britain Rock Cats, but part of it is simply because Joe Mauer is regarded as one of the best players in baseball and has helped popularize the Twins' brand (the team's success for most of the first decade of this century probably didn't hurt, either).

For the 2010 season, Joe Mauer jerseys ranked as the second highest selling jersey in all of baseball, trailing only Derek Jeter. Damn Yankees. Roy Halladay, Chase Utley and Cliff Lee rounded out the top five. Without putting too much thought into it, I had assumed the Twins derived some specific financial benefit from the sale of so many Mauer jerseys. In turn, I had always credited Mauer's popularity with respect to apparel sales and revenue as part of his off-the-field value.

I decided to look into this just a little bit more, and was a bit surprised at what I found. MLB's revenue sharing arrangement, part of which is comprised of a central revenue fund, gets its money from national TV and radio deals, the MLB network, and merchandise sales. Thereafter, the money in the central fund is distributed equally to the 30 teams. In 2009, for instance, each team received approximately $30 million from this arrangement (now, there also is another revenue pool that deals with local TV contracts, concessions and ticket sales -- and it is a large source of disagreement between small market and big market teams -- but that is another post for another day).

In other words, the fact that more Joe Mauer jerseys are sold than almost any other jersey does not specifically benefit the Twins more than it benefits any other baseball team. Interestingly, the fact that Mauer jerseys are so popular might not even provide extra cash in Mauer's own pocket. The Major League Baseball Player's Association states, regarding player licensing revenue, that "[p]layers receive a pro rata share of licensing revenue regardless or stature," and that the amount of the share is dependent on that player's actual days of MLB service in a given season. But don't worry, fans, Joe has Gatorade, Nike and Head & Shoulders royalty checks coming in, so I'm sure he's able to afford gas to fill his Chevy, and the weekly Cub Foods trip.

So, it might have been premature on my part to think that Joe Mauer jersey sales bring in a considerable amount of revenue for the Twins. That being said, a healthy Mauer does put people in seats, and those people purchase food and booze at Target Field, even if the team is not playing great.  That is money in the Twins' pocketbook. Finally, I also don't think it's completely incorrect to give Mauer at least a tiny portion of the credit for helping the Twins land Target Field: yes, the deal was years in the making, and yes, taxpayers prettymuch footed the bill, but it's a lot easier to sell a fan base on a new stadium when the team is winning -- as the Twins did several times in the years leading up to 2010 -- than when it is losing and being threatened with contraction. And there was no player more instrumental to many of those winning seasons than Mauer. The concept of "value" is tricky. Clearly, for franchise players like Mauer or Jeter, it extends beyond the foul lines.

1 comment:

  1. There were similar assumptions made about the value to the Twins in signing Nishioka... that it would increase sales of their merchandise in Japan... but those also turned out to be overstated because sales of merchandise outside the US go to MLB, too, apparently.

    I think your last point is very valid. The Twins got their stadium because they convinced enough people (or enough of the right people) that it was necessary in order to keep their own star free agents and the unspoken threat was that they may have to let hometown boy Mauer leave if they didn't have revenue to keep him. That was why they had to arguably overpay to keep him.

    Not that Joe would hold a gun to the Twins head to extort more money than he was worth. He's too nice for that... that's why he has an agent to do that kind of thing for him.